The Midwife of Hope River

Review by Nancy

Patience Murphy didn’t start out to be a midwife. In fact, Patience Murphy began life as Elizabeth Snyder whose mother was a teacher and whose father was lost in Lake Michigan. Pregnant at 16 by her boyfriend, she lost the child, she married laser, killed that husband in error and moved with friends to the Appalachian mountains of Hope River, West Virginia to hide among the miners and hard working farmers.

There she became a midwife by lot, not by choice and was quite good at it. In the sad, joyful and revealing book, Patricia Harman tells of the women, mostly unlearned, their husbands - both black and white - and the KKK whose presence was, in the early 1930’s, returning to the area.

Patience lived hand to mouth, she delivered children that died, more children that lived and succeeded the 2 midwives before here. She became attached to the people, the land and the animals of the area. She bartered for food, flour, sugar and wood for her fire in the winter. She helped birth many a child, wasn’t always paid but carried on.

The author, herself a midwife, did an amazing amount of research before writing this story. Elizabeth helped with organizing Unions, hung out with Mother Jones and Samuel Gompers, she tried to do good but it didn’t always pan out. This is an excellent source of history along with herbalogy and animal care. This is a winning novel if I’ve ever read one!

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