Cover for WILKERSON: To Live Here, You Have to Fight: How Women Led Appalachian Movements for Social Justice. Click for larger image

To Live Here, You Have to Fight

How Women Led Appalachian Movements for Social Justice
Awards and Recognition:

• Herbert G. Gutman Award, Labor and Working-Class History Association (LAWCHA), 2015

Working poor women, feminist activism, and the birth of a new era of grassroots empowerment

Launched in 1964, the War on Poverty quickly took aim at the coalfields of southern Appalachia. There, the federal government found unexpected allies among working-class white women devoted to a local tradition of citizen caregiving and seasoned by decades of activism and community service.

Jessica Wilkerson tells their stories within the larger drama of efforts to enact change in the 1960s and 1970s. She shows white Appalachian women acting as leaders and soldiers in a grassroots war on poverty--shaping and sustaining programs, engaging in ideological debates, offering fresh visions of democratic participation, and facing personal political struggles. Their insistence that caregiving was valuable labor clashed with entrenched attitudes and rising criticisms of welfare. Their persistence, meanwhile, brought them into unlikely coalitions with black women, disabled miners, and others to fight for causes that ranged from poor people's rights to community health to unionization.

Inspiring yet sobering, To Live Here, You Have to Fight reveals Appalachian women as the indomitable caregivers of a region--and overlooked actors in the movements that defined their time.


"Astonishing."--The Cut

"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, author of Uneven Ground: Appalachia since 1945

"From the 1960s–1980s, working-class women built, led, and sustained movements to improve the health and welfare of families and communities across the Mountain South. Wilkerson introduces these activists and shows how lifetimes of caring for ailing coal miners and struggling Appalachian communities inspired both urgent demands for social justice and radical critiques of rampant capitalism. This book uncovers new links between mid-century social change movements and offers a critical reminder that the fire for justice smolders even when victories are few."--Anne M. Valk, author of Radical Sisters: Second-Wave Feminism and Black Liberation in Washington, D.C.

"In her fabulous new book, To Live Here, You Have to Fight, Jessica Wilkerson tells the untold story of the 'grassroots war on poverty' waged in the Appalachian South in the 1960s and 1970s. At the forefront of this campaign were women, women who saw themselves as family 'caregivers.' This was never just a domestic role, though it was that. It was a role that brought women to the polling station, the picket line, and to workplace protests of this own. Jessica Wilkerson tells these stories of struggle with compassion, sophistication, and heart. Readers will come away from her book understanding more about the everyday meanings and complexities of gender and class in the South, but also with a sense of what is possible when people mobilize for respect and better days." —Bryant Simon, author of The Hamlet Fire: A Tragic Story of Cheap Food, Cheap Government, and Cheap Lives

Publication supported by a grant from the Howard D. and Marjorie I. Brooks Fund for Progressive Thought.


Jessica Wilkerson is an assistant professor of history and Southern studies at the University of Mississippi.

To order online:
//www.press.uillinois.edu/books/catalog/88kwn4rh9780252042188.html

To order by phone:
(800) 621-2736 (USA/Canada)
(773) 702-7000 (International)

Related Titles

previous book next book
Smokestacks in the Hills - Cover
Smokestacks in the Hills

Rural-Industrial Workers in West Virginia

Lou Martin

Our Roots Run Deep as Ironweed - Cover
Our Roots Run Deep as Ironweed

Appalachian Women and the Fight for Environmental Justice

Shannon Elizabeth Bell

Ghost of the Ozarks - Cover
Ghost of the Ozarks

Murder and Memory in the Upland South

Brooks Blevins

Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics - Cover
Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics

Roots and Branches of Southern Appalachian Dance

Phil Jamison

Remembering Lattimer - Cover
Remembering Lattimer

Labor, Migration, and Race in Pennsylvania Anthracite Country

Paul A. Shackel

Studying Appalachian Studies - Cover
Studying Appalachian Studies

Making the Path by Walking

Edited by Chad Berry, Phillip J. Obermiller, and Shaunna L. Scott

Black Huntington - Cover
Black Huntington

An Appalachian Story

Cicero M. Fain III

Never Seen the Moon - Cover
Never Seen the Moon

The Trials of Edith Maxwell

Sharon Hatfield

My Curious and Jocular Heroes - Cover
My Curious and Jocular Heroes

Tales and Tale-Spinners from Appalachia

Loyal Jones

Journal of Appalachian Studies - Cover
Journal of Appalachian Studies

Edited by Shaunna Scott

A History of the Ozarks, Volume 1 - Cover
A History of the Ozarks, Volume 1

The Old Ozarks

Brooks Blevins