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Mining Manhood: Gender, Coal Mining, and the Massillon War


The history of coal mining is a history of gender. Colliers and their wives constructed notions of manhood and womanhood that were uniquely suited to their distinct communities. Within the mines, colliers labored in a predominantly masculine environment where the nature of the work, the structure of the mines, and the lack of supervision fostered an independent spirit among the men who toiled in the depths of Stark County's coal mines. Outside of the collieries, these men built homes and organizations based on notions of manly cooperation and dependence. In the mining household, collier women maintained the home and contributed to the family economy in ways that were often more profitable than their husbands' work in the mines. However, women's work in the coal-mining community did not end at their doorsteps. Collier women participated in strikes and, when conditions demanded, they entered the mines and worked alongside their husbands, fathers, and brothers. Questions of gender among the miners and their families were central to how these men and women lived and worked. In Stark County, Ohio, miners in the Massillon region negotiated and fought in a highly gendered environment. During the Massillon War, colliers contested wages and working conditions in gendered terms--demanding recognition of their manly rights--and when they did so, it was not a tactic employed to achieve economic goals, it was the goal. When their wives participated in strikes--attacking scabs on the picket lines--they consciously manipulated the operators' discomfort with their militant motherhood. By problematizing gender and its role in the mining community, this study endeavors to restore considerations of manhood and gender in the scholarship of coal-mining to the same level at which the colliers held it themselves.

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