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Big Annie of Calumet

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Big Annie of Calumet Stanley, Jerry. 1996. Big Annie of Calumet: A true story of the Industrial Revolution. New York: Crown Publishers. ISBN: 0517700980.

Using a little known story from a mining town on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Jerry Stanley is able to give life to the facts about the Industrial Revolution. Stanley begins his text with an introduction that briefly mentions Big Annie Clemenc, for whom the book is titled. His first chapter gives an overview of the basic factors involved in the Industrial Revolution. Stanley then puts a microscope over the Keeweenaw Peninsula in Northern Michigan, which was America's chief supplier of copper from 1845-1885. (Stanley, p.15) When wages were cut, hours were lengthened, and conditions became increasingly unsafe, the miners went on strike. What makes this story remarkable is the fact that the wives of the miners played an integral part in planning, staging, and persevering during the strike. Although the story does focus at times on the role played by Annie Clemenc, Stanley uses the story of this strike to demonstrate the different roles played by miners, owners, townspeople who depended on the mines, and politicians when there was a strike. The book concludes with a chapter that chronicles the effects of the Industrial Revolution. There is also an afterword that tells what happened to Big Annie, her family, and the town of Calumet.

Stanley writes using very frank language, and he also conveys the urgency of the situation. The Industrial Revolution has many angles, and Stanley is able to explain the forces behind decisions from all sides. Chapter three, "The Widow Maker," (p.21) thoroughly explains the economic reasons behind changes at the mine, why they felt the miners would be unable to organize a strike, and why and how the miners eventually decided to strike. Stanley uses quotes, excerpts from newspaper articles, and portions of court decisions that give further details and insight into the times. Stanley is also unafraid to show faults in his major characters. Stanley seems to imply that Big Annie was unfaithful to her husband during the strike, and goes on to confirm in the afterword that she left her miner husband for this man after the strike. "Annie continued to lead the parades every morning, now often accompanied by Clarence Darrow and by Frank Shavs, a reporter for a Chicago newspaper. Shortly after his arrival in Calumet, Shavs had abandoned his objectivity in reporting the strike and had joined it. Attracted by the tall, independent woman leading the strikers and their wives, Frank often marched with Annie, and their relationship grew closer." (Stanley, p.65)

The organization of this book gives readers a chance at a brief history lesson, an in depth case study, and a final summary that ties it all together. Stanley gives the reader just enough information so that he/she will be able to understand the reasons behind the strike in Calumet. He then hooks the reader on the plight of the worker through the story of Big Annie and the strike in Calumet. After whetting the readers appetite with a true story of just how much was at stake in these situations, chapter nine goes into greater detail in its summary of the Industrial Revolution.

This slim book is printed in a medium to large serif font. The text is offset toward the center of the book, so that there is white space on the outer edges of a two-page spread. Chapter titles are printed in dark black in a typeface that almost seems mechanical, which fits the subject matter. Black and white photos of characters in the story and scenes from the time enhance and give further insight to the text. An extensive bibliographic note is written in paragraph form, and there is an index and picture credits. One disappointing aspect of the text is that some quotes are not cited directly, such as "There was a disregard for workers as human beings in the comment of one manufacturer: 'I regard my employees as I do a machine, to be used to my advantage, and when they are old and of no further use, I cast them into the street.'" (Stanley, pp. 9-10)

This book would be a wonderful resource to use as a way to put a real story behind the facts of American History. As Berwinkle said in her review in Book Report, "A wonderful source for labor history or women's history."

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Graduate Student at Texas Woman's University