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Lovie: The Story of a Southern Midwife and an Unlikely Friendship

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From 1950 to 2001, Lovie Beard Shelton practiced midwifery in eastern North Carolina homes, delivering some 4,000 babies to black, white, Mennonite, and hippie women; to those too poor to afford a hospital birth; and to a few rich enough to have any kind of delivery they pleased. Her life, which was about giving life, was conspicuously marked by loss, including the untimel From 1950 to 2001, Lovie Beard Shelton practiced midwifery in eastern North Carolina homes, delivering some 4,000 babies to black, white, Mennonite, and hippie women; to those too poor to afford a hospital birth; and to a few rich enough to have any kind of delivery they pleased. Her life, which was about giving life, was conspicuously marked by loss, including the untimely death of her husband and the murder of her son. Lovie is a provocative chronicle of Shelton's life and work, which spanned enormous changes in midwifery and in the ways women give birth. In this artful exploration of documentary fieldwork, Lisa Yarger confronts the choices involved in producing an authentic portrait of a woman who is at once loner and self-styled folk hero. Fully embracing the difficulties of telling a true story, Yarger is able to get at the story of telling the story. As Lovie describes her calling, we meet a woman who sees herself working in partnership with God and who must wrestle with the question of what happens when a woman who has devoted her life to service, to doing God's work, ages out of usefulness. When I'm no longer a midwife, who am I? Facing retirement and a host of health issues, Lovie attempts to fit together the jagged pieces of her life as she prepares for one final home birth.


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From 1950 to 2001, Lovie Beard Shelton practiced midwifery in eastern North Carolina homes, delivering some 4,000 babies to black, white, Mennonite, and hippie women; to those too poor to afford a hospital birth; and to a few rich enough to have any kind of delivery they pleased. Her life, which was about giving life, was conspicuously marked by loss, including the untimel From 1950 to 2001, Lovie Beard Shelton practiced midwifery in eastern North Carolina homes, delivering some 4,000 babies to black, white, Mennonite, and hippie women; to those too poor to afford a hospital birth; and to a few rich enough to have any kind of delivery they pleased. Her life, which was about giving life, was conspicuously marked by loss, including the untimely death of her husband and the murder of her son. Lovie is a provocative chronicle of Shelton's life and work, which spanned enormous changes in midwifery and in the ways women give birth. In this artful exploration of documentary fieldwork, Lisa Yarger confronts the choices involved in producing an authentic portrait of a woman who is at once loner and self-styled folk hero. Fully embracing the difficulties of telling a true story, Yarger is able to get at the story of telling the story. As Lovie describes her calling, we meet a woman who sees herself working in partnership with God and who must wrestle with the question of what happens when a woman who has devoted her life to service, to doing God's work, ages out of usefulness. When I'm no longer a midwife, who am I? Facing retirement and a host of health issues, Lovie attempts to fit together the jagged pieces of her life as she prepares for one final home birth.

30 review for Lovie: The Story of a Southern Midwife and an Unlikely Friendship

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kendall

    Real people are funny creatures, full of contradictions and eccentricities. This real account of a North Carolina midwife named Lovie Beard Shelton shone what at times felt like a pretty strong spotlight on her foibles and flaws (though in actuality, I think they reflected some of the author's own insecurities and fixations), but also revealed her to be a deeply compassionate human being. Real people are funny creatures, full of contradictions and eccentricities. This real account of a North Carolina midwife named Lovie Beard Shelton shone what at times felt like a pretty strong spotlight on her foibles and flaws (though in actuality, I think they reflected some of the author's own insecurities and fixations), but also revealed her to be a deeply compassionate human being.

  2. 4 out of 5

    LaDonna

    I began an apprenticeship with a home birth midwifery practice in 1996. I find it hard to believe that I never heard of Lovie until now!! I am personally acquainted with several of the midwives mentioned or alluded to in this book. Some of them were probably unaware of her too. The story is so rich!! I wish she had known of meetings we had in those days so that she could have shared her wisdom, too.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Hope

    I recently finished this book. Today I had the opportunity to meet Lisa, the author, and hear a reading. Lisa writes in a conversational style that, for me, made this book a page turner. She also fluidly moves between Lovie's past and the present. It is a great read and I highly recommend it. I recently finished this book. Today I had the opportunity to meet Lisa, the author, and hear a reading. Lisa writes in a conversational style that, for me, made this book a page turner. She also fluidly moves between Lovie's past and the present. It is a great read and I highly recommend it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sandra

    Reviewed this for Southeastern Librarian. Well done account of Lovie Shelton, nurse midwife in Eastern North Carolina for fifty years. Lovie: the story of a southern midwife and an unlikely friendship has been a two decades long labor of love (no pun intended) for its author, Lisa Yarger (www.lisayarger.com). Ms. Yarger was a folklorist at the North Carolina Museum of History in 1996 when she first interviewed Lovie Beard Shelton, 71-year old midwife – this interview was the beginning of a relati Reviewed this for Southeastern Librarian. Well done account of Lovie Shelton, nurse midwife in Eastern North Carolina for fifty years. Lovie: the story of a southern midwife and an unlikely friendship has been a two decades long labor of love (no pun intended) for its author, Lisa Yarger (www.lisayarger.com). Ms. Yarger was a folklorist at the North Carolina Museum of History in 1996 when she first interviewed Lovie Beard Shelton, 71-year old midwife – this interview was the beginning of a relationship between the two that ultimately led to the writing of this book. As noted on the book jacket, “from 1950 until 2001, Lovie Beard Shelton practiced midwifery in eastern North Carolina, delivering some 4,000 babies to black, white, Mennonite, and hippie women; to those too poor to afford a hospital birth; and to a few rich enough to have any kind of delivery they pleased.” This volume, one in a series from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, is much more than a recounting of the history of midwifery in North Carolina. It is the story of Lovie’s indomitable spirit as she acquired the education and the tools for what she thought of as her vocation in life – midwifery defined her. Despite hardships and tragedies, her faith and perseverance sustained her as she made inroads into prejudices and false perceptions about this age old profession. Lisa, who becomes quite close to Lovie as she chronicles her life, portrays the best of Lovie Shelton along with her blind spots. Sometimes Ms. Yarger shows us an intolerant woman with deep feelings about race and religion – at other times we see a Lovie with equally deep feelings about white bread vs. wheat bread. We witness Lovie’s naïveté along with her great sense of humor. She also manages beautifully to portray Lovie as a fallible human being passionate about her mission. The story of author and midwife are beautifully intertwined as we learn about Lisa in her interviews and interactions with Lovie. Yarger herself says that Lovie chose her as much as she chose Lovie. It is, at times, as much a story about her as it is Lovie – hence, the title. Yarger’s research and Lovie Shelton’s stories provide an overview of the history of midwifery as well as its social history in the Appalachian region. Is it preachy? Yes. Is it didactic? Certainly! But these are Lovie’s words and Yarger presents an honest, entertaining portrait of a remarkable woman. Know that up front and readers will find much to think about. For those of that consider our professions to define us, there is even more to think about. This volume is of value to women’s studies providing a narrative of the roles and perceptions of women for the last hundred years. Recipient of the 2017 American College of Nurse-Midwives Media Award, it is also a good choice for those considering midwifery as a profession as Lovie Beard Shelton gives the good along with the bad.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Dawn Gallop

    I absolutely enjoyed all of this book, I bought it from Barnes and Nobles in Raleigh under the local artist as I enjoy the historical non fiction reads. I just couldn’t put it down as i was reading knowing Eastern North Carolina well. I could see the landmarks, felt the pain, the happy times, and the struggles. Lisa did an amazing job with the story and really made me think how important and awesome Lovie was to so many. How she was a great pioneer and I am so thankful that she was able to help I absolutely enjoyed all of this book, I bought it from Barnes and Nobles in Raleigh under the local artist as I enjoy the historical non fiction reads. I just couldn’t put it down as i was reading knowing Eastern North Carolina well. I could see the landmarks, felt the pain, the happy times, and the struggles. Lisa did an amazing job with the story and really made me think how important and awesome Lovie was to so many. How she was a great pioneer and I am so thankful that she was able to help everyone. We live on a farm and I Lisa did such a great job with feeling and making you think you were there as she told of the animals and the time of year. Well done! I can’t wait to see what else Lisa writes. Thank you.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Anne Pincus

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book despite having no special interest in midwifery or the American South. It is written in such an engaging and personal way, revealing as much about the author as it does about Lovie. The details of a midwife's life and work were fascinating, as was the way in which attitudes to birth have changed over the decades. The book builds up to a kind of climax which had me turning the pages in impatience. Definitely a good read. I thoroughly enjoyed this book despite having no special interest in midwifery or the American South. It is written in such an engaging and personal way, revealing as much about the author as it does about Lovie. The details of a midwife's life and work were fascinating, as was the way in which attitudes to birth have changed over the decades. The book builds up to a kind of climax which had me turning the pages in impatience. Definitely a good read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Zara Rahman

    Almost definitely not the kind of book that I would’ve picked up myself, but I got this as a gift from a friend – it happily surprised me! Nice mixture of biography and kind of memoir too, as well as an interesting insight into midwifery in the US.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    A lovely little biography of a rural midwife in North Carolina.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Webmaster

    Lovie is a work of literary non-fiction that tells the story of Lovie Beard Shelton, a nurse-midwife who delivered some 4000 homebirths in eastern NC over a 40 year period. But it is much more than a biography and is about much more than midwifery. The writer & Lovie formed a complicated friendship that bridged cultural, religious, & social divides and is the thread sewn into the story that binds it together. History, racism, the politics of birth, Lovie’s personal tragedies and more form a whol Lovie is a work of literary non-fiction that tells the story of Lovie Beard Shelton, a nurse-midwife who delivered some 4000 homebirths in eastern NC over a 40 year period. But it is much more than a biography and is about much more than midwifery. The writer & Lovie formed a complicated friendship that bridged cultural, religious, & social divides and is the thread sewn into the story that binds it together. History, racism, the politics of birth, Lovie’s personal tragedies and more form a whole that makes for an absorbing read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sondra Brooks

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bobbi

  13. 4 out of 5

    Maureen Babiarz

  14. 4 out of 5

    Suzette

  15. 5 out of 5

    Annie

  16. 4 out of 5

    Susan Warner

  17. 5 out of 5

    Christina

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ros

  19. 4 out of 5

    Erica Martinez

  20. 4 out of 5

    Laura

  21. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Poole

  22. 5 out of 5

    Becca

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Balderas

  24. 4 out of 5

    Katie King

  25. 4 out of 5

    Laura Saufley

  26. 4 out of 5

    Joy Andrews

  27. 4 out of 5

    Carol

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mary Mason

  29. 4 out of 5

    Belinda Lashea

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sara

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