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To Live Here You Have to Fight: How Women Led Appalachian Movements for Social Justice by Jessica Wilkerson

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This is a book that really needs to be out there, and I commend Jessica Wilkerson for doing the work to make it available to all of us. It focuses on poor and working-class women activists in Eastern Kentucky during the 1970s. They certainly deserve the attention she gives them. The greatest contribution of the book is how it lifts up the ways that the women covered here saw themselves primarily as care-givers. It was from this foundation that they worked hard to foment the kinds of social changes that would make their whole world more caring and make it easier for the care-givers. And Wilkerson cites this basic value as central to the contrast between working-class feminism and middle-class feminism, a topic she addresses clearly, constructively and in some depth. The book begins with an overview of women activists in Eastern Kentucky before the 1970s, and then focuses in on two women who created brick-and-mortar venues for social change work in the 1970s: Edith Easterling’s Marrowbone Folk Center in Pike County and Eula Hall’s Mud Creek Health Clinic in Floyd County. From there it considers welfare rights organizing, the Brookside Strike in Harlan County and the Coal Employment Project. This book is especially important because in the 1970s, Appalachian activists were responsible for an arguably unprecedented array of victories for working class mountain people on the national stage: Federal compensation for Black Lung victims, Arnold Miller’s successful grass roots reform campaign for the Presidency of the United Mine Workers, the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, and the Mine Health and Safety Act.  "Essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the War on Poverty in Appalachia, this book documents the central role of working class women in Appalachian resistance movements in the 1960s and 1970s. Drawing on a tradition of family care giving and community support, mountain women brought to their activism an awareness of the profound connection between environmental, health, and economic justice that redefined class and gender issues in America and offered an alternative vision for their communities and our capitalist nation. Based upon extensive oral history research, To Live Here, You Have to Fight challenges many of our contemporary assumptions about Appalachia and is an important book for our time."--Ronald D Eller. Jessica Wilkerson grew up in East Tennessee on land her grandparents had farmed.  She teaches history at the University of Mississippi.

Urbana: The University of Illinois Press, 2018. 255 pages with an Index, Bibliography, Notes and photos. Trade paperback