Chapter 42 continues

The story so far: Strike organizers regroup in the field bunker.


Adeline laughed. So loudly that everyone present felt immediately uncomfortable. “Do you think walking in a parade carrying a banner is harder than the work we already do? We get up before you men. We chop the wood. We start the fires. We cook the breakfast and clean up. We heat the water to wash your miner clothes, sometimes when it is forty degrees below zero. Our hands are open sores. You men, you complain about your unfair working conditions, as you should. But we have unfair working conditions, too. You complain about shift work. We work every shift. When the babies cry at night, it’s our shift. We have the day shift, the night shift and the evening shift. My mother always said, ‘Women, we hold up three corners of the house.’ Well, now that you men are on strike, we hold up four. And somehow, at the end of the night, you still expect us to find the energy to love you.”

The men looked at her, open mouthed.

Katka continued: “Who is explaining to the babies why their stomachs hurt from hunger? Are you? Who is giving up your own portions at dinner to feed the children? The women in the locations especially, you should see their bones jutting out. They can barely walk. Women have as much reason as you men for wanting this strike to end and for your wages to increase. You think you’re tired? Your workload has lessened since this strike began. Ours has increased.”

It was quiet for a while. “Do you doubt our words?” Adeline asked.

“It’s not that,” Johan Koski said, somewhat tentatively. “It’s just that it ain’t right. Women taking over the lines is dangerous. And how do you think us men would feel if something happened to our women?”

“We want to help,” Adeline said. “We are not afraid.”

“It’s been done before,” Sam Scarlett said. “The women near the border, the Mexican women. They took over the strike and won.”

“And don’t forget the garment workers,” Tresca said. “The International Ladies Garment Workers Union in New York put up a hell of a fight. It’s in the IWW bylaws. Everyone is equal in the International Workers of the World. Even womenfolk.”

“Something don’t feel right about this,” Johan said.

“Paul, what do you think?” Katka asked.

He looked around the bunker. He looked at every face before fixing his gaze on Katka’s. “I say if the women want to give it a try, we should let them. But if anyone gets hurt …”

Katka smiled. Adeline nodded. “So it’s settled. The women will take over the lines.”

“I wish to go on record as saying I disapprove. I do not support this, not one bit,” Johan said. “The world is backward. Backward, I say.”

“I will record your opposition in the minutes,” Katka said.

They discussed the logistics of the rally. Katka and Adeline would set the network in motion. Women from each ethnic church would spread the word. Seven towns across the Range would hold women’s rallies. The striker police force would monitor from a distance. The first rally would be held that Saturday in Biwabik.


Tomorrow: Chapter 43 begins.