One of my most favorite books ever is Doc by Mary Doris Russell. When I was offered her latest book, The Women of the Copper Country by her publisher I said yes as quickly as I could. I thank them for sending me a copy at no charge for my honest review.
About The Women of the Copper Country:
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.
About the Author:
Widely praised for her meticulous research, fine prose, and compelling narrative drive, Mary Doria Russell is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of The Sparrow, Children of God, A Thread of Grace, Dreamers of the Day, Doc, and Epitaph. Dr. Russell holds a PhD in biological anthropology. She lives in Lyndhurst, Ohio. Learn more at mariadoriarussell.net
Don’t let the topic of this book turn you away from it. It’s not a dry tale of labor negotiations and coal miners. Russell is the kind of story teller that really brings a world to life whether that world is the palatial mansion of the president of the mine company or the cold, dark depths of a copper mine.
The book is based on the life of a real person Annie Clements. a labor activist and president of the local Women’s Auxiliary No. 15 of the Western Federation of Miners. She was quite a firebrand for her day and I’m now quite interested in learning more about her. I love when a book introduces me to someone in history and makes me want to learn more.
The men of Calumet go down into the mines for long dark hours for little pay. Their wages go to company housing and to paying for commodities at the company store. They barely have time to see their families. The union comes offering the possibility of better working conditions and hours. They strike with the women offering their support.
Annie and her strong personality drive this story and she is a fascinating woman. She was truly ahead of her time. The book is focused on her but does explore the issues of the mine’s control of almost every aspect of its workers lives. Plus the coming automation that would soon take jobs away. It was a time of growing union growth and strength with horrifying push back from industry – often in ways that were illegal but overlooked as the mine owners controlled the local and in some cases the state governments.
I was fascinated with this story. Ms. Russell’s writing kept me turning the pages even though I knew a bit of union history and was aware of what might be the outcome. I’m trying to be circumspect so as to not give away the story for anyone who doesn’t know what might have happened. It is indeed a somewhat obscure topic for a book but this is definitely a book that will keep your interest and one worth reading.
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