Often referred to as the leader of inspiration in Appalachian studies, Helen Matthews Lewis linked scholarship with activism and encouraged deeper analysis of the region. Lewis shaped the field of Appalachian studies by emphasizing community participation and challenging traditional perceptions of the region and its people. Helen Matthews Lewis: Living Social Justice in Appalachia, a collection of Lewis’s writings and memories that document her life and work, begins in 1943 with her job on the yearbook staff at Georgia State College for Women with Mary Flannery O’Connor.
Editors Patricia D. Beaver and Judith Jennings highlight the achievements of Lewis’s extensive career, examining her role as a teacher and activist at Clinch Valley College (now University of Virginia at Wise) and East Tennessee State University in the 1960s, as well as her work with Appalshop and the Highland Center. Helen Matthews Lewis connects Lewis’s works to wider social movements by examining the history of progressive activism in Appalachia. The book provides unique insight into the development of regional studies and the life of a dynamic revolutionary, delivering a captivating and personal narrative of one woman’s mission of activism and social justice.