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Holding the Line: Women in the Great Arizona Mine Strike of 1983 (ILR Press books) [Paperback]

by Barbara Kingsolver
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 26, 1996 0801483891 978-0801483899

Holding the Line, Barbara Kingsolver's first non-fiction book, is the story of women's lives transformed by an a signal event. Set in the small mining towns of Arizona, it is part oral history and part social criticism, exploring the process of empowerment which occurs when people work together as a community. Like Kingsolver's award-winning novels, Holding the Line is a beautifully written book grounded on the strength of its characters.

Hundreds of families held the line in the 1983 strike against Phelps Dodge Copper in Arizona. After more than a year the strikers lost their union certification, but the battle permanently altered the social order in these small, predominantly Hispanic mining towns. At the time the strike began, many women said they couldn't leave the house without their husband's permission. Yet, when injunctions barred union men from picketing, their wives and daughters turned out for the daily picket lines. When the strike dragged on and men left to seek jobs elsewhere, women continued to picket, organize support, and defend their rights even when the towns were occupied by the National Guard. "Nothing can ever be the same as it was before," said Diane McCormick of the Morenci Miners Women's Auxiliary. "Look at us. At the beginning of this strike, we were just a bunch of ladies."

Frequently Bought Together

Holding the Line: Women in the Great Arizona Mine Strike of 1983 (ILR Press books) + Copper Crucible: How the Arizona Miners' Strike of 1983 Recast Labor-Management Relations in America (Ilr Press Books) + The Little Book of Conflict Transformation: Clear articulation of the guiding principles by a pioneer in the field (The Little Books of Justice and Peacebuilding Series)
Price for all three: $42.78

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Several mining towns have grown up around the rich Morenci copper pit in southern Arizona, each ruled to a certain extent by the Phelps Dodge Copper Corporation. In 1983, the company tried to freeze wages and deny the miners cost-of-living protection. The resulting strike lasted a long and miserable 18 months; management ultimately won its bid to have the union decertified but its business was damaged in the process, and the strikers took some comfort in a series of legal victories that, suggesting a discriminatory pattern of law enforcement, kept the labor activists out of jail. Journalist and novelist Kingsolver (The Bean Trees) has written a stirring partisan account of the role the area’s women played in holding the strike and in keeping families and communities together, despite the strike’s failure. The women tell remarkable stories of their lives and actions, displaying the strength that led one corporate official to remark, "If we could just get rid of these broads, we’d have it made." This book pays powerful tribute to their resolve and passion for economic justice.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

In 1983, after the Phelps Dodge Copper Corporation demanded an unprecedented amount of pay and benefits cuts, a union consortium, consisting of mostly Hispanic women, held a strike in four small Arizona mining towns. The women's lives were transformed. Their culture had confined them to limited roles; they now became leaders, strategists, spokespersons, and morale-boosters. The first-person narratives of these women dominate this account of the 18-month strike, written by novelist Kingsolver, author of The Bean Trees (LJ 2/1/88) and Homeland and Other Stories ( LJ 5/15/89). While this format is interesting, fewer quotations and additional industry and strike background would have made the account more effective. Despite these reservations, the book will interest readers of labor studies, women's studies, and community/ethnic studies.
- Frieda Shoenberg Rozen, Pennsylvania State Univ., University Park
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Series: ILR Press books
  • Paperback: 213 pages
  • Publisher: ILR Press (November 26, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801483891
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801483899
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #189,170 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Barbara Kingsolver was born in 1955 in Annapolis, Maryland, and grew up in rural Kentucky. She counts among her most important early influences: the Bookmobile, a large family vegetable garden, the surrounding fields and woods, and parents who were tolerant of nature study but intolerant of TV.
Beginning around the age of nine, Barbara kept a journal, wrote poems and stories, and entered every essay contest she ever heard about. Her first published work, "Why We Need a New Elementary School," included an account of how the school's ceiling fell and injured her teacher. The essay was printed in the local newspaper prior to a school-bond election; the school bond passed. For her efforts Barbara won a $25 savings bond, on which she expected to live comfortably in adulthood.
After high school graduation she left Kentucky to enter DePauw University on a piano scholarship. She transferred from the music school to the college of liberal arts because of her desire to study practically everything, and graduated with a degree in biology. She spent the late 1970's in Greece, France and England seeking her fortune, but had not found it by the time her work visa expired in 1979. She then moved to Tucson, Arizona, out of curiosity to see the American southwest, and eventually pursued graduate studies in evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona. After graduate school she worked as a scientific writer for the University of Arizona before becoming a freelance journalist.
Kingsolver's short fiction and poetry began to be published during the mid-1980's, along with the articles she wrote regularly for regional and national periodicals. She wrote her first novel, The Bean Trees, entirely at night, in the abundant free time made available by chronic insomnia during pregnancy. Completed just before the birth of her first child, in March 1987, the novel was published by HarperCollins the following year with a modest first printing. Widespread critical acclaim and word-of-mouth support have kept the book continuously in print since then. The Bean Trees has now been adopted into the core curriculum of high school and college literature classes across the U.S., and has been translated into more than a dozen languages.
She has written eleven more books since then, including the novels Animal Dreams , Pigs in Heaven, The Poisonwood Bible, and Prodigal Summer ; a collection of short stories (Homeland ); poetry (Another America ); an oral history (Holding the Line ); two essay collections (High Tide in Tucson, Small Wonder ); a prose-poetry text accompanying the photography of Annie Griffiths Belt (Last Stand ); and most recently, her first full-length narrative non-fiction, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. She has contributed to dozens of literary anthologies, and her reviews and articles have appeared in most major U.S. newspapers and magazines. Her books have earned major literary awards at home and abroad, and in 2000 she received the National Humanities Medal, our nation's highest honor for service through the arts.
In 1997 Barbara established the Bellwether Prize, awarded in even-numbered years to a first novel that exemplifies outstanding literary quality and a commitment to literature as a tool for social change.
Barbara is the mother of two daughters, Camille and Lily, and is married to Steven Hopp, a professor of environmental sciences. In 2004, after more than 25 years in Tucson, Arizona, Barbara left the southwest to return to her native terrain. She now lives with her family on a farm in southwestern Virginia where they raise free-range chickens, turkeys, Icelandic sheep, and an enormous vegetable garden.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Women on the picket line and its impact on their lives November 2, 2002
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Barbara Kingsolver was a young reporter in Arizona when she was assigned to write a story about this strike. Little did she know then that the strike would last for eighteen months, and that this book would be a natural outgrowth of her interest. The book is filled with facts and figures as well as the stories of people who bravely "held the line" each day, picketing against the "scab" workers that were brought in by the Phelps Dodge Copper Corporation. It's also the story of a town, where the only work was in the mine. And it's also about the generations of Mexican American citizens of that town who had to fight prejudice as well as the everyday dangers inherent in mining.
Most of all though, it is the story of the women and how this strike broadened their understanding of the world beyond their families, and let them develop new strengths. For it was mostly the women who stood on that picket line - the wives, sisters and mothers of the men who would have been arrested. Families were threatened with eviction. There was even a catastrophic flood during this time, which brought its own kind of devastation. And some of the women were arrested too. But despite intimidation, tear gas and harassment, the community stood firm.
I was particularly interested in the stories of the handful of women who actually worked in the mine. One of them had 11 children but needed the work to be able to help her husband support the family. Eight dollars an hour doesn't seem like much, but it was considered a good wage compared with $3.00 an hour for being a secretary. Several of them described the actual work, including the heavy lifting all day long and sometimes working as many as 28 days in a row. Their male co-workers verbally harassed them. And there was no special restroom for women.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing writing about a horrific event June 20, 2000
By A Customer
Barbara Kingsolver is one of the, if not the, greatest writers ever produced by America, maybe, the world. With care and compassion, she writes a thorough account of the mine strike of 1983 in Southern Arizona. During the height of the Cold War, while Reagan was calling the Soviet Union and Communism, the "evil empire," things which Americans thought went on "only over there" were happening in Southern Arizona. Hard-working people who did no more than stand up for there rights, were denied their right to assemble, to speak, to pursue life, liberty and happiness. Judges, Governor Bruce Babbitt, Department of Public Safety, the National Guard, and the local authorities, all in the pocket and payroll of Phelps Dodge Copper Corporation who was trying to break up the Unions, so they could re-institute racist, sexist, classist, policies.
They all failed. The Morenci Mine Women's Auxiliary led the way to community solidarity against all odds. More than any strike victory, they gained, life, confidence, and a purpose in life. Read this book, it's told in the form of interviews and narrative. You'll get to know and have affection for Anna O'Leary, Flossie Navarro, Berta Chavez, and many other women of Clifton, Arizona. You'll root for them, be inspired by them, and, be moved by them. What a wake up call! Working people of the world, UNITE!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the power of women in the strike January 13, 2005
In "Holding the Line", author Barbara Kingsolver ("The Poisonwood Bible", "Animal Dreams") offers us an account of the strike at the 1983 Morenci Copper Mine in Arizona. Kingsolver was working as a reporter at the time and spent quite a bit of time with the women involved in the strike. She gives the reader a different perspective on the strike; and on strikes in general. "Holding the Line" focuses on the women involved in the strike and how the strike affected them, and also just how much influence they held during the strike. Kingsolver admits her bias early on in the preface, so the reader knows from the start that the author personally sides with the strikers against the company, Phelps Dodge.

After spending decades slowing winning better pay, better working conditions and opportunities for women and minorities, the union works are the Morenci Copper Mine are dealt a new blow and a new challenge: At the end of their current contract, Phelps Dodge claims that they are losing money and the new contract the offer is with reduced wages and the elimination of a Cost of Living Expense for its workers. The way the workers have traditionally won concessions and what should be considered "human rights" (here I show my bias) is through a strike. The union workers walked off the job at the end of their contract and thus began an 18 month standoff between the workers and the giant Phelps Dodge, which almost immediately began bringing in scab labor to try to break the strike and break the union.

In a culture where women have traditionally been at home, "barefoot in the kitchen", the women in Morenci and the other nearby mining towns began to get involved.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Frightening April 17, 2000
By A Customer
I will never view law enforcement or the judicial system the same way again. A real eye-opener for those with no experience with unions. The story of heros persuing the American dream...
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Love Barbara Kingsolver
Good book, sometimes a hard read as sometimes non fiction can be, there are many characters, but a good story line and well presented.
Published 3 months ago by Jonezy
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book
This book changed my perspective and (I expect) the course of my life.
Barbara Kingsolver is always real, intimate, personal. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Lazza
2.0 out of 5 stars Informative, but plodding
This book would be great for someone researching this issue to get a fresh perspective, but it far from entertaining. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Nancy Wrona
4.0 out of 5 stars Holding the Line deserves a better e-book edit
Holding the Line: Women in the Great Arizona Mine Strike of 1983 by Barbara Kingsolver is too important a piece of American labor history to be reproduced with glaring... Read more
Published 7 months ago by World Traveler
1.0 out of 5 stars Book Was Good - Kindle Sucks
There were so many spelling errors in this book. It was horrible to read. Missing letters in words. It was horrible. Don't buy this book on Kindle. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Jordan Mathis
2.0 out of 5 stars So-so account of sad event
First of all the Kindle version is ridiculously poorly edited. I've never seen such a poor product put to market honestly. Read more
Published 15 months ago by L
2.0 out of 5 stars Holding the Line: Women in the Great Arizona Mine Strike of 1983
i was disappointed, because I love Barbara Kingsolver and everything she has written so far. This book was redundant. Read more
Published 16 months ago by dixie douthit
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book, As With All Her Work
If you like Kingsolver you'll like this, even though it's non-fiction. It's a great story, very well told. Read more
Published on November 13, 2009 by Steven J. Marx
1.0 out of 5 stars Outrageously biased
I could hardly believe what I read. It's is amazing how this "novel" is treated as a serious work, but it is merely a story, loosely based on the events. Read more
Published on August 12, 2007 by Richard Chappell
1.0 out of 5 stars Please
If you expect anything even approaching an objective and truthful retelling or analysis of the Phelps Dodge strike, you'll be sadly disappointed. Read more
Published on April 20, 2002
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