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Life and Times of Isabella Brown Neal
by Vickie Osborne Brown
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 areaâ€™s poorest families. Belle walked or rode her old nag, often traveling alone with just a doctorâ€™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 Belleâ€™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 didnâ€™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.