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Orlean Puckett: The Life of a Mountain Midwife (1844-1939)

Orlean Puckett endured many trials during her lifetime. A bride at the age of 16, she gave birth to and buried 24 babies by the time she was in her mid-thirties. At age 45, she became a midwife. During the next 49 years, she successfully delivered over a thousand babies.

This highly researched biography includes interviews of Puckett's family, friends, and neighbors, most of whom she delivered. Reminiscient of the Foxfire series, it contains details of everyday mountain life, along with a section about the creation of the Blue Ridge Parkway and how it affected the people who stood in its path. Filled with treasured old family photographs, this is the story of a strong woman who is honored by a marker that stands in front of Puckett Cabin at Milepost 189.9 along Virginia's Blue Ridge Parkway.


"Karen Cecil Smith gives us a full picture of one of the legendary people of the Blue Ridge, midwife Aunt Orlean Puckett, who delivered more than a thousand mountain babies while losing 24 of her own. Smith answers so many questions I'd wondered about and offers a plausible reason for the loss of Aunt Orlean's own children. More than that, she gives us a beautiful picture of a way of life now gone in these mountains I love."
-- Jerry Bledsoe, author of Bitter Blood and Blue Horizons: Faces and Places from a Bicycle Journey Along the Blue Ridge Parkway

"This well-researched book about the tragic life and times of the region's most famous midwife deserves a place beside "The Man Who Moved a Mountain" for bringing the hard-scrabble life of a century ago in and around Carroll County, VA -- especially for child-bearing women to contemporary readers."
-- Wanda Urbanska, co-author with Frank Levering of Simple Living and Moving to a Small Town

"Karen Cecil Smith, through the telling of Orlean Puckett's life story, gives us back some of our rich midwifery roots. Although she lost 24 of her own, Orlean Puckett delivered over a thousand babies. Being a midwife refreshed her soul. She never asked for money for her services. She enjoyed helping others. Snow and blizzards didn't stop her from her calling. The bonus in Orlean's story is the sense that it rings true throughout Ms. Smith's pages. This is a great contribution to the history of our dedicated foremothers. As midwives, we can be proud to be Orlean Puckett's spiritual daughters."
-- Jan Tritten, Editor of Midwifery Today Magazine


In 2012 the Library of Virginia chose Orlean Puckett as a Virginia Women in History Honoree.