Loretta Ellsworth author
Loretta Ellsworth

the shrouding woman

The Shrouding Woman

Hen­ry Holt Books for Young Read­ers
2002, ages 9 and up
ISBN 978–0‑8050–6651‑7

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The mov­ing sto­ry of a young girl’s strug­gle to face her moth­er’s death. Set in the mid-1800s, this beau­ti­ful­ly writ­ten sto­ry, cen­tered on the lit­tle-known prac­tice of shroud­ing, touch­es on death and heal­ing with sen­si­tiv­i­ty and qui­et dignity.

“She trav­eled to our small white house near the Iowa bor­der on a buck­board, her green bag caked with the dusty road … I knew that she was called ‘the Shroud­ing Woman’ because I’d heard Papa use those words to describe her. I did­n’t know what it meant but I knew it had some­thing to do with death.”

It was once com­mon prac­tice for small towns to have a shroud­ing woman to help put their dead to rest. Still, when eleven-year-old Evie’s Aunt Flo—herself a shroud­ing woman— comes to town, Evie knows lit­tle of a shroud­ing wom­an’s ways and wants noth­ing to do with this aunt of hers, espe­cial­ly after her own moth­er’s recent death. But as this mys­te­ri­ous woman slow­ly makes her way into Evie’s life, her strong and sen­si­tive pres­ence brings far more than signs of death to a griev­ing girl’s home.


honors and recognition

Book­list, Amer­i­can Library Asso­ci­a­tion
Bul­letin of the Cen­ter for Chil­dren’s Books
Horn Book
School Library Jour­nal

VOYA (Voice of Youth Advo­cates)
Wash­ing­ton Post Book World
Rebec­ca Caudill Nom­i­nee, 2005
Amelia Bloomer Project List, 2003


The Shroud­ing Woman gen­tly breaks new ground for chil­dren in remov­ing some of the mys­tery from what some view as our last remain­ing obscen­i­ty, death.” (School Library Jour­nal)

“As sol­id as a Dutch farm­house inte­ri­or and full of glimpses of lost pio­neer tra­di­tions, from soap-mak­ing to the step-by-step rit­u­al of prepar­ing a dead body for bur­ial.” (Wash­ing­ton Post)