Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book


Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Francine Lewis  

Pen Name: Helen Wells

Genre: C:CHILD C:CHILD C:YA

Born: Danville, Illinois

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Illinois Connection

Helen was born in Danville, Illinois. The family moved to New York City when Helen was about seven, and she loved New York. The family retained ties to Danville, however; almost every summer, they spent some time visiting relatives there. After her death in New York, she was laid to rest in Danville, Illinois.

Biographical and Professional Information

As a teenager, Wells studied painting at the Art Students League in New York City; she also studied music. At New York University, she became the first female editor of the school's literary quarterly. She graduated from NYU in 1934, with a major in philosophy and a minor in sociology and psychology. After graduation, she worked for a time as a social worker and began to write for magazines, and eventually turned to writing full-time after winning prizes in two short-story contests.During World War II, she served as a volunteer with the State Department's Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, escorting Latin American visitors in the United States.She traveled widely, visiting Brazil, Spain, France, Austria, Israel, Mexico, England, and several other countries. Among her other interests were reading, theater, ballet, and jazz. She was active in several author organizations, especially the Mystery Writers of America, and taught writing courses at the Institute of Children's Literature in Redding Ridge, Connecticut.


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Awards

-- The 1986 Juvenile Series Writer's Conference, Corning, NY, was dedicated to the memory of Helen Wells.