Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

300th Anniversary University Professor


Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is known for her books on early New England, but she is not a native of the region. She grew up among the potato farms and sagebrush of eastern Idaho in a town that was on the main highway to Yellowstone National Park. On clear days, which were common, you could see the Grand Tetons in the distance. Her western upbringing accounts for her Rocky Mountain accent and for her fascination with the way New England history came to dominate national culture. She remembers in second grade sitting cross-legged in a pseudo-Indian costume reciting lines from Longfellow’s Hiawatha, and she remembers driving through the lava-filled moonscape of southern Idaho singing “Over the River and Through the Woods to Grandmother’s House We Go.”

She came to New England in 1960 with her husband, Gael Ulrich, who completed an Sc.D. in Chemical Engineering at MIT. She completed her own graduate work at the University of New Hampshire while raising her five children. She came to Harvard in 1995 and now lives in Cambridge.

Dissertation Committees

“Found at Sea: Mapping Ships’ Locations on the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic” (John Dixon)

“Argument Written in a Country Graveyard: Politics and New England Mortuary Culture, 1600-1830” (Caitlin Hopkins)

“Skeletons in the American Attic: Curiosity, Science and the Appropriation of the American Indian Past” (Judy Kertesz)

“Object Lessons in American Culture” (Sarah Carter)

“‘The Remainder of our Effects We Must Leave Behind’: American Loyalists and the Meaning of Things, 1765-1800” (Katherine Rieder)

“The Inward Fire: A History of Cruelty in Marriage in the Northeastern United States, 1800-1860” (Eliza Clark)

“The Pirate Nest; The Impact of Piracy on Newport, Rhode Island and Charles Town, South Carolina, 1670-1730” (Mark G. Hanna)

“Wayward Wives, Runaway Slaves and the Limits of Patriarchal Authority in Early America” (Kirsten Sword)

Selected Publications

  • midwife

    A Midwife’s Tale: the Life of Martha Ballard (Knopf, 1990), by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • AgeofHomespun1

    The Age of Homespun (Knopf, 2001), by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • Ulrich-Good_Wives

    Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Early New England, 1650-1750 (Vintage, 1982), by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich