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.

The Women of the Copper Country Details

TitleThe Women of the Copper Country
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseAug 6th, 2019
PublisherAtria Books
ISBN-139781982109585
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction

The Women of the Copper Country Review

  • Angela M
    January 1, 1970
    Mary Doria Russell is a wonderful story teller and it’s about time that I finally read one of her books. I will, no doubt, get to some of her others because this one for me is deserving of five stars. The writing is descriptive but not overly, enough to give the reader a fantastic sense of time and place in the mining town of Calumet, Michigan in 1913 where the mine workers endure dangerous working conditions, meager pay checks and long hours, where men and boys die and children are hungry and c Mary Doria Russell is a wonderful story teller and it’s about time that I finally read one of her books. I will, no doubt, get to some of her others because this one for me is deserving of five stars. The writing is descriptive but not overly, enough to give the reader a fantastic sense of time and place in the mining town of Calumet, Michigan in 1913 where the mine workers endure dangerous working conditions, meager pay checks and long hours, where men and boys die and children are hungry and cold and women work so hard. The expert characterization allows us to see her characters in depth, what they are made of - from the amazing Annie Clements whose inner strength, savvy and heart move this story forward juxtaposed with the mean and heartless James MacNaughton, the mine boss. While this is a work of fiction, it is well researched. Russel clarifies in a note what is true and what she has taken liberties with. I was so captivated by this book, that I spent some time online reading more about the events that happened in Calumet around the strike that Annie and others lead. So much here is a true reflection. The story of what happens in this place is more than a glimpse of the struggle of workers there to organize. It’s a reflection of a part of our country’s history. I learned what a major role women had in trying to affect change. While Annie and young Eva and many other women in the Women’s Auxiliary are representative of the women of Calumet, there are others who played significant roles in the labor movement in this country who make an appearance. Mother Jones and Ella Bloor - so much to admire in the strength and downright gumption of these women. A pleasure to read about them. Violence, tragedy and heartbreak mark this story and it’s not easy to read in places, but it is so worth reading. Annie is a character and a historic figure I will remember and this book will be on my list of favorites for the year. This was a monthly read along with Diane and Esil and as always, I value our discussions. This ARC was provided by the publisher Atria via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Dorie - Traveling Sister :)
    January 1, 1970
    ***NOW AVAILABLE***Some books are so good it’s hard to write a review to do them justice, this is one of those books. I do not get emotional often while reading a book but this one tore at my heart for all of the injustice and inhumanity that the miners and their families had to endure. A final tragedy that involved the deaths of many children brought tears to my eyes.The book takes place in Calumet, Michigan which, in 1913, had the largest copper producing mines in the United States, more than ***NOW AVAILABLE***Some books are so good it’s hard to write a review to do them justice, this is one of those books. I do not get emotional often while reading a book but this one tore at my heart for all of the injustice and inhumanity that the miners and their families had to endure. A final tragedy that involved the deaths of many children brought tears to my eyes.The book takes place in Calumet, Michigan which, in 1913, had the largest copper producing mines in the United States, more than the mines in Colorado and others out West. Located on the shores of Lake Superior it was an ideal shipping location.Much of the focus of this novel is on the November 1913 strike and Annie Clements, called Big Annie because of her tall stature, who was the organizer and leader of the strike. They were striking for an 8 hour day, 5 days a week, a small raise in pay along with safer working conditions. She started a Women’s Auxiliary which sewed white dresses for women and children who marched in the strike parade. A photographer, Michael Sweeney in the novel, took photos of the parade which were run in state and national newspapers. The general manager of Calumet & Hecla was James MacNaughton, a cheerless, selfish man who refused to listen to any talk of negotiations with the union. He felt as though the men were lucky to have a job. Many of the miners were immigrants, for which he held little respect. Even when the Governor of Michigan, Woodbridge Ferris, sent his representative to try and reason with MacNaughton, he wouldn’t even let him in his office.Daily strike parades were made nearly impossible when a blizzard of historic proportions hit the town and surrounding areas. When the union still persisted, MacNaughton brought in “strike breakers” that beat the protestors and broke windows and ransaked union houses.Ms. Russell’s writing is so descriptive I could almost feel the freezing cold and picture the shivering strikers. Her descriptions of the harsh winters in this area are enough to make me cold even as our temperatures are now in the 80’s. There are so many incredible characters in this novel that I can’t list them all. One of the paragraph’s in the author’s notes really stuck with me that I will share with you “A strike is a collective action . . . . .that said, the central role of women in the 1913 copper strike and in the labor movement in general was remarkable and has been underrepresented in most historical accounts”. Most of the characters are based on actual individuals while others are a composite of several. Most historical references are discussed in the Author’s Notes.This book is a quick read because of the wonderful flow of the writing and it’s well developed characters. I have been online reading articles and looking at photos from the strike as I can’t get this story out of my head.I highly recommend this book for lovers of great literature and particularly historical fiction. Ms. Russell has written another stellar novel for us to embrace.I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through Edelweiss.This book will be published on August 6, 2019.
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  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 Such amazing courage in the face of unbeatable odds. That's what my thought was when I finished this book. A twenty five year old Roman who took on a copper Baron. The year was 1913 and changes were coming to the mine, but not good ones. One man drills were not only dangerous but would cost many men their jobs. The company owned them, here in Calumet on the peninsula of Michigan. Owned their houses, the stores, the banks and almost everything within view. A death, will be the impetus to stri 4.5 Such amazing courage in the face of unbeatable odds. That's what my thought was when I finished this book. A twenty five year old Roman who took on a copper Baron. The year was 1913 and changes were coming to the mine, but not good ones. One man drills were not only dangerous but would cost many men their jobs. The company owned them, here in Calumet on the peninsula of Michigan. Owned their houses, the stores, the banks and almost everything within view. A death, will be the impetus to strike, and to strike now.We will meet Mother Jones whose indefatigable spirit will lend support and money. A Union organizers, and a photographer, and another woman who comes from afar, to support and bring a fresh infusion of cash. Most of all, we will meet Annie, and many other strong, amazing women. A grim novel, some scenes touch the heart, but all history isn't pretty. Most isn't. We meet a man without a heart or a soul. Incredibly well researched, something this author is noted for, it brings us a time when workers had little power. I think sometimes we forget the horror these early unionizers went through to insure we were treated fair by employers. Strikes that led to changes in labor laws. Just like the women who fought to bring women the vote, these women, these workers should always be remembered.Another one Angela, Esil and I all agreed on.ARC from Edelweiss.
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  • Beata
    January 1, 1970
    I have often come across the reviews by my Friends of Ms Russell's novels over some time now, and they are full of praise for her writing. Now I can fully comprehend why .... The Women of the Copper Country swept me of my feet, and I am certain this will be one of my top books of this year.I never heard of the Copper Country or Big Annie, but now I am proud to have become part of the community who while reading felt for the miners and their families, who could learn about their tragic experience I have often come across the reviews by my Friends of Ms Russell's novels over some time now, and they are full of praise for her writing. Now I can fully comprehend why .... The Women of the Copper Country swept me of my feet, and I am certain this will be one of my top books of this year.I never heard of the Copper Country or Big Annie, but now I am proud to have become part of the community who while reading felt for the miners and their families, who could learn about their tragic experience, and who probably benefit, perhaps indirectly but still, from Annie Clements and her followers' fight and spirit. This is one of those novels that engage readers fully through the writing style and character development, and which leave a trace in their hearts.A historical fiction about the union struggle against the oppressive working conditions turned out to be unputdownable for me. Thank you, Ms Russell, for this magnificent and powerful novel that moved me deeply so much .....
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  • Sue
    January 1, 1970
    This is why I read historical fiction. To be taken back to a time that I don’t truly understand and to learn about the people and events. This can only happen when the author combines excellent research with an ability to tell a story in a lucid, interesting and inspiring way. Mary Doria Russell has certainly accomplished this and The Women of the Copper Country is definitely one of my favorite books of the year.The setting for this novel is the company town of Calumet Michigan, site of a major This is why I read historical fiction. To be taken back to a time that I don’t truly understand and to learn about the people and events. This can only happen when the author combines excellent research with an ability to tell a story in a lucid, interesting and inspiring way. Mary Doria Russell has certainly accomplished this and The Women of the Copper Country is definitely one of my favorite books of the year.The setting for this novel is the company town of Calumet Michigan, site of a major copper mine. What happens during this novel is the butting of heads of a fledgling union and entrenched management. We see all that happens through multiple participants, miners, their families, union organizers, company men, management, newsmen.Through information provided in the afterword, we learn how much of this book is, or is very close to, fact. And that is a lot. I was unfamiliar with this particular history and wondered a bit as I read, but there is such an air of authenticity and authority that I felt comfortable. And most of us of a certain age have heard something of Mother Jones! I had never heard of Annie Clements before. I now would like to know as much as possible about the real woman. This would be an excellent novel for high school students, perhaps, to excite them about the past and how it influences our present and the future. For issues of workers’ rights vs owners’ overwhelming wealth continue.A definite 5* and highly recommended.A copy of this book was provided by Atria Books through NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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  • Carol
    January 1, 1970
    The Hook - After reading The Sparrow I'm a fan for life. The Line(s) - The last two books I've read have epigraphs by William Shakespeare. I haven't checked to see if any are the same. Isn't this interesting. I could have left my line of choice blank and just thought about what the bard intended but decided to include this longer quote. A parade of strikers...”15,000 on strike? Ask CM.Slogan: No to the widow-maker! Yes to the union! A fair share for labor!Songs, brass band. Giddy laughter. Child The Hook - After reading The Sparrow I'm a fan for life. The Line(s) - The last two books I've read have epigraphs by William Shakespeare. I haven't checked to see if any are the same. Isn't this interesting. I could have left my line of choice blank and just thought about what the bard intended but decided to include this longer quote. A parade of strikers...”15,000 on strike? Ask CM.Slogan: No to the widow-maker! Yes to the union! A fair share for labor!Songs, brass band. Giddy laughter. Children shrieking.The smell: fresh popcorn and roasted peanuts sold in little paper cones.Giggling girls hang on to one another, slyly watching boys who scramble up light poles they hang on like circus acrobats.Strikers as far as the eye can see, filling the streets. Everyone thrilled by their own daring, amazed by their own numbers.He himself is thrilled by the poetry of it. Men who work bent over in hard darkness are marching in bright sunshine, their full height unfurled. Half-grown sons, who'll soon go down in the the mines, linking arms with fathers and uncles, with a soft breeze on their scrubbed faces. Women with children—mothers, sisters, wives, daughters—lining the parade route, laughing at the squealing toddlers who ride the shoulders of crippled grandfathers. All of them dreaming of a better life for the next generation.” The Sinker - All the stars for Mary Doria Russell and her latest book, Women of the Copper Country This is an incredible historical fiction novel and like all her books, a winner. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. The briefest of a summary:It's 1913 in Calumet, Michigan, coal mining country. When six foot one Annie Klobuchar Clements of Slovenian descent decides to fight the copper giant, Jame McNaughton of Calumet & Hecla by starting a union she does it in as big a way as her height. Sparks are bound to fly. She's sick of men working 12 hour days for low pay and miner's slump. Though C&H offers matching contributions to the laborers' medical fund, men are still dying from the perils of working underground. Whose father, husband, brother, uncle, would be next?There's much to love here. Annie is based on a true character and in her quest for better working conditions she is joined by a few other women that made history including Mother Jones and Women of the Copper Country is the perfect book to read on Labor Day Weekend. This is why unions were needed. Fair wages, decent working conditions, paid overtime, child labor laws, all needed reform. Be certain to read The Authors Note as it outlines the fact and fiction in these pages. There may be some surprises and perhaps some further reading to do.
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  • Karen
    January 1, 1970
    Based on the real life of “America’s Joan of Arc” Annie Clements. 23 years old, she witnessed the injustices of the copper mining business in her town of Calumet in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and she formed The Women’s Auxiliary of the Western Federation of Miners and actively participated in the Copper County Strike of 1913-1914. The miners were working for a dollar a day in very hazardous conditions, many losses of life.I had no idea of these happenings or of the town and that it was such a dr Based on the real life of “America’s Joan of Arc” Annie Clements. 23 years old, she witnessed the injustices of the copper mining business in her town of Calumet in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and she formed The Women’s Auxiliary of the Western Federation of Miners and actively participated in the Copper County Strike of 1913-1914. The miners were working for a dollar a day in very hazardous conditions, many losses of life.I had no idea of these happenings or of the town and that it was such a draw for immigrants to come to for work. The population in Calumet Township area was 40,000 during those years... now in Calumet the population is barely 800.Being a life long Michigander, I was very interested in this book and though I did enjoy it, I had to take a lot of breaks from it because it was so detailed.
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  • Erin
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to Netgalley and Atria books for a digital galley in exchange for an honest review. It's a working man I am And I've been down under ground And I swear to God if I ever see the sun Or for any length of time I can hold it in my mind I never again will go down under ground "Working Man" Rita McNeil 1990 I wasn't in a huge hurry to get to my August arcs, but then I read a few reviews of this one and was all about making it a priority. Once again, I have discovered a book that is a cont Thanks to Netgalley and Atria books for a digital galley in exchange for an honest review. It's a working man I am And I've been down under ground And I swear to God if I ever see the sun Or for any length of time I can hold it in my mind I never again will go down under ground "Working Man" Rita McNeil 1990 I wasn't in a huge hurry to get to my August arcs, but then I read a few reviews of this one and was all about making it a priority. Once again, I have discovered a book that is a contender for best book of 2019. Set in early 20th century Michigan, Mary Dora Russell introduces readers to the struggles of the union movement against the copper mining industry and the intriguing story of one of its leaders, Big Annie Klobuchar Clements aka "America's Joan of Arc." Annie and the other women who have watched their fathers, husbands, sons, and brothers become casualties in the mining companies one man drill operation either by losing their lives or permanently disabled have had enough. In 1913, they push for a union strike and while the smaller companies are willing to give into worker demands, one particular mining boss refuses to back down. As the months pass, there will be many trials, tribulations and tragedies along the way. A few decades later than this story, my maternal grandfather was a miner and thankfully he nor any of the men he worked with were seriously injured or lost their lives during his lengthy career. But having learned much about mining in both Canada and the United States, there's no doubt that it's a dangerous industry especially when business overlooks the safety of the workers. Mary Dora Russell's novel is a good reminder of what the miners and their families had to do in order to have better working conditions. This novel is well written, researched, and with the inclusion of the Italian Hall tragedy of 1913, a heartbreaking and powerful story. An important part of American history that shouldn't be overlooked!Expected publication 06/08/19Goodreads Review published 04/07/19
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  • Chrissie
    January 1, 1970
    This is a book of historical fiction, and as such it is very good. It is about the Copper Country Strike of 1913-1914 as it played out at Calumet & Hecla Mining Company in Calumet, Michigan. The strike was organized by the Western Federation of Miners labor union. An 8-hour day, a minimum wage of $3 per day, an end to the use of the one-man pneumatic drill and that companies must recognize the union as the employees’ representative were demanded. A strike is a collective effort, and as such This is a book of historical fiction, and as such it is very good. It is about the Copper Country Strike of 1913-1914 as it played out at Calumet & Hecla Mining Company in Calumet, Michigan. The strike was organized by the Western Federation of Miners labor union. An 8-hour day, a minimum wage of $3 per day, an end to the use of the one-man pneumatic drill and that companies must recognize the union as the employees’ representative were demanded. A strike is a collective effort, and as such it involves many individuals. While the characters are many, they are all given form and substance. The majority existed in reality, some are fictional, and a few are conglomerate figures where two real people are merged into one. An author’s note at the book’s end clarifies this and specifies which events have been altered. Did I come to feel close to any one character? Maybe, for a short time, but then the focus would shift. James MacNaughton is a figure you will come to despise. This guy did actually exist! The book is about the strike itself, what led to it, how it played out and the many that took part in it. Women, quite a number of women, played an influential role in what happened. That it is so is made clear in the book’s title. The writing is excellent. Historical details are presented in an engaging manner, never dumped on the reader in bucket-loads. Facts are clearly presented. Dialogs, some based on what real life characters have said and others imagined, feel genuine. What is said is well expressed—sometimes bringing a tear to your eye, sometimes making you smile.Cassandra Campbell narrates the audiobook. She reads it very well. She uses different intonations and accents for different characters. There are many immigrants in the story. Their dialects are convincingly portrayed. I liked the narration a lot and so have given the performance a four star rating. If the history of unions interests you, I heartily recommend this book. As I read, I wanted to go back to available source material. The information provided below DOES contain spoilers.*Calumet & Hecla Mining Company https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calumet...*James MacNaughtonhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_M...*Anna Klobuchar Clemenchttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_Cl...*Mary Harris Jones https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Ha...*Ella Reeve Bloor https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ella_Re...**********************A Thread of Grace 4 stars*Dreamers of the Day 4 stars*The Women of the Copper Country 4 stars*Doc 3 stars*********************Books about the growth of unions in the US: *The Women of the Copper Country by Mary Doria Russell 4 stars*Storming Heaven by Denise Giardina 4 stars*Triangle: The Fire That Changed America by David von Drehle 3 stars*The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash
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  • Esil
    January 1, 1970
    An enthusiastic 4 stars!As far as I’m concerned, good historical fiction does not romanticize or trivialize real historical events, but rather uses fiction as a way to bring history to life. The Women of the Copper Country really hit the mark. The novel focuses on a mining strike in Northern Michigan in 1913 as mostly seen through the eyes of the women of the town. Specifically, the story focuses on Annie Clements — known as Big Annie — who was the head of the Women’s Auxiliary and instrumental An enthusiastic 4 stars!As far as I’m concerned, good historical fiction does not romanticize or trivialize real historical events, but rather uses fiction as a way to bring history to life. The Women of the Copper Country really hit the mark. The novel focuses on a mining strike in Northern Michigan in 1913 as mostly seen through the eyes of the women of the town. Specifically, the story focuses on Annie Clements — known as Big Annie — who was the head of the Women’s Auxiliary and instrumental in getting the strike going. Annie was a real person, and the author clearly did a lot of research about her life and the strike. This is not a happy story — because it’s based on a difficult historical time and because this author does not romanticize what happened to Annie and others. But it’s not all bleak — the story really highlights the role and strength of women involved in the labour movement and it brings home the dramatic improvements in working conditions over the last 100 years — with perhaps a warning to be careful not to backslide. And I should mention that the writing was excellent. This was my first but won’t be my last book by this author. This was a great buddy read with Angela and Diane. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
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  • Paige
    January 1, 1970
    In 1913, Annie Clements organizes the strikes for miners in Houghton county, Michigan that work under the duress of James MacNaughton, the general manager for Calumet & Hecla Mining. The strikers are continuously met with violence and other cruel means by Mr. MacNaughton and his bully boys. “This is the price of copper,” she says in that clear, quiet voice. “A dead man. Every week. Month after month. Year after year.” While most of the story builds on the 1913 Copper Country miners strike, In 1913, Annie Clements organizes the strikes for miners in Houghton county, Michigan that work under the duress of James MacNaughton, the general manager for Calumet & Hecla Mining. The strikers are continuously met with violence and other cruel means by Mr. MacNaughton and his bully boys. “This is the price of copper,” she says in that clear, quiet voice. “A dead man. Every week. Month after month. Year after year.” While most of the story builds on the 1913 Copper Country miners strike, the characters are used to exploit the everyday family life in the mining community of Calumet & Hecla under the watchful eye of Mr. MacNaughton. As things transpire, the tragic lives of families in the community unfold. It is within all of their lives that the telling tells. And, although the title itself perhaps suggests the focus of the characters is on women, the characters point of view included is comprised of both genders. We see some chapters told from the point of view of a husband, a female child, a male bar-tender, a butler, a maid, Annie, a male governor, etc. The historical aspects were pleasantly well-researched. The main character, Annie Clements, is based on the historical figure Anna Klobuchar Clemenc and was presented valiantly. Likewise, James MacNaughton, the real historical corporate tycoon and the novel based character, are both found to be equally repulsive. Many characters represent authentic strikers during the 1913 Michigan copper strike and can be found in the Author’s Note of this book. The novel contains, but is not limited to, Croatians, Finns, Poles, Slavs, and Italians; however, only certain characters truly represented the dialect.I recommend this to readers interested in labor unions, Women's Auxiliary, and immigrant workers to the U.S. in the early 20th century. Many thanks to Atria Books, Mary Doria Russell, and NetGalley for allowing me to read this advanced copy.
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  • Linda
    January 1, 1970
    If the words on the page find a niche in your heart, it deserves all the stars....Mary Doria Russell has a sharp skilled, fine-tuned talent to capture the angst, the sorrow, the despair of the mining families clustered around the copper mines of Calumet, Michigan in 1913. It is a desperate life for the men who leave the freshness of nature above ground to enter into her pits of unspeakable darkness below ground. It is an equally difficult life for the wives and the families who wait at day's end If the words on the page find a niche in your heart, it deserves all the stars....Mary Doria Russell has a sharp skilled, fine-tuned talent to capture the angst, the sorrow, the despair of the mining families clustered around the copper mines of Calumet, Michigan in 1913. It is a desperate life for the men who leave the freshness of nature above ground to enter into her pits of unspeakable darkness below ground. It is an equally difficult life for the wives and the families who wait at day's end for the sound of their footsteps entering dimmed doorways....or possibly not.Russell presents the character of Annie Klobuchar Clements in such a raw, human way that the reader feels a deep connection from the onset. "Big Annie" as she is called by friends and neighbors, is beyond tall at over six feet in height. She had always been self-conscious as she towered over everyone. But fate brought her Joe Clements who met Annie eye-to-eye even though he was twelve years older. Annie dutifully cooked, cleaned, and packed adequate lunches for Joe every day.The copper mine was located on Kewanee Peninsula along Lake Superior and was manned by Poles, Czechs, Swedes, Russians, and the like who spoke 30 different languages. Men worked twelve hour days under precarious conditions. Russell introduces us to James MacNaughton, manager of Hecla Mining Company. She paints him with dark, absolutely no sunshine, colors. If the man had a soul, it would be found only with a high-powered microscope. We'll see him in action throughout this story.As conditions worsen, Annie finds herself more and more involved with the daily activities at the mine much to Joe's chagrin. She becomes president of the Women's Auxiliary of Western Federation of Miners Local 15. Annie is the go-to person for everything now. MacNaughton's unfairness and cruelty forces the miners to go on strike. The impact of that decision will be felt throughout the pages as Russell takes you into the midst of this turmoil. As the situation tightens and becomes knotted and knotted, the families take on the painful brunt of no work and no pay. Violence sets foot in Calumet and it takes a deadly toll.The Women of the Copper Country sets the tone for the voices of those who leaned hard into almost impossible odds in order to cut into this rugged land of America. The backbones of these individuals formed the steps of which led to better working conditions for those who came after them. In reflection, such supreme sacrifice appears to be a word found only in the pages of the past.I received a copy of this book through NetGalley for an honest opinion. My thanks to Simon & Schuster (Atria Books) and to Mary Doria Russell for the opportunity.
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  • Annette
    January 1, 1970
    Annie Clements (1888-1956), known as “American Joan of Arc” – the courageous woman who started a rebellion by leading a strike against the largest copper mining company in the world.A fight for a good life, not just a better life, comes vividly in this story. The nice city of Calumet built by one of the most profitable companies of its time is just a façade. What hides behind it, is the meager wages hardly making ends meet and the dangerous conditions under the ground. Every week someone dies or Annie Clements (1888-1956), known as “American Joan of Arc” – the courageous woman who started a rebellion by leading a strike against the largest copper mining company in the world.A fight for a good life, not just a better life, comes vividly in this story. The nice city of Calumet built by one of the most profitable companies of its time is just a façade. What hides behind it, is the meager wages hardly making ends meet and the dangerous conditions under the ground. Every week someone dies or gets injured. The injustice sparks major union strike.Houghton, Michigan: Anna Klobuchar, daughter of tall Slovenian parents, at 15 years old she already tops 6 feet. This causes her to be a subject of ridicule. “Boys laughed and pointed, calling out familiar taunts (…). Freak. Giant. Monster.” But her father encourages her, “Stand up, straight, Anna. Hold your head high. (…) That’s your strength. You are tall for a reason. When your head is high, you can see farther than anyone else.”Lake Superior, Michigan: James MacNaughton in 1901 became the general manager of Calumet & Hecla, the world’s largest copper mining company in the so called Copper Country along the Lake Superior. The Keweenaw Peninsula holds the richest copper deposits on earth. “He was a pioneer in the field of scientific industrial management.”“For fifty years, wave after wave of immigrants have come to the copper Country, all of them eager to work for the world’s most productive and progressive mining company.”Anna Klobuchar, at 18, marries Joe Clements, who now works night shifts at the mine. They share a small house with three young Italian immigrant men. What miners make is a bare minimum to survive. They “can’t make enough money to get even a little ahead, what hope is there for anybody? (…) Annie comes to a decision. Somebody has to do something.”The focus of the story is 1913 strike. The Western Federation of Miners demanding an 8-hr work-day, 5 days a week, a minimum wage, and an end to use of the one-man pneumatic drill.I’ve read quite a few books with vivid depiction of a time period or a historical figure, and yet I have to say WOW what an impressive vivid portrayal. Not only of the fight for a good life, but also of very memorable characters, passionate driven immigrants.Mary Harris Jones (1837-1930), known as Mother Jones, is quite a character. The union men call her the Miner’s Angel. “She left Cork (Ireland) during the Great Famine and survived a voyage across the Atlantic in a filthy, overloaded boat. (…) Odds against, she found a good man in America, and survived four pregnancies (…)” only to lose them all to yellow fever. Then lost her home and business in the Great Fire of Chicago. “So she rolled up her sleeves and went to work besides the laborers who rebuilt that city.” Her last straw “came when her own parish priest began to preach that the strikers should go back to work.” She yelled from the last pew, “I’m damned if I’ll eat shite on earth, praying for pie in the sky when I’m dead.” After that she became a union representative and a ferocious fighter for a good life, not just [email protected]/BestHistoricalFiction
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  • Tammy
    January 1, 1970
    It’s a nice change of pace to read a good old fashioned linear historical novel. This is really a David and Goliath story which takes place during the early 1900’s. Big Annie Clements was dubbed America’s “Joan of Arc” for staging protest marches against the C&H Mining Company. The plight of these copper miners in Calumet, Michigan was dismal. Dangerous working conditions caused deaths or maiming nearly weekly, the wages were paltry and working hours were outrageously long. Standing at 6’2”B It’s a nice change of pace to read a good old fashioned linear historical novel. This is really a David and Goliath story which takes place during the early 1900’s. Big Annie Clements was dubbed America’s “Joan of Arc” for staging protest marches against the C&H Mining Company. The plight of these copper miners in Calumet, Michigan was dismal. Dangerous working conditions caused deaths or maiming nearly weekly, the wages were paltry and working hours were outrageously long. Standing at 6’2”Big Annie founded and presided over the Women’s Auxiliary No. 15 of the Western Federation of miners. In addition to their labor activism, the community of wives and widows led by Annie supported families of striking miners. Not only a story of America’s early labor unions it is also a story of tragedy, courage and feminism.
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  • Libby
    January 1, 1970
    Mary Doria Russell writes about a wildcat strike in Calumet, Michigan in 1913 and 1914; Calumet was a town that was seeing the copper industry boom. It is a story of greed and the story of labor and its fight to give the working man a life that is beyond the basics of survival. For fans of historical fiction or anyone who loves heroes and heroines engaged in Goliathan battles, Russell delivers an amazing story that will have you researching the history just because you have fallen in love with t Mary Doria Russell writes about a wildcat strike in Calumet, Michigan in 1913 and 1914; Calumet was a town that was seeing the copper industry boom. It is a story of greed and the story of labor and its fight to give the working man a life that is beyond the basics of survival. For fans of historical fiction or anyone who loves heroes and heroines engaged in Goliathan battles, Russell delivers an amazing story that will have you researching the history just because you have fallen in love with the characters. James MacNaughton is the general manager of the Calumet & Hecla Mining Company, an inflexible man of strong habits who has taken the elements of managing the copper mines as the blueprint by which he also runs his home. He doesn’t know the names of the cook, butler, or maids, but he knows what they’re supposed to be doing and when. MacNaughton thinks the workforce at the mine has deteriorated as Swedes, Danes, Finns, and other immigrants have arrived, no longer grateful to have a job, a nice company home to live in, and a company store where they can spend their hard earned dollars. Instead, they complain about conditions underground and want a reduction in their twelve hour, six days a week working life. He has little idea about the reality of the miner’s working lives, about what conditions are really like underground. MacNaughton’s life purpose is to give the stockholders profit. Annie has been married to Joe Clement for seven years, he was one of the few her equal in height (she’s six feet two inches tall); now she’s twenty-five and there have been no children. A life tied to the mine is the only one that Annie has ever known. Her father had been a union organizer, and the truth is that Annie has never known if he died in a cave-in or was beaten to death by those opposed to his union activities. Known as ‘Big Annie’, her days are filled with work from sun-up to sun-down. Now they have boarders, the Giannelli brothers, three of them, whose uncle had died in the mines by the time they arrived in Calumet. Annie will prepare pasties for the four men to eat while underground, as well as their other meals. Every week seems to bring a death in the mines. If a husband, brother, or son is late coming off their shift, a tragic accident immediately comes to the mind of those who wait. The latest death, the death of Solomon Kivisto, a Finn, will galvanize the community to action, and Annie, the president of the Women’s Auxiliary No. 15 of the Western Federation of Miners is one of the instigators of a wildcat strike. The men have become more and more upset about the one-man drill which leaves one man working alone with no-one to go for help or even know if he becomes injured. He could lay there injured, or dying, for hours, before anyone would know. Charlie Miller, a man with experience in mines, has come to Calumet as a union organizer. Charlie thinks they need to collect funds and wait a couple of years before going on strike, but Sol’s death, concerns over the one-man drill, and Annie’s well-oiled Woman’s Auxiliary feed into a volcano that erupts. Annie is a heroine I can get behind. A firm believer in community and the spirit of improving the life of the common people, she is an extraordinary leader. She knows how to rouse the hearts and minds as well as organize food and clothing drives. I love how she comes to life under Russell’s pen. I feel so proud when I visualize her at the head of her parade of protestors, bearing the American flag. Her fellow protestors are women who have buried husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers. The price of the copper that has come out of the mines is the life of their lost beloved. For the powerful and wealthy, the miners’ labor has brought them more power, more wealth. For those bloodied and injured, it translates into bending, bowing, working more for less. Because I was so engaged with Annie, I was happy when she met, Michael Sweeney, a photographer who showcases Annie in newspapers around the country. Sweeney wants to give the strike a face, as well as a voice. Sweeney believes that we always know what the rich and powerful are thinking, why shouldn’t we know and care about what is happening to the miners? As he studies Annie’s face behind his camera, as well as in the developing photographs, he begins to feel more for her. Sweeney also makes me aware of the purity of journalism and photo-journalism’s vision, of getting to the bare bones of a story without regard for power and prestige.Russell accomplishes so much with this novel, showing the lives of so many that are affected by the copper mines, all while keeping the company general manager, MacNaughton, close at hand, and allowing me to hate him for the powerlessness he engenders in those that provide the company with its wealth. He is a true villain (and yet undeniably human) with many modern counterparts. As a reader, Russell kept me present and attentive. I kept wanting to google everything and learn how it turned out (I was unfamiliar with the history). The suspense of not knowing was killing me. But I didn’t let myself do it and I’m glad I didn’t, glad I let it unfold just as Russell has written it, a beautiful and extremely sad story, masterfully written, one of America’s grueling labor sagas. Highly recommended!I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest opinion. Many thanks to Simon & Schuster (Atria Books) and Mary Doria Russell.
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  • Tom Mathews
    January 1, 1970
    This weekend Americans will be celebrating the Labor Day holiday. I’ll be donning my kilt and going to the annual Scottish Highland Games nearby. Others will be camping, picnicking, shopping, or just enjoying some much-needed time off from work. In all the bustle, it is easy to forget that our enjoyment of this day was paid for with the tremendous sacrifice and suffering of those in the labor movement. Because of their efforts, we all enjoy this holiday and other benefits that we take for grante This weekend Americans will be celebrating the Labor Day holiday. I’ll be donning my kilt and going to the annual Scottish Highland Games nearby. Others will be camping, picnicking, shopping, or just enjoying some much-needed time off from work. In all the bustle, it is easy to forget that our enjoyment of this day was paid for with the tremendous sacrifice and suffering of those in the labor movement. Because of their efforts, we all enjoy this holiday and other benefits that we take for granted such as 8-hour work days, 40-hour work weeks, minimum wages, employer sponsored health insurance, paid sick days and vacations. The list goes on. So why should we spend our precious time away from the salt mines reading a book about organized labor? To those who haven’t read her books, Mary Doria Russell’s previous novels could fit in some commonly accepted genre. Doc and Epitaph could be called westerns, The Sparrow and Children of God are science fiction and A Thread of Grace is a war story. But where do you put a book about people in the back of beyond who go out on strike? More to the point, why should you read it? The bottom line is that Russell’s books are not what you think they will be. The Sparrow was first recommended to me by a friend and I put off reading it because I’m not that into sci-fi. Ten years and my friend had passed before I finally picked it up and I have kicked myself ever since for not having read it sooner. It may be a story about first contact with an alien species but couched within it readers will find a wealth of information about religion, philosophy, science, music, current affairs, sociology and human relationships. It is still one of my all-time favorites. Russell herself admits that a book about a miners’ strike in the far northern reaches of Michigan is not an easy sell for either publishers or readers. Fortunately, I have read most of her previous books and she has made it onto the very small list of authors whose books I will buy sight unseen. I also recall once hearing an enigmatic protest song by Woody Guthrie called 1913 Massacre that has stuck with me over the years more for its confusing description of events that left me wanting to know more about what happened in Calumet, Michigan in 1913 and what role women played in it. As to why others should read her book my best response is that if you haven’t read her books yet, you are in for a treat. If you have, you know what I mean. There are few authors who have never disappointed me. Russell is one. Her research is impeccable and her prose is inspiring. She brings the past back to life so adroitly that its easy to forget that many of her characters have been dead for a century or that they never existed at all. Whether it was the subject matter of The Women of the Copper Country or the current political climate, she has added a fire to her voice that I don't recall being there in her earlier works. I have been a union member for a grand total of one day in my life but in reading this book I felt inspired to get up and get out there and march and to learn all I can about such women as Mother Jones, Ella Bloor and Big Annie Clemenc, the star of this tale. I highly recommend this book. I also want to thank the author for introducing me to the poem The Mask of Anarchy by Percy Bysshe Shelley and for including this memorable stanza in her book. Rise like Lions after slumberIn unvanquishable number--Shake your chains to earth like dewWe are many -- they are few.*Quotations are cited from an advanced reading copy and may not be the same as appears in the final published edition. The review was based on an advanced reading copy obtained at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review. While this does take any ‘not worth what I paid for it’ statements out of my review, it otherwise has no impact on the content of my review.FYI: On a 5-point scale I assign stars based on my assessment of what the book needs in the way of improvements:*5 Stars – Nothing at all. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.*4 Stars – It could stand for a few tweaks here and there but it’s pretty good as it is.*3 Stars – A solid C grade. Some serious rewriting would be needed in order for this book to be considered great or memorable.*2 Stars – This book needs a lot of work. A good start would be to change the plot, the character development, the writing style and the ending. *1 Star – The only thing that would improve this book is a good bonfire.
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  • Michael
    January 1, 1970
    Russell again delivers a lovely reading experience by creating vivid characters who breathe life into significant historical events. Here we are treated to the role of certain real-life women in the labor movement shortly before World War 1. Our key hero is Annie Clement, the wife of a copper miner at the Calumet & Hecla massive operation in the Upper peninsula of Michigan. Known as “Big Annie” because of her 6 ft. 1 in. height, she grew up in Calumet, where her suffering of the loss of her Russell again delivers a lovely reading experience by creating vivid characters who breathe life into significant historical events. Here we are treated to the role of certain real-life women in the labor movement shortly before World War 1. Our key hero is Annie Clement, the wife of a copper miner at the Calumet & Hecla massive operation in the Upper peninsula of Michigan. Known as “Big Annie” because of her 6 ft. 1 in. height, she grew up in Calumet, where her suffering of the loss of her father to a mining accident has led her since childhood to participate in the community grieving process of all such deaths. Recently Annie has assumed leadership of the Women’s Auxiliary, which organizes social services and supports for mining families in dire straits, all the while keeping house for her husband, gardening and canning, and doing laundry for necessary extra income. Despite her husband Joe’s compliant, non-Union posture with respect to grievances, she is brave and forthright in moving to the stage of organizing a protest against company policies that have led to another miner’s recent death. Soon the intransigence of corporate management leads her to the next step of leading a full-scale strike, for which she heads frequent planning sessions, media relations, and daily marches of mostly women and children under the banner of a huge American flag that only she is strong enough. A union organizer from the Western Federation of Mines envies her ability to personally connect to hundreds of community members and marshall help to deal with the 32 languages they speak. Yet he wishes she didn’t take on a company with such deep pockets and a shop with insufficient rates of union members. Despite the limitation of union funds to sustain strikers without a paycheck due to an ongoing major strike in Colorado, Annie gets enough headlines and empathic news images from a photojournalist who is sweet on her (he aims to make her a Michigan Joan of Arc) to pull in a lot of donations to their cause. This support gets amplified when her teenaged Finnish protégé, Eva, succeeds in getting Mother Jones to come and lead rallies in Calumet. The company’s CEO is a man you come to love to hate, one James MacNaughton. On the surface he has reasons to be proud of his visionary approach to drawing immigrant labor with modern facilities and housing of the town he has built. Clean, well-built homes and dorms with running water, bathrooms, and electricity, , a school, and communal grounds for gardening or even pigsties. Personally, his Scottish Calvinist background puts him on a righteous moral plane, which aligns with obsessions over cleanliness and efficiency and distaste for outward ostentation over his wealth. On the other hand …there is a world of other hands. Such as being the type of man who never learns the name of his Irish maid and his cook; the type who dreams of a scheme to sterilize all immigrants. One who sees 12 hour shifts, six days a week, as only to be expected. One who is willing to leverage his power as landlord for the whole town to threaten eviction of renters or revocation of business leases of any troublemakers. There is no negotiation with a man who refuses even to acknowledge the existence of a union. There is little wrestling over Christian values when he eventually hires a “professional” company of strikebreaker thugs to terrorize the strike leaders with beatings and arson. Or orchestrating the arming a trainload of immigrant scabs with clubs and siccing them the strikers as impediments to their being able to work. There is much tragedy along the way and a disastrous finale out of left field, but Russell’s writing about these courageous women is so uplifting and makes me take to heart Mother Jones’ inspiring message that sacrifices for justice are worthwhile even if the efforts only benefit future generations. The pacing of the drama and character development here are masterful, confirming that I can’t help adoring everything Russell writes.
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  • Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews
    January 1, 1970
    The determination and power of women who literally had none in the 1900's is one of the themes in THE WOMEN OF THE COPPER COUNTRY.Annie Clements had always been someone who helped others. Being a miner's wife she knew how they and their families could always use help in one way or another.Because of the need, Annie banded together with the wives of the copper miners to stop the unsafe conditions in the copper mines and the deaths of loved ones by trying to get the miners to join the union. The o The determination and power of women who literally had none in the 1900's is one of the themes in THE WOMEN OF THE COPPER COUNTRY.Annie Clements had always been someone who helped others. Being a miner's wife she knew how they and their families could always use help in one way or another.Because of the need, Annie banded together with the wives of the copper miners to stop the unsafe conditions in the copper mines and the deaths of loved ones by trying to get the miners to join the union. The other and main theme was the strike called by the miners so the company would recognize the union and get better working conditions.Annie and the other wives want the men to join the union so they can ask for shorter days and more pay for their dangerous, unhealthful work that only makes the owners of the mines rich.We follow Annie and the families as they prepare to strike to get what they need for their families.We get to see the personal side of this community, share in their sorrows and worries, see how they suffer at the hands of company owners who won't give into union demands, and see how they come together to help one another in times of need.Most of the characters were easy to like and to relate to. Some were despicable.If you are a fan of historical fiction, women's fiction, and learning about the lifestyle and hardships in the early 1900's both personal and work-wise, THE WOMEN OF THE COPPER COUNTRY will be a book you will want to read.This book brought to light for me another not very well-known historical event about the plight of the copper miners and their families in Calumet, Michigan. All isn't pleasant especially when the strikebreakers come on the scene.A good book always has me looking up more information about events taking place in the story line, and THE WOMEN OF THE COPPER COUNTRY is no exception. Dr. Russell's thorough, in-depth research brought the reader into the town and homes of the Calumet families. 4/5This book was given to me as an ARC by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Sara
    January 1, 1970
    Do you think your life is difficult? The boss doesn’t really appreciate you or give you your due? Your under a glass ceiling? Not being paid what you are worth? There is laundry to do and dishes to wash and kids to bathe when you get home from work? It rained during your entire week’s paid vacation and you spent way too much time just having messages and eating in restaurants because it wasn’t the weather for doing what you had planned? Bugger.If you answered yes to even one of those questions, Do you think your life is difficult? The boss doesn’t really appreciate you or give you your due? Your under a glass ceiling? Not being paid what you are worth? There is laundry to do and dishes to wash and kids to bathe when you get home from work? It rained during your entire week’s paid vacation and you spent way too much time just having messages and eating in restaurants because it wasn’t the weather for doing what you had planned? Bugger.If you answered yes to even one of those questions, you need to read this book. It is a reminder of what people went through getting us to a 5-day work week, an 8-hour day, and a pay rate that provides living conditions that are not wholly insufferable. It is a reminder that before women were all gainfully employed in the workplace, they were working like drudges to keep homes running and children fed and men able to earn the pay. Mary Doria Russell is a modern day minstrel. She writes historical fiction with the emphasis on historical accuracy, but she does it with a flow and flare that is purely lyrical. Every character she creates, whether a fleshing out of a historical figure or an invention to illustrate a historical type, is as real as your closest neighbor. She navigates this world seamlessly, as if she had been there herself and known and felt what it was.Besides giving us a perfect picture of the women of the Copper Country and the company man who lives in the mansion on the hill and neither understands, nor wishes to understand, anything of their lives, she explains in a way you cannot help relating to what it is like for the men and why they risk so much to change the rules of their lives for the betterment of their sons.You get up, you dress, you eat, you walk to the change house. You clock in and climb down flight after flight of slippery cut-stone stairs before a hike through miles of tunnels--just to start the day’s work. It’s cold underground. It’s wet. It smells of rock. Beyond that dim little funnel of light from your headlamp, there’s a hellish nothing, and Christ, the noise! After a few weeks, you’re half-def from the pounding of the drills. So you listen hard all the time to the crunch and scrape of shoveling, the squeal of tram wheels grating on rusty rails, because a few seconds can make all the difference when a wall starts to come down.Annie Clements is a person I will now never forget. If you enjoy reading about a strong woman who is nonetheless human, you will love her. It makes me sad that she has been buried in our history for so many years, unsung, and appreciative that Russell has unearthed her and shown the world her face once more. The events that occurred in Calumet, Michigan, so much more startling because they are events that real people experienced, will make you wonder at man’s inhumanity, at the courage of individuals, and at the ability of human beings to survive disaster and continue to draw breath. But they will also make you consider that we have made so much progress that we forget about, and that, while there are certainly still wrongs to right and justice to seek, a solid foundation has been laid for us with the blood of others.My sincerest thanks to Mary Doria Russell and Atria books for giving me a copy of this book in return for an honest review.
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  • Karen Rush
    January 1, 1970
    “This is the price of copper,” she says in that clear, quiet voice. “A dead man. Every week. Month after month. Year after year.” Long-respected author Mary Doria Russell’s latest work of historical fiction is an eye-opening look into the early days of the copper industry’s budding unions and upheaval due in part to brutal conditions, senseless deaths and extremely long working hours for little pay.Labor activist Anna Klobuchar Clements “Big Annie”, a tall woman at 6 ft 2 and president of the Wo “This is the price of copper,” she says in that clear, quiet voice. “A dead man. Every week. Month after month. Year after year.” Long-respected author Mary Doria Russell’s latest work of historical fiction is an eye-opening look into the early days of the copper industry’s budding unions and upheaval due in part to brutal conditions, senseless deaths and extremely long working hours for little pay.Labor activist Anna Klobuchar Clements “Big Annie”, a tall woman at 6 ft 2 and president of the Women’s Auxiliary of Local 15, the Western Federation of Miners takes center stage. Anna is passionate and a driving force to be reckoned with in Michigan’s Copper County 9-month strike. She has made a lot of men angry. Russell’s meticulous research and deep dive into Anna’s life as tireless organizer of the ‘union sisters’ amidst the turbulence of the industrial revolution is very well done. Thanks to Atria Books for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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  • Susan Johnson
    January 1, 1970
    This is an incredibly important book. It's important to remember how far we have come and the sacrifices people made to get us to this point. If you think you are having a rough time at work, then read this story of a miner's life and the women who supported them. It will make you swallow your complaints and remember how hard people fought to bring us to where we are now. There is a copper mine in Calmut, Michigan run by one of the most despicable men ever, James MacNaughton. He has down a lot This is an incredibly important book. It's important to remember how far we have come and the sacrifices people made to get us to this point. If you think you are having a rough time at work, then read this story of a miner's life and the women who supported them. It will make you swallow your complaints and remember how hard people fought to bring us to where we are now. There is a copper mine in Calmut, Michigan run by one of the most despicable men ever, James MacNaughton. He has down a lot to make Calmut more livable- showers for the men at the mine, a library, a theater, goods sold at wholesale prices among others. Still the men work long, dangerous hours and are barely able to support their families. The wealth does not spread downward. The men must even buy their own candles to light their work areas in the mine and if the candles run out, oh well. One day a miner dies and it is too much for big Annie. Annie is over 6 feet tall and married to a miner taller than her. She organizes a group of women who push their husbands into going on strike. They want simple things- a 8 hour work day, a small raise, more safety prevention. The women organize daily marches but the mine thinks it will be over soon and won't parley. And the strike goes on for months. The book details the sacrifices the families make for this strike led by Annie. Annie is arrested and subjected to awful, sickening treatment. The strike gets national attention and famous labor activists appear including Mother Jones. Other unions start sending money for support. The Governor of Michigan turns out to be a decent guy. Then there is a horrific accident that just destroys the town's morale. This is based on a true story and is well researched. The author is a college professor and the story is well researched. The style of writing is a little dry but the story is so captivating that it makes up for it. The results of the strike written in the author's notes were amazing. This is truly an important story about the history of women we never hear about. Please do yourself a favor and read it. Thanks to Atria Books for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.
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  • Donna Davis
    January 1, 1970
    Annie Clements is a badass union warrior, nearly six feet tall with fiery red hair and a voice that carries. When the men that work the Quincy mine strike for better wages, an eight hour day, and an end to the treacherous one man drill, Big Annie leads the women’s auxiliary, and her role makes headlines around the world. This magnificent novel, which holds closely to events as they unfurled, came to me free and early, thanks to Atria Books and Net Galley. It’s for sale right now. The Quincy mine Annie Clements is a badass union warrior, nearly six feet tall with fiery red hair and a voice that carries. When the men that work the Quincy mine strike for better wages, an eight hour day, and an end to the treacherous one man drill, Big Annie leads the women’s auxiliary, and her role makes headlines around the world. This magnificent novel, which holds closely to events as they unfurled, came to me free and early, thanks to Atria Books and Net Galley. It’s for sale right now. The Quincy mine is owned by Calumet and Hecla, and it is one of the deepest underground—and therefore one of the most dangerous—in the US. It’s on the upper peninsula of Michigan, an isolated location closer to Canada than to other states or even the rest of Michigan; the winters are fierce. The only thing crueler than winter there is the heart of the general manager, James McNaughton, a vicious, vindictive man, who vows that “Grass will grow in the streets of Calumet before C&H recognizes the Western Federation of Miners.” Charlie Miller is our union organizer, traveling from camp to camp, gathering support from working families. He intends to attack the smaller, more outlying mining companies first and save the huge, wealthy ones like Calumet for after inroads have been made around them. But miners are angry about the one man drill, a recent change that saves the company on wages, but leaves a single miner at risk of being injured or buried without a second miner present to help get him out of there. The company won’t send workers in after the injured, so working in pairs is a critical part of what little safety exists. Too many have gone home dead or maimed, and emotion is high. The women’s auxiliary organizes the wives and other family members of miners, and the women are rising up as well. Miller doesn’t see a strike as winnable right now, but if the union doesn’t get behind them soon, it may well become a wild cat strike, one in which the workers strike without union backing; that would embarrass the WFM. Russell combines beautifully woven prose with careful attention to historical detail; not much has been changed here, but in her end notes she explains what has been altered and why. Where possible she uses direct quotes, and this is above and beyond what most novelists will do. Although the story is about Big Annie Clements, my favorite part is when Mother Jones comes to Calumet. (Those interested in labor history should also read Mother Jones’s autobiography, which is shorter and better than what any biographer has done for her.) This is the first time I have read Russell’s work, but it won’t be the last. A measure of how much I love a book can be found in how much I read, quote, and carry on about it right here at home. My husband could scarcely enter a room without my demanding whether we have any other materials about the copper strikers, and does he know about (this, that, the other thing)? I was reading ten different books, but he was hearing about only one of them. Finally, readers should also know that this is a tragic read, positively miserable in places. There are dead and dying children, and the ending isn’t heartwarming. Yet it contains elements—an unlikely romance, and in James McNaughton, a villain of monstrous proportions—that could not be written into a purely fictional tale because nobody would believe them; and yet, these are aspects that stick closely to historical reality. For those that love excellent historical fiction, this is a must read. For those that love both historical fiction and labor history, it provides the sweetest of crossroads. Highly recommended.
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  • Tammy
    January 1, 1970
    5 ☆ The Women of the Copper Country, my first novel by Mary Doris Russell, is a fascinating and emotional well-researched piece of US history I feel very fortunate to have come across. It’s storyline set in 1913 and 1914 follows Annie Clements, called Big Annie due to her tallness, and Eva an orphan, both living in the copper mining town of Calumet, Michigan. Photo-journalist Michael Sweeney also played an important role by releasing his photos making the world aware of Annie Clements fight for 5 ☆ The Women of the Copper Country, my first novel by Mary Doris Russell, is a fascinating and emotional well-researched piece of US history I feel very fortunate to have come across. It’s storyline set in 1913 and 1914 follows Annie Clements, called Big Annie due to her tallness, and Eva an orphan, both living in the copper mining town of Calumet, Michigan. Photo-journalist Michael Sweeney also played an important role by releasing his photos making the world aware of Annie Clements fight for miners rights. Journalists began referring to Annie as the Joan of Arc of America. The copper miners themselves were immigrants from a vast mix of cultures speaking 32 different languages. These miners worked a grueling 12 hour day 6 days a week for very little money in dangerous conditions (death was common). They had little food to feed their families and lived in squalor inside derelict homes owned by the mining company. Big Annie (married to a non-Union miner) seeks new change, becoming the leader of the 1913 strike asking for an 8 hour day 5 days a week, higher pay and safer working conditions. Corporate greed ran rampant in Copper Country; the villain in this story is James MacNaughton CEO of Calumet & Hecla Mining Company. He went to great lengths to stop the strike by contracting strikebreakers who used destruction and death to intimidate striking miners. He even had the local authorities in his back-pocket.This book brings to light the plight of miners at the largest copper mining operation in the US, the birth of organized unions, and the role women played in this process. I was given much insight into a part of our history I’ve never known about. Ms Russell’s story will pull on your heartstrings. I was in tears reading the Italian Hall disaster chapters, is so terribly sad it will break your heart. There’s fascinating nuggets of information in this one book. I loved the pieces of real history tied in to the storyline and appreciate the countless research Mary Doris Russell put into writing this book. Highly recommend.Much thanks to Atria Books and NetGalley for a digital ARC.
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  • Krista
    January 1, 1970
    Rating: 4.5 rounded up to 5 striking starsWhat a heroine! Maria Doria Russell skillfully breathed life into heroic Annie Clements and thereby wrote a story that was both historically accurate and compelling. ‘Big Annie’ Clements was born and grew tall in the copper mining town of Calumet, Michigan located on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In November of 1913, at the age of twenty-five, Big Annie has had enough. She is tired of seeing the downtrodden mine workers asked to do more and more dangerous Rating: 4.5 rounded up to 5 striking starsWhat a heroine! Maria Doria Russell skillfully breathed life into heroic Annie Clements and thereby wrote a story that was both historically accurate and compelling. ‘Big Annie’ Clements was born and grew tall in the copper mining town of Calumet, Michigan located on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In November of 1913, at the age of twenty-five, Big Annie has had enough. She is tired of seeing the downtrodden mine workers asked to do more and more dangerous work for less money. She tries to make ends meet by taking in Italian lodgers who work the shift opposite of the shift her husband Joe works. She is continually cooking, cleaning, canning, doing laundry and getting lunches prepared for someone. Even with the extra lodgers, and a strong healthy husband, it is nearly impossible to make ends meet. Forget about getting ahead! She is also tired of brushed off by the union organizers who the miners to wait a little longer before going out on strike. When another miner is killed in the mine, Annie takes a stand. The majority of the town follows her lead. The miners go on strike. The strike lasts months longer than anticipated. It involves violence, dirty tricks and strikebreakers sent in by the mine manager. The deck is clearly stacked against the workers of the town owned by the Calumet and Hecla mining company and managed with an iron fist by James MacNaughton. He refuses negotiate with the strikers. As the months drag on, the town starts to lose hope, and more miners, including Annie’s husband, return to the mines. Visits by Mother Jones, and Ella Bloor provide extra cash to the Calumet miner’s strike fund, and raise their spirits. Despite the short-term uplift from those visits, things look grim. Annie pays a steep personal price physically and emotionally for her continued leadership role in the strike. The last straw was a tragedy that made national headlines. I just had to read one more chapter, then one more chapter to see how things would turn out with Calumet and Annie. Before I knew it, I was at the end of the book and reading the Author’s Notes which I really enjoyed. Then I had to go find a picture of Big Annie, and read more history about the strike. These were unforgiving times to be a laborer. It makes me thankful for the protections that we do have today. I am also thankful that Maria Doria Russell took the time to write this book. It is a perfect book to recommend to aficionados of Historical Fiction and just darn good writing.‘Thank-You’ to NetGalley; the publisher, Atria Books; and the author, Mary Doria Russell for providing a free e-ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Sharon Metcalf
    January 1, 1970
    Isn't it wonderful when you choose a book for entertainment and it delivers so much more?   Such was the case with The Women of the Copper Country by Mary Doria Russell.   This marvellous historical fiction made me think.    It made me question my own actions and motivations in the workplace today.  It had me Googling, and it helped me understand why Mary Doria Russell is such a highly acclaimed author.     In this novel she breathed new life into characters drawn from the pages of history books Isn't it wonderful when you choose a book for entertainment and it delivers so much more?   Such was the case with The Women of the Copper Country by Mary Doria Russell.   This marvellous historical fiction made me think.    It made me question my own actions and motivations in the workplace today.  It had me Googling, and it helped me understand why Mary Doria Russell is such a highly acclaimed author.     In this novel she breathed new life into characters drawn from the pages of history books.   She brought fresh relevance to long forgotten events.    And yes indeed she educated and entertained me.When we first encountered James MacNaughton he seemed like a self assured but reasonable man.   He was a husband, a father and was responsible for running the Calumet mines and all the infrastrucure of this town.  In his mind he  goes above and beyond in providing for his workers, ensuring they have the best possible facilities.   In this first encounter I thought he seemed fair but my views soon changed.When we encounter Annie "Big Annie" Klobuchar Clemenc  (aka Annie Clements) in June 1913 she's a compassionate young woman at the end of her tether.    Having always lived in Calumet, Michigan she knows only too well the harsh conditions of the mines.   Her father, her husband, her neighbours and friends all head underground day afer day, night after night, to complete their 12 hour shift six days a week.   For this they earn $2 per day.    Without fail, every week there's a fatality or life changing injury and Annie's decided enough is enough.     She engages the women and children of Calumet to hold peaceful parades, agitating for change.   The story is essentially about the stand off between the unionists and the business men.   We are taken behind the scenes to see this from all angles.    The men and women of the community whether strikers, scabs, shop keepers or hired help in the employ of the MacNaughtons.   We also get the law enforcers, politicians, strike breakers, union leaders, journalists and photographers perspectives.     We're shown the doggedness on both sides.     But this was not some dry business tome.   It was a human interest story.   It was hard to read at times and yet I didn't want to stop reading at any point.   It moved me through a range of emotions from sadness to anger, at times fear, hope and despair, and despite the topic even some happiness.   When I read these kinds of books I'm filled with admiration for the people who choose to take a stand.      Invariably I wonder how I would behave in this situation and almost always find myself lacking.  I'm fairly sure I'd be one of those company cowards,   content with my lot,  possibly even grateful for things as they are even though they're far from perfect.  Workers in the 21st Century have a lot to thank of people like Annie Clements, Mother Jones and Ella Bloor  Readers have lot to thank of authors such as Mary Doria Russell for making us aware of their stories.My sincere thanks to the author for her wonderful work, to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for the opportunity of reading this digital ARC in exchange for an honest review which it was my pleasure to provide.
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  • Joy D
    January 1, 1970
    Historical fiction about a copper miners’ strike in Calumet, Michigan in 1913, led by Annie Klobuchar Clements (the anglicized form of Clemenc). Mining conditions at the time were deplorable. Men were dying regularly in the mines, and surviving families evicted from their company-owned homes. This book relates the story of the strike and a brave woman who stepped into a leadership role at a time when many women were not even entitled to vote. This book is a narrative of multiple tragedies. It is Historical fiction about a copper miners’ strike in Calumet, Michigan in 1913, led by Annie Klobuchar Clements (the anglicized form of Clemenc). Mining conditions at the time were deplorable. Men were dying regularly in the mines, and surviving families evicted from their company-owned homes. This book relates the story of the strike and a brave woman who stepped into a leadership role at a time when many women were not even entitled to vote. This book is a narrative of multiple tragedies. It is well-written, and the primary characters are believable. The setting and times are vividly portrayed, especially the harshness of life for the workers and their families. Notable women of the labor movement make an appearance, such as Mother Jones, Ella Bloor, and Jane Addams. I enjoyed the first three-fourths of this book but felt it went off-target near the finish with a rather unsatisfying ending. It is based on real events and I was interested to read the author’s afterward where she provides information on what parts are based on facts. Overall, I thought it was worthwhile and I gained additional knowledge about the history of U.S. labor activism. I received an advanced reader’s copy from the publisher via NetGalley in return for a candid review. This book is scheduled to be published on August 6, 2019.
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  • Davida Chazan
    January 1, 1970
    In Mary Doria Russell’s latest novel, we get to learn the story of Anna Clements, who was an amazing woman during the famous copper mining strike in Michigan of 1913-14. I wasn’t expecting to put up this #bookreview today, but I couldn’t wait to tell you about this amazing book that will be released on August 6, on my blog here https://tcl-bookreviews.com/2019/08/0...
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  • Kate Baxter
    January 1, 1970
    Having visited Copper Country some years ago, steeped in its history of mining, excessive wealth, dirt poverty, and tragedy, my interest in this title was highly piqued. And oh, what a story this one was! Author Mary Doria Russell delivers a rich telling of the people, place and time of 1913 Calumet, Michigan - the heart of Michigan's Keewenaw Peninsula and the richest Michigan city, in its day. Copper mining made it so rich, that back in 1890, the state capital almost moved there.It's 1913. The Having visited Copper Country some years ago, steeped in its history of mining, excessive wealth, dirt poverty, and tragedy, my interest in this title was highly piqued. And oh, what a story this one was! Author Mary Doria Russell delivers a rich telling of the people, place and time of 1913 Calumet, Michigan - the heart of Michigan's Keewenaw Peninsula and the richest Michigan city, in its day. Copper mining made it so rich, that back in 1890, the state capital almost moved there.It's 1913. The winds of war are beginning to brew in Europe. Germany is flexing its muscles and the world's industrialists are smelling great revenue opportunities - none more so than the copper producers. Copper is a vital component in the brass casings of bullets and artillery shells and it clads the hulls of warships. The Calumet and Hecla Mining Company has positioned itself well to fill those military orders. It considers itself to be a forward thinking and enlightened company. Heck, it even provides clubhouses, bowling alleys, and a library with materials in 20 languages to the miners and their families. It even matches the miners' contributions to the employee aid fund. (Of course, very view miners can even make that first payment given how little they make in the mine of the company town in which they live.)The copper veins of the Keewenaw run deep beneath the ground. Every day, miners descend deep under the earth's surface and are grateful each day in which they can walk out of it. Meanwhile, the surface mines of the West are applying pressure on C&H's profitability and a one-man drill is born. Sure, it weighs 150 lbs and can only be wielded by the strongest miner but it allows management to cut the employee roster way back. The Miners' Union is against this new method as it forces miners to work alone thus increasing safety risk. It also takes away a lot of jobs of the dues paying members. In walks Big Annie, Anna Klobuchar Clements, a larger than life woman (after all, she's of Finnish stock and over six feet tall). She is married to a miner. She's fiercely compassionate for the miners, their wives, widows and children. Following yet another death from the mines, she and her Women's Auxiliary of the Western Federation of Miners, Local 15, have had enough. It's time that H&C treat their employees fairly and improve work conditions - accept an 8-hour instead of 12-hour workday from each miner; 5 instead of 6-day work week, provide minimum wages, and improve the safety of each mine. Thus the famous strike of all mines in the Michigan Copper Country was called by the Western Federation of Miners in July, 2013 and Big Annie was out in front to lead it. At this point, this rich story takes off and the reader is in for quite a ride.Ms. Russell has deftly produced a well written and an extremely well researched narrative of the mining life of the early 20th century. Many of the characters of the story are real people of history - Big Annie, Mary Harris Jones (known as "Mother Jones"), Ella Boor, Governor Woodbridge Ferris, and James MacNaughton - the heartless General Manager of H&C. Within her author's notes, she clearly shares where in the story she has created some characters to facilitate the flow of the story. She also provides references for the reader's further historical research. All in all, this was an excellent piece of historical fiction and definitely worth reading. I look forward to Ms. Russell's other books, already of much renown.I am grateful to Ms. Russell and Atria Books of Simon and Schuster for having provided a free advance, uncorrected reader's proof of this book through NetGalley. Their generosity, however, did not influence this review - the words of which are mine alone.
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  • Nancy
    January 1, 1970
    3.5Few people outside of Michigan know anything about our Upper Penninsula (UP). As a matter of fact, a recent Mt. Dew ad featuring a map of America drew Michigander's ire when the UP was colored to be part of Wisconsin!The UP has its own peninsula jutting into the deep inland ocean of Lake Superior, the Kewanee Penninsula. And a short distance from the top of that arm is Calumet, Michigan. Today it is a village of about 800 people. But in the late 19th c when the UP was a center of copper minin 3.5Few people outside of Michigan know anything about our Upper Penninsula (UP). As a matter of fact, a recent Mt. Dew ad featuring a map of America drew Michigander's ire when the UP was colored to be part of Wisconsin!The UP has its own peninsula jutting into the deep inland ocean of Lake Superior, the Kewanee Penninsula. And a short distance from the top of that arm is Calumet, Michigan. Today it is a village of about 800 people. But in the late 19th c when the UP was a center of copper mining there were 40,000 souls there.The copper was mined for 120 years. It was break-backing, dangerous work. Waves of immigrants found their way to Michigan's lumber and mining industries. The UP was particularly attractive to immigrants from Finland but drew from across Europe. These unskilled laborers were put to use with a sledgehammer and shovel, and cheaper than mules, used to push the loaded cars.Mary Doria Russell's new novel The Women of the Cooper Country recreates Calumet in 1913 in rich detail, drawing on actual people and events.Called the Paris of the North, Calumet had grown into a modern town, built by the wealth from the Calumet & Hecla copper mine. But profit-driven capitalism meant management rejected worker's demands for a shorter workday, a living wage, and safe work conditions. A new drill allowed a miner to work alone instead of in pairs. It was cost-saving but put the men at higher risk.The workers debated unionizing. An unusual labor leader arose, Annie Klobuar Clements, a miner's wife born in Calumet to Slovakian immigrants. She had seen too many families with maimed men and boys, too many funerals.What is the price of copper? It was men's limbs and lives. It was men too tired to live, self-medicating with drink. It was widows and orphaned children. If the men would not organize, the women would lead the way.Journalists made Annie the Joan of Arc of America.Annie is helped by Eva, who over the nine months of the strike grows from a dreamy girl to a woman. Nationally known union organizers come to help, including 'the miner's angel' Mother Jones and the Socialist labor organizer Ella Bloor.The mine is under the management of John McNaughton, and Russell's portrait of him as a cold-hearted capitalist fixated on the bottom line is chilling. McNaughton is a xenophobe whos anti-immigrant slant hardens his heart even more. In his view, Europe is gleefully exporting its 'wretched refuse' to America, and Washington has done nothing to stop the continual labor strikes across the nation. It won't happen here, he vows.The novel had a slow start for me but picked up later. At times, I felt some distance from the events. A critical scene is off-screen when the emotional impact would have been greater through Annie's eyes. The story builds to a horrendous tragedy, describing a real event, with great emotional impact.The changing role of women and their broadening choices is shown through the characters. And there is romance, from infatuation and unhappy marriages to illicit affairs and true love. It was interesting to learn more about this slice of Michigan history and the history of unionizing in Michigan. I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
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  • Deanne Patterson
    January 1, 1970
    The author, Mary Doria Russell writes a very informative book taking place in the copper-mining town of Calumet, Michigan from June 1913 through mid 1914. This is a very well researched book.Calumet was a very poor area, men worked sun up til sun down in the mines crippling their backs and getting black lung. What other choice did they have, money was so scarce they barely had they pennies to feed their children .With the dissatisfaction of mining conditions the women of Calumet, led by Annie, w The author, Mary Doria Russell writes a very informative book taking place in the copper-mining town of Calumet, Michigan from June 1913 through mid 1914. This is a very well researched book.Calumet was a very poor area, men worked sun up til sun down in the mines crippling their backs and getting black lung. What other choice did they have, money was so scarce they barely had they pennies to feed their children .With the dissatisfaction of mining conditions the women of Calumet, led by Annie, who becomes our Joan of Arc, take a stand for the miners they back them up but at what cost?This book is just amazing the strength of the women to stand up for what is right especially Annie who forms The Women’s Auxiliary of the Western Federation of Miners.The book also covers a Christmas Eve accident resulting in the death of many children, which is a real tragedy.Though fiction the author is able to express the sorrow and despair of this long ago time.I will be reading more books by this author.Published August 6th 2019 by Atria BooksI was given a complimentary copy of this book. Thank you.All opinions expressed are my own.
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