Dolly Parton on the Time She Found Her Mother’s Diaphragm as a Child

Dolly Parton looked up to her mother, Avie Lee Owens Parton (1923 – 2003), throughout her entire life. Owens was a singer, just like her daughter. And Parton loved that she and her mother shared a special gift.

When the Queen of Country was a child, she found something under her parents’ mattress one day when she was poking around. When she found out what it was much later, she laughed and laughed.

Dolly Parton at a press conference in 2016. She's wearing a colorful outfit and her famous big, blond hair.
Dolly Parton | Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Webster PR

Dolly Parton’s parents married young

Parton had 11 brothers and sisters. While her family was poor, she says she and her siblings always felt protected under the care of their mother and father.

“Through all the hard times and everything we went through, we had Mom and Daddy,” she wrote in her 2020 book, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics. “They were bigger than us. They were wiser than us. And we felt like no matter what was going on, it was going to be all right, because we had Mom and Daddy.”

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Parton’s parents got married when her mother was 15 and her father was 17.

“By the time they were thirty-seven years old, they already had twelve kids, one set of twins,” she wrote. “That’s working really, really fast.”

‘Even if she had had birth control, she probably wouldn’t have used it.’

Parton always jokes that, growing up, she had to memorize her siblings’ names.

“We were born eighteen months or two years apart,” she wrote. “Mama loved Daddy. Even if she had had birth control, she probably wouldn’t have used it. And, obviously, she didn’t.”

As it turns out, the doctor did give Owens birth control. And little Parton found it one day.

“I was always such a curious kid, always so nosy,” she wrote. “I remember finding that diaphragm under their mattress and thought, ‘What is that?’ Somebody told me years later, and we laughed about it. I said, ‘Well, I don’t know what she used it for. She must have drunk tea out of it, because she certainly didn’t use it for birth control!'”

Dolly Parton’s parents have inspired countless songs

Parton has always been inspired by her parents’ love, for their children and each other.

“They loved us, every one of us,” she wrote. “They were overjoyed with every new baby. and every one of us older kids got to say, ‘Okay, you take care of this one, and you get to take care of that one.'”

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Parton has written many songs about her parents through the years, songs like “I Remember” and “It Ain’t Easy Being Daddy.”

“It’s never easy, no matter where you grow up,” wrote Parton. “But to really maneuver that brood of kids, in that part of the world, with no real money coming in, just trying to survive without dying in the winter of pneumonia or worse, it’s a lot to think about, a lot to write about, a lot to be grateful for. I think about my mom and dad all the time.”