Helen Lewis was born on October 2, 1924, and she grew up in Forsyth County, Georgia. In the 1940s she attended Georgia State College for Women, where she was involved in the campus YWCA and interracial organizing. After graduating in 1946, Lewis entered Duke University, where she met and married Judd Lewis. The two of them moved to Charlottesville to attend the University of Virginia, where Lewis earned her master’s in Sociology and wrote the thesis ‘The Woman Movement and the Negro Movement: Parallel Struggles for Rights.’ In 1955, Helen Lewis took a job at Clinch Valley College in Wise, Virginia, where she conducted research on life in the coal fields and was part of the burgeoning Appalachian Movement to address the unequal power dynamics in the coal fields. She eventually developed curriculum for an Appalachian Studies program. Lewis left formal academia in 1976 and continued her commitment to democratic education as a staff member at the Highlander Research and Education Center in New Market, TN. There she worked on economic education programs, Women’s cooperatives, and environmental justice issues.