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Mountain Midwife is the story of Isabella Brown Neal, a hard-working, outspoken old mountain woman. Known as Belle, she traveled the hills of Clay County, West Virginia delivering babies and nursing the area’s poorest families. Belle walked or rode her old nag, often traveling alone with just a doctor’s bag of herbs, a lantern, and a shotgun.
Called into service no matter the weather, the distance, the time of day or night, Belle would respond to almost any need, and was happy to do it. When a wild-eyed, exhausted 10 year old would appear to bring Belle for a birthing, she would fix him cornbread and buttermilk, and reassure him he had done his job. Next the two would jump on Belle’s horse and head out.
It is estimated that Belle delivered over 3,000 babies in her 40-year career. A lost breed, Belle never expected formal payment, most often didn’t receive it, and would graciously accept a ham or chicken. While Belle could be stubborn and outspoken, she spent her life caring for families when they needed it most, and delighted in the work.