Helen Papanikolas: Obituary and Bibliography

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by Yiorgos Anagnostou, Ohio State University

Read, also,

1. Rain in the Valley, a Novel by Helen Papanikolas click here

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With deep sadness, I report the death of folklorist and ethnohistorian Helen Papanikolas. The funeral will be at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, Salt Lake City, Utah, on Friday, November 5, 2004, at 1 pm.

A tireless chronicler of Greek America , Helen Papanikolas has contributed vastly to ethnnic studies as well as regional institutions. Greek-American studies have benefited from her work in folklore, ethnohistory, autobiography, family biography, fiction, editorship, archive-building, consulting, and public speaking. Her publications include a non-fiction book, a novel, two collections of short stories, scores of essays and articles, and the editing of a seminal volume on the people of Utah (see the bibliography below).

The interviews that she has collected through years of fieldwork are preserved at the Oral History Archive at the Marriot Library, University of Utah. Her extensive archival work on Greek America includes “one of the strongest collections of artifacts in any local community” which lead to the establishment of the Hellenic Cultural Museum in Salt Lake City (Notarianni, 2003:30).

She served as a member of the Board of the Utah Historical Society and contributed numerous articles to its magazine, the Utah Historical Quarterly. As a consultant she has contributed to the making of the following:

Greeks of Utah (1999).
Joe Hill: Dangers and Disasters (2002).
Community History:
Greek-American Pioneer Women of Illinois (2000).
The Other Utahns: A Photographic Portofolio (1988).
Jeffrey Eugenides’s “Middlesex”.
King of America (PBS American Playhouse series, 1981).

The vast record of her public lectures testifies to a life-long contribution to community life, commitment to diversity, and social advocacy for the disenfranchised. The recent homage paid to Papanikolas in the Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora (2003) illuminates her vast capacity for deep care and generosity as a researcher but also as a human being.


Papanikolas , Helen. 2002. An Amulet of Greek Earth: Generations of Immigrant Folk Culture. Athens: Swallow Press/Ohio University Press.
Papanikolas, Helen. 2001. “The Time of the Little Black Bird.” Speech at a conference organized by the Greek-American Women’s Network in New York City. Printed in Greek American Review, Vol. 52(641):17-20.
Papanikolas, Helen. 2001. “Travels in the Land of Greekness.” In “A Case Study in Greek American Orthodoxy, the Proceedings of the Symposium, the Preservation of our History Past, Present, and Future,” eds. Mary K. Mousalimas and the Ascension Historical Committee, The Greek Orthodox Theological Review, vol. 45 (1-4): 413-425.
Papanikolas, Helen. 1997. “A Sketch of Greek Immigrant Life in the American West.” In Greeks in English-Speaking Countries: Culture, Identity, Politics. Christos P. Ioannides, ed. New Rochelle, New York: Melissa Media Associates, Inc. Pp. 23-34.
Papanikolas, Helen. 1996. “Magerou, the Greek Midwife.” In Worth their Salt: Notable but Often Unnoted Women of Utah, Colleen Whitley, ed. Logan: Utah State University Press. Pp. 159-169. Originally Published in 1970 in the Utah Historical Quarterly 38:50-60. Reprinted several times in the Greek-American press.
Papanikolas, Helen. 1996. “General Introduction,” and “Preface” to the Greek-American chapter. In Missing Stories, Leslie Kelen and Eileen Hallet Stone, eds. Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press.
Papanikolas, Helen. 1995. “Growing Up Greek in Helper, Utah,” Forkroads: A Journal of Ethnic American Literature, Vol. 1(2): 5-11. Originally published in 1980 as “Growing Up Greek in Helper, Utah,” Utah Historical Quarterly, 48:240-260.
Papanikolas, Helen. 1989. “Greek Immigrant Women of the Intermountain West,” Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora, XVI(1-4):17-35.
Papanikolas, Helen, 1989a. “Old Jim,” Weber Studies, 4:42-51.
Papanikolas, Helen. 1988a. “Introduction.” In The Other Utahns, Leslie Kelen and Sandra Fuller, eds. Salt lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press.
Papanikolas, Helen. 1990. “Immigrants, Minorities, and the Great War,” Utah Historical Quarterly 58:351-370.
Papanikolas, Helen. 1987. Aimilia – Georgios (Emily-George). Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press. [Recently republished in paperback as A Greek Odyssey in the American West. University of Nebraska Press/Bison Books. 1997.] Papanikolas, Helen. 1986. “Utah’s Ethnic Legacy.” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 19:41-48. [Reprinted in A World We Thought we Knew: Readings in Utah History, John S. McCormick and John R. Sillito, eds. Salt lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press. 1988.] Papanikolas, Helen. 1985. “Bootlegging in Zion: Making and Selling the ‘Good Stuff’,” Utah Historical Quarterly, 53:268-291. [Reprinted in A World We Thought we Knew: Readings in Utah History. John S. McCormick and John R. Sillito, eds. Salt lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press. 1988.] Papanikolas, Helen. 1984. “Wrestling with Death: Greek Immigrant Funeral Customs in Utah,” Utah Historical Quarterly, 52:29-49.
Papanikolas, Helen. 1981. “Women in the Mining Communities of Carbon County.” In Carbon County: Eastern Utah’s Industrialized Island, Philip F. Notarianni, ed. Salt Lake City. Pp. 81-102.
Papanikolas, Helen, editor. 1981a. Haralambos Kambouris Diary. Translated by Constantine Vasilacopulos, “My Leaving Greece and Sojourn in America.” Special Collections, Marriott Library, University of Utah. The Oregon portion was published in the Oregon Historical Quarterly, 82:4-39.
Papanikolas, Helen. 1980. “The Greek Ethnic Family.” In Ethnic Traditions and the Family: Asian, Black, Greek, Native American, Polynesian, and Hispanic Cultures. Salt Lake City School District, YWCA, Pp. 20-26.
Papanikolas, Helen. 1979. “Greek Workers in the Intermountain West: The Early Twentieth Century,” Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 5:187-215.
Papanikolas, Helen. 1978c. “Dream and Waking: Cowboys.” In Looking Far West: the Search for the American West in History, Myth and Literature, Frank Bergon and Zeese Papanikolas, eds. New York. Pp. 450-1.
Papanikolas, Helen. 1978a. “The New Immigrants.” In Utah’s History, Richard D. Poll, ed. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press. Pp. 447-462.
Papanikolas, Helen. 1978b. “Ethnicity in Mormondom: A Comparison of Immigrant and Mormon Cultures.” In Essays on the American West, 1975-1976, Thomas G. Alexander, ed. Charles Redd Monographs in Western History, no. 8. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press. Pp. 91-120.
Papanikolas, Helen. 1976a. “The Exiled Greeks.” In The Peoples of Utah, Helen Papanikolas, ed. Utah State Historical Society: Salt Lake City. Pp. 409-435.
Papanikolas, Helen. 1976. “Introduction.” In The Peoples of Utah, Helen Papanikolas, ed. Utah State Historical Society: Salt Lake City. Pp. 1-9.
Papanikolas, Helen and Alice Kasai. 1976c. “Japanese Life in Utah.” In The Peoples of Utah, Helen Papanikolas, ed. Utah State Historical Society: Salt Lake City. Pp. 333-362.
Papanikolas, Helen. 1976b. “The Greek Sheepmen of Utah,” Beehive History, 2:14-16.
Papanikolas, Helen. 1975. “Utah’s Coal Lands: A Vital Example of How America Became a Great Nation,” Utah Historical Quarterly, 43:104-124.
Papanikolas, Helen. 1973. “Unionism, Communism, and the Great Depression: The Carbon County Coal Strike of 1933.” Utah Historical Quarterly, 41:254-300 (extensive interviews with participants in the strike).
Papanikolas, Helen. 1972. “The Greek Immigrant in Utah.” In Ethnic Oral History at the American West Center, University of Utah. Pp. 44-50.
Papanikolas, Helen. 1971. “Greek Folklore of Carbon County.” In Lore of Faith and Folly. Thomas E. Cheney, ed. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press. Pp. 61-77.
Papanikolas, Helen. 1970. “Toil and Rage in a New land: The Greek Immigrants in Utah,” Utah Historical Quarterly, 38, no. 2.
Papanikolas, Helen. 1965. “Life and Labor among the Immigrants of Bingham Canyon,” Utah Historical Quarterly, 33:289-315.
Papanikolas, Helen. 1954. “The Greeks of Carbon County,” Utah Historical Quarterly, 22:143-164.


Papanikolas, Helen 2001/2002. “Father Constantine and Mrs. Tsangoglou,” MondoGreco. Vol. 6/7:7-17.
Papanikolas, Helen. 1999. The Time of the Little Black Bird. Athens: Swallow/University of Ohio Press.
Papanikolas, Helen. 1996. The Apple Falls from the Apple Tree. Athens: Swallow/University of Ohio Press.
Papanikolas, Helen. 1993. Small Bird, Tell Me: Stories of Greek Immigrants in Utah. Athens: Swallow/University of Ohio Press.
Papanikolas, Helen, 1947 “The Fortress and the Prison,” Utah Humanities Review 1 (April 1947): 134-146. [Later the journal’s name was changed to Western Humanities Review. This is the first literary attempt by Helen Papanikolas, who published excerpts from a novel that was never published; see Murphy (1996:251).]

Note from PAHH:

Also see Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora special issue devoted to Helen Papanikolas (2003) with articles by several scholars about her work in historiography and her influence.


Copied by PAHH from the Utah History Encyclopedia

Murphy, Miriam B., “Helen Zeese Papanikolas”, Utah History Encyclopedia, Allan Kent Powell, ed. (Media Solutions, University of Utah Office of Information Technology, 1996-1998), available at www.media.utah.edu/UHE/p/PAPANIKOLAS.html.

Helen Zeese Papnikolas

Helen Zeese Papanikolas was born in 1917 in Cameron, Carbon County, Utah, to Greek immigrants Emily Papachristos and George Zeese, who established the Success Market chain in Salt Lake City, where the family moved in 1933. Editor of the campus literary magazine Pen, she received a B.A. degree from the University of Utah in 1939. She married Nick E. Papanikolas, and they have two children.

Her publication in 1954 of “The Greeks of Carbon County” signaled the beginning of an important new phase in the writing of Utah history that came to full fruition in the 1970s and 1980s with the publication of numerous works on ethnic history and folklore. Her studies and those of others stimulated by her pioneering work broadened the scope of Utah history, which had generally focused on settlement and progress under Mormon direction, and contributed to a fuller understanding of the state’s industrial development and its rich cultural heritage. Major publications by Papanikolas include Toil and Rage in a New Land: The Greek Immigrants in Utah (1970), The Peoples of Utah (1976), and Emily-George (1987).

A leading authority on Greek immigrant life in the United States, she has presented papers at national and international conferences and has served as a consultant for television documentaries and other projects. The Peoples of Utah Institute, of which she was a founder (1977) and the first president, located and identified artifacts associated with ethnic life, produced a major museum exhibit, and sponsored lectures and other programs. Papanikolas also collected numerous documents, conducted extensive interviews, and was instrumental in organizing the ethnic archives at the University of Utah. Her influence on research into ethnic life in Utah is great and unparalleled.

She has received many awards, including Archbishop of the Americas Iakovos Saint Paul Medal (1972); Fellow of the Utah State Historical Society (1975); Japanese-American Citizens League Award (1976); Brotherhood Award, National Conference of Christians and Jews, Utah Chapter (1978); Distinguished Alumna Award, University of Utah (1983); and Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, University of Utah (1984). She has served on the Children’s Service Society Board (1962-69); Advisory Board of Editors, Utah Historical Quarterly (1969-73); Board of State History (1973-85); and Utah Endowment for the Humanities State Committee (1973-79).