Born in Harlan County, Kentucky, Caudill attended Wesleyan College in Macon Georgia and Vanderbilt University. She was a teacher and editor before becoming an author. In 1943, she published her first book for children, Barrie and daughter. Her children's books are known for their authentic depictions of settings and characters, and for evoking the lives of pioneers during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in America. In 1950, Tree of freedom, was a runner-up for the Newbery Medal. A pocket full of cricket, illustrated by Evaline Ness, was named a Caldecott Medal Honor Book. Her books reflect her Appalachian background, which served as inspiration for her writing.