The Women of the Copper Country: A Novel


368 pages

Average rating: 7.72




Community Reviews

Aug 01, 2023
10/10 stars
What do the women of the copper country do while the men are down in the pits mining? It takes no great imagination to picture them cooking, cleaning, mending, caring for children, and, if in much less dangerous conditions, generally working just as hard as their men.

According to Russell, though, they also organized. At least in Calumet, Michigan they did. When male union organizers got very little traction with the workers of the Calumet-Hecla mining company, where death or serious injury happened weekly, the latest death, with the resultant orphaned children, is the straw that breaks the back of Annie Clements's patience. She organizes the women, and the union and most of the workers follow, if somewhat reluctantly. Annie is a striking figure, though (no pun intended), and the walk-out soon becomes national news, thanks to the efforts of an aspirational photojournalist.

All of Russell's characters leap off the page, as anyone who's familiar with her work already knows. Everyone from Annie to her anti-union husband, to James McNaughton, the manager of the mine, is shown to have at least one or two layers. Incidentally, Russell pulls no punches in her descriptions of McNaughton's callousness toward his workers, a characterization Russell assures us is firmly based in historical reality.

Russell is known for the quality of the research she puts into her books, and this one is no exception. But she also has the gift of communicating the knowledge she has accumulated without being didactic. Having turned her attention to the beginning of the labor movement, she treats her readers to a heart-breaking look at what it cost the people who fought for the rights of all workers.
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Jun 19, 2022
9/10 stars
If you are old enough to remember the story of Norma Rae, this book will speak to you. This is the story of copper miners in Michigan and the struggles they live through. Juxtaposed to that is the wealthy and how they use money to influence what we read in the papers.
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