Mormon Midwife: The 1846—1888 Diaries of Patty Bartlett Sessions, the second volume in the Life Writings of Frontier Women series, is a fitting memorial for one of early Mormonism’s remarkable women. This volume is also a monument to its editor, Donna Toland Smart, and the seven-year task of bringing Patty Sessions’s life to light through her own words. Under the general editorship of Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, each volume in the Life Writings series is assigned its own editor. Donna Smart has meticulously transformed Patty Sessions’s worn and faded diaries, whose pages are covered to the margins with almost illegible handwriting, into an organized, readable text, amply footnoted.
The first of the seven diaries begins as Patty Sessions leaves Nauvoo with the February exodus in 1846, and the last ends abruptly in May 1888, four years before her death. There are some gaps. The sixth diary covers the years 1862 to 1866, followed by only a few entries for 1880. The last diary (1884–88) includes a retrospective chronology and financial record and increasingly briefer and more repetitious entries, reflecting her waning years. A brief account book, a listing of all of her children’s families, and the minutes from a straw-braiding school she conducted in 1868 and 1869 make up the three appendices that follow the diaries.