Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is the 300th Anniversary University Professor at Harvard University and president of the American Historical Association. She is the author of a number of influential books and essays on colonial history, material culture, social history, and women’s history. Her Pulitzer Prize-winning A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard Based on Her Diary, 1785–1812 (Vintage, 1990)—a creative narrative of the life of an early American midwife—was made into a PBS documentary.
Oddly enough, Ulrich is perhaps most famous for a phrase she coined in a 1976 article: “well-behaved women seldom make history.” Soon that aphorism was adorning coffee mugs, t-shirts, and bumper stickers across the country. In 2007 Ulrich wrote Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History to examine the appeal of that phrase and to describe the life and work of women who “turned to history as a way of making sense of their own lives.” “The pervasive theme is rebellion,” writes Ulrich, who focuses on several women authors and their influential works through the centuries. Historically Speaking editor Randall Stephens recently spoke to Ulrich at her Harvard University office.