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Davidman, Helen Joy (1915-1960) | Archival Collections at Wheaton College

Name: Davidman, Helen Joy (1915-1960)

Historical Note:

Helen Joy Davidman was born on April 18, 1915 into a Jewish family residing in New York. Joy graduated from Evander Childs High School at age 14 and completed her college work at Hunter College in 1934. She was awarded a master’s degree in English literature from Columbia University in December 1935. During Joy’s writing career she published poetry, articles (including film and poetry reviews for The New Masses), and several books.

By the late 1930s Joy had joined the Communist Party and married fellow writer William Lindsay Gresham on August 24, 1942. She and Gresham had two sons: David Lindsay Gresham (born March 27, 1944) and Douglas Howard Gresham (born November 10, 1945). Joy became a Christian in 1948, helped in part by reading the works of C.S. Lewis with whom she began corresponding in 1950. Joy first met C.S. Lewis on a five month trip to England beginning in August 1952.

Joy and Bill Gresham were legally separated by summer, 1953. In November of that year, Joy took David and Douglas to live in England. Her marriage ended in divorce, finalized on July 28, 1954. Joy and Lewis continued their friendship and he provided Joy with support to help her forge a new life in England. They were married in a civil ceremony on April 23, 1956, and again in a bedside hospital ceremony with a priest on March 21, 1957. Joy had been diagnosed with a fast-spreading cancer, but shortly after her marriage with Lewis enjoyed a recovery that lasted nearly three years. Her cancer returned in October 1959, and she died on July 13, 1960.

Joy’s relationship with C.S. Lewis is the subject of two motion pictures and a stage play entitled: Shadowlands.

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