Mary Doria Russell comes to the blog today with an historic fiction about a female union organizer, deep in the Midwest mines in the early 1900’s with
The Women of the Copper Country
Ask anyone who has ever lived with, or seen, the struggles of mining towns and the people who work in them, and you’ll see that the dangers, horrible conditions and poverty is never far behind: even now with improvements and safety regulations. But in the early 1900’s with the demand for Copper, Coal, Gold and other mined items, miners were often subjected to harsh conditions without safety regulations while their women were left above ground scrabbling for ‘extra work’ to make ends meet. Children were often in the mines, health and worker’s rights were unheard of, and those who sought to organize for safety, better wages, better conditions and opportunities were silenced, some violently.
Enter Annie Clements, twenty-five in 1913, she’s lived her entire life under the auspices of the mining company bosses: seen the hardships, dangers and deprivations first-hand, and has decided that enough is enough. Despite her husband’s displeasure with her increasing independence, her refusal to not be heard, and her determination to improve the lot of the families and the workers in the small town of Calumet, she soldiers on – heedless of the dangers to herself, aware of (and a bit in awe too) of other female organizers like Mother Jones, and faced with choices that pit love and freedom against what she knows to be right – she’s indomitable and a force to be reckoned with.
Russell brings Annie to life and light, showing both her determination and the challenges, as well as her own doubts when it seems that everyone is unable (or unwilling) to praise her efforts, despite the end result being an improvement for them all. In a time when the current thought doesn’t lead us to much “organizational acknowledgement” for women beyond suffragettes and abstinence, the inclusion of women flocking to Annie’s cause with money, publicity and suggested courses of action, as well as a solid sense of support through the challenges she will meet are strong and show the early pitfalls and challenges to those looking to secure worker’s rights, safety and some sort of family security in times that were unstable at best, with companies interested only in their own profits and not the labor which made them possible.
Title: The Women of the Copper Country
Genre: Biographic / autobiographic, Historical Fiction, Jazz Age, Setting: American, Sociological Relevancy
Narrator: Mary Doria Russell
Published by: Atria Books
Published on: 6 August, 2019
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 12 Hours
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In July 1913, twenty-five-year-old Annie Clements had seen enough of the world to know that it was unfair. She’s spent her whole life in the copper-mining town of Calumet, Michigan where men risk their lives for meager salaries—and had barely enough to put food on the table and clothes on their backs. The women labor in the houses of the elite, and send their husbands and sons deep underground each day, dreading the fateful call of the company man telling them their loved ones aren’t coming home. When Annie decides to stand up for herself, and the entire town of Calumet, nearly everyone believes she may have taken on more than she is prepared to handle.
In Annie’s hands lie the miners’ fortunes and their health, her husband’s wrath over her growing independence, and her own reputation as she faces the threat of prison and discovers a forbidden love. On her fierce quest for justice, Annie will discover just how much she is willing to sacrifice for her own independence and the families of Calumet.
From one of the most versatile writers in contemporary fiction, this novel is an authentic and moving historical portrait of the lives of the men and women of the early 20th century labor movement, and of a turbulent, violent political landscape that may feel startlingly relevant to today.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.