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Women & Families

While the miners were digging for coal and planning a covert revolution, the women supported them from the sidelines. The women worked all day, pumping water, buying and preparing food, caring for their children, and tending to their houses. They washed the mens' clothes after their shifts, wringing the thick black dust out day after day ("Women in the Mine Towns"). 

Often times, the wives were fighting just as hard for unionization as their husbands, brothers, husbands, and sons. While the men were in the coal mines, women helped spread the word about the union, distributing information and organizing events ("Women in the Mine Towns"). 

                                                                                                             Four hundred native born American mothers, wives and daughters...




While their husbands and sons fought for a living wage, the women were left to make ends meet with the little money they had. Though they were not allowed to work in the mines, women worked alongside the men to keep their families alive.

To supplement their family's income, boys as young as eight years old often went to work in the mines. They would often be paid as "trappers." Their job was to sit outside the mine, opening and closing the shaft doors as mining cars went in and out.

Young boys would spend ten or more hours in the mines every day, trying to help their families make ends meet. Because of their time spent doing hard labor at a young age, many children in mining towns were reported to be underdeveloped and even anaemic. Over time, such conditions would take their toll.

Like any work in a coal mine, working as a "trapper" was extremely dangerous. Such dangerous conditions -- potential explosions, falling rocks, live electrical wires -- were considered an inherent risk of being a coal miner, and little was done to ensure the miners' safety.

In 1907,  a recorded 104 people were injured by falling rocks in the mines, many of which included children. At the time this data was recorded, children were not legally allowed to work in the mines until they were fourteen years old. However, many operators ignored this regulation (Clopper, 1908).

No one was exempt from the harsh conditions of company towns. Though they were not the ones who marched to Blair Mountain, the wives and children of miners played an important role in supporting unionization efforts and sustaining their families.