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Courage in Appalachia: the Story of Eula Hall

By Kentucky For Kentucky |

Sometimes here at Kentucky for Kentucky we like to settle in with a good read, and when we do, it's always something unique and inspiring about our favorite state. When a copy of Kiran Bhatraju's Mud Creek Medicine: The Life of Eula Hall and the Fight for Appalachia found its way to our door, we couldn't turn down this compelling tale of one woman's fight to establish and maintain Mud Creek Clinic in the midst of abject poverty and challenging social circumstances.

A native of Eastern Kentucky himself, Bhatraju cites her story as equally inspirational both to those within their community and to outsiders, alike, determined as she was to "follow her own brand of tough-love, boostrapped compassion" in order to make her goals into reality. Her battles, however, were all too commonplace, as Bhatraju explains, "Eula faced hardship from the day she was born. And her biography – through severe poverty, abuse, lack of healthcare, black lung advocacy, clean water battles, and labor strikes – represents a lot of the struggles Appalachia faced in the 20th century."

Eula had to fight hard for her clinic, overcoming many obstacles, including a varied past that included moonshining, labor strikes, fighting against domestic abuse, and a mysterious arson in 1982 that threatened to close her down forever. She struggled hard to serve the people of her community, reopening the clinic against the odds and rallying to keep her dream alive. Determined to provide healthcare to the residents of secluded areas of the Appalachian region, Eula Hall made it her life's mission to rally for the needs of her community, to make sure the rest of the world heard the voice of Appalachia.   

Like many of her friends and family members, Eula Hall's resilience was built into the spirit of the place that she called home. Bhatraju explains, "That backdrop, and the history of Scot-irish immigrants settling in the hollers, the labor strikes, poverty, coal industry, moonshine, and feuds, all gave generations of people strength. For a long time, living in Appalachia was hard, secluded from the larger narrative of America, and I think because of that the people there have been through quite a bit, and grown into a resilient bunch." That toughness and strength is a large part of what makes Eula's story so inspirational, and so resonant with the rich history of our Commonwealth.

Bhatraju continues, "I love Kentucky. It's unique in its place in the nation's story and in a lot of ways this book was my love letter to a part of the state I grew up in."

We can't argue with that sentiment, friends. And let's be honest, Eula Hall really knew how to crush it for the Commonwealth.

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