Social Justice in the Coalfields

This summer, KHC features daily posts about the speakers and topics in the Humanities catalog. Today’s featured presentation is “Union Maids and Rebel Dames: The Fight for Justice in the Kansas Coalfields” by Linda O’Nelio Knoll.

March of Amazon Army Mural

“Solidarity, March of the Amazon Army” mural by Wayne Wildcat. Image courtesy of Pittsburg Public Library.

Many Kansans today are surprised to learn that part of our state was once called “The Little Balkans.” When coal was discovered in Southeast Kansas in the late 1860s, thousands came from all over the world to work the mines. French, Swede, British, Italian, German, and Eastern European immigrants faced hazardous working conditions, poor pay, and discrimination in the mines.

In her KHC Speakers Bureau talk, “Union Maids and Rebel Dames: The Fight for Justice in the Kansas Coalfields,” Linda Knoll explores how, in 1921, thousands of women marched on the coal mines in support of striking miners. The spirited act linked men and women together and was dubbed by the New York Times as “The March of the Amazons.”

“The 1921 March of the Amazons happened against the backdrop of southeast Kansas’s turbulent strike-ridden history,” says Knoll. “Many social reforms were won from these struggles, which led to advances of the cause of human rights in America.”

Linda O'Nelio Knoll

Linda O’Nelio Knoll

Linda O’Nelio Knoll is an educator, author, and historian who works on the local history of southeast Kansas. She assisted with the establishment of the Miners Hall Museum in Franklin, Kansas. Knoll has a website devoted to the Amazon Army and has given numerous presentations on the story of the women’s march.

You can attend Linda O’Nelio Knoll’s “Union Maids and Rebel Dames: The Fight for Justice in the Kansas Coalfields” on September 10th in Wichita. You can also bring this or one of the other presentations in the Humanities catalog to your community for FREE with a Resource Center Support Grant. It’s quick and easy! Visit the Speakers Bureau page to get started or contact Leslie Von Holten, director of programs, at leslie(at)kansashumanities.org for more information.