UCLA Center for the Study of Women
Colliers in Corsets? Uncovering Stark County's Nineteenth-Century Coal Mining Women
- Author(s): Sampson, Jason
- et al.
According to the United States government, women did not enter underground mining until four decades ago. The Rockefeller Report on The American Coal Minernotes that, “prior to 1973, government records show no women miners.” If “government records” includes either the federal census or Ohio state death records, that statement is false. While the numbers are small, the fact is that some women in the mining region of Stark County, Ohio, do appear to have mined coal more than one hundred years before such work was officially acknowledged by the government. In Stark County population schedules for 1870 and 1880, four people are indicated as having a sex of “female” and a profession of “coal miner.” Despite their presence on population schedules, they remain conspicuously absent from the published summaries. Stark County death records are even more revealing of this disparity, identifying another dozen women who, at the time of their deaths, were occupied as miners. In total, between 1870 and 1900, government records actually indicate that at least fifteen women worked in the mines in Stark County alone. Their invisibility from government records, however, is not an sign of the challenge these women presented to existing gender norms, but an indication of the prevalence of an older, pre-industrial notion of family labor that persisted in the coal mines.