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Orlean Puckett: The Life of a Mountain Midwife

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  84 ratings  ·  20 reviews
Orlean Puckett was a midwife who lived from 1844 to 1939 in Carroll County, Virginia. Aunt Orlean delivered thousands of babies in the mountain region of Virginia. She herself, however, lost 24 children of her own. She is commemorated on the Blue Ridge Parkway by a marker which was put up the National Park Service.
Paperback, 166 pages
Published January 1st 2003 by Parkway Publishers
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Heidi The Reader
The Life of a Mountain Midwife is an interesting, but sometimes meandering, biography about a midwife named Orlean Puckett who lived and worked in rural Appalachia.

This reminded me of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie books in that Karen Cecil Smith takes great care to detail the day-to-day chores, food, clothing, and lives of the people of Appalachian Mountains in the 1800's to 1900's. I loved those intimate details, many of which are completely gone from the modern lifestyle
Josephine (Jo)
This book was an uplifting and yet heart breaking read. The Life of a wonderful woman named Olean Hawks Puckett. Orlean lived from 1844 until 1939 in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. Orlean was one of the most remarkable women I have read about, not famous, far from rich, she bore 24 children all of whom died either before or at birth except for one who died in infancy. To lose one child is unbearable but I cannot begin to imagine the grief of burying 24 babies. Orlean was so strong, ...more
Orlean Puckett. Such a strong, tenderhearted woman. She travelled all over the mountains birthing hundreds of babies and yet buried 24 children herself (a result of RH hemolytic disease) . So heartbreaking. And so inspiring. This is a true story and a good one. She gave her heart and soul for the love of children.
There's some humor too. Orleans husband-to-be was super shy. When he finally got the courage up to express himself this is what he said, "they just wasted purty on you when they made
Joanne Bischof
Oct 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This was a fantastic book and an incredible look into the life of Aunt Orlean and the area around her. As a fan of the Blue Ridge Mountain history, this book has a special home on my keeper shelf and I am so glad to have discovered it! Not only is Orlean's incredibly story true, but it's powerful, filled with lessons that reach hearts even today.
Dec 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I visited Puckett Cabin on the Virginia Blue Ridge Parkway and was intrigued by the marker that said Orlean Puckett, the woman who had lived there, gave birth to 24 babies, none having lived past infancy. When the book came out, I hesitated to purchase it because I thought it would be just about midwifery. However, after seeing it on the shelf at a local Barnes and Noble and thumbing through it, I saw that there were many interesting topics such as the old mountain ways, creation of the Blue ...more
Stephanie Holcombe
Oct 22, 2011 rated it liked it
By amalgamating the memories of numerous relatives and neighbors – most of whom were in their 80’s and 90’s and recalled events that took place a century ago, Karen Cecil Smith wrote this book to honor a “Granny midwife”, Orlean Puckett, who lived in the mountains of western Virginia at the turn of the 20th century. At the age of 45, despite multiple attempts to have children of her own and subsequently burying 24 and remaining childless, Orlean miraculously began working as until the age of 94. ...more
Oct 22, 2012 rated it did not like it
I was looking forward to reading about the life of Orlean Puckett and then had trouble getting into it. The "stories" were a choppy compilation from various sources, each source tediously identified in the text, and often with two or more versions of the same or similar information coming from multiple sources. I didn't care for this type of historic documentation as a biography and wished that it read more like a vivid, flowing story with the source information relegated to endnotes. I didn't ...more
Julie Bell
Mar 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: bookclub
Not my favorite. I wish it were more historical fiction and less like a term paper.
Dec 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
A historical overview of the life of a Virginia mountain midwife, Orlean Puckett. Excerpts from actual interviews of people who knew Orlean and were "borned" by Aunt Orlean. Interesting from a historical perspective but keeping that in mind, a bit dry at times since the volume of information was based on records the author had to piece together from Orlean's earlier life in the mid 1800's.

Orlean touched many, many lives in her 95 years and yet was never able to raise a child of her own after
Apr 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Very interesting book! It's not so much about midwifing as it is about the life of a mountaineer. Very relative to anyone living in the southeast. It, also, has some history on the Blue Ridge Parkway and its construction. This woman was a great woman and lived a simple, hard, but interesting life. It's interesting to see the way laws have changed on midwifery now. Good book, makes me want to take a road trip along to Parkway!
Sep 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Orlean Puckett seems like she was a wonderful human being and reading about her life was really a joy. This book would also be relevant to those interested in folk practices and superstitions as well as those interested in the lives of Appalachian mountain people.

The writing can be a bit tedious or repetitive and the author sometimes goes on too long explaining things only tangentially related to Orlean Puckett, but it is a good read overall.
Mar 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book didn't talk about the births, but about a remarkable woman and her life growing up and growing old in the back woods mountains. Very interesting to me, as I like to read about how people used to live.
Tamatha Picolla
Aug 29, 2013 rated it liked it
The content was compelling and interesting. It was too much of a research paper and not enough of a narrative. Although, this book has inspired me to stop at Aunt Betty's cabin to pay my respects to Orlean.
Aug 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing

I really enjoyed and appreciated a work well researched and well written.
I will be following the writing of Karen Cecil Smith in the future.


Carmen Barnes-Holden
Library Specialist
Catawba Valley Community College
Mar 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Loved it! Excellent, informative and hard to put down. Full of rich, picturesque descriptions of life in the Blue Ridge Mountains during the extraordinary times of mountain woman and midwife Orlean Puckett.
Jun 28, 2011 rated it liked it
Interesting subject matter especially as it pertains to an area of the world where I (and my family) were raised. Writing is a bit choppy, but the subject is worth the read.
Aug 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-of-2016
I loved this story of a kind gentle woman who delivered happiness in every sense of the word and yet suffered so much sadness and heartache herself.
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
What a lovely book about a woman who had such an impact on her community but has since been kind of lost in time. More than anything, this book is a reminder that you don’t need to be the president or a movie star to impact people’s lives. Sometimes you can be a midwife in the mountains of Virginia who can’t read or write, and you can make the deepest impact of all.

The writing was easy to follow, and it made the book read more like a novel than a biography, which is always something I enjoy
Jan 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: midwifery-books
I read this book as part of an assignment for midwifery school. I appreciated the background information on mountain life in the late 1800s-early 1930s. The book itself was less biography of one person and more that of a whole group of people. The chapters on midwifery were scant, a fact I should have realized when in an early chapter we learn that Orlean did not read or write. I would have loved to have seen records of the births she attended, but such were not kept.

The book is choppy, much
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I found this book to be very informative and interesting. However, it did get bogged down a little with bits about all the various relatives.
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Karen Cecil Smith is a biographer, poet, and award-winning children's picture book author and novelist. Her first book, a biography entitled Orlean Puckett: The Life of a Mountain Midwife (1844-1939), is about a Virginia woman who gave birth to and lost 24 babies before becoming a midwife. Although Orlean Puckett delivered over a thousand babies in her community, she was much more than a midwife. ...more
“I would have been glad if it had been the Lord's will to let one of my children live.” 4 likes
“I don't have but two teeth, but thank the Lord they both hit together.” 2 likes
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