Helen Joy Davidman
(1915-1960)

woman, writer, and poet

Died aged 45

Helen Joy Davidman (18 April 1915 – 13 July 1960) was an American poet and writer. Often referred to as a child prodigy, she earned a master's degree from Columbia University in English literature at age twenty in 1935. For her book of poems, Letter to a Comrade, she won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition in 1938 and the Russell Loines Award for Poetry in 1939. She was the author of several books, including two novels. While an atheist and after becoming a member of the American Communist Party, she met and married her first husband and father of her two sons, William Lindsay Gresham, in 1942. After a troubled marriage, and following her conversion to Christianity, they divorced and she left America to travel to England with her sons. Davidman published her best known work, Smoke on the Mountain: An Interpretation of the Ten Commandments, in 1954 with a preface by C. S. Lewis. Lewis influenced her work and conversion, and became her second husband after her permanent relocation to England in 1956. She died from metastatic carcinoma involving the bones in 1960. The relationship that developed between Davidman and Lewis has been featured in a television BBC film, a stage play, and a theatrical film named Shadowlands. Lewis published A Grief Observed under a pseudonym in 1961, from notebooks he kept after his wife's death revealing his immense grief and a period of questioning God. Lewis ultimately comes to a place of peace and gratitude for having received and experienced the gift of a true love.

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Commemorated on 1 plaque

Owen Massey McKnight on Flickr

The former home of the writer Joy Davidman, wife of C.S. Lewis

10 Old High Street, Oxford, United Kingdom where they lived