Anna "Annie" Clemenc

Title

Anna "Annie" Clemenc

Subject

Labor rights

Description

Michigan labor activist who rallied workers and fought against capitalists so that laborers could sit at the bargaining table

Creator

Amy French

Source

Image Source: http://thelaborhalloffame.org/sites/lihf.wayne.prometheuslabor.com/files/Clemenc.jpg

Birth Date

1888

Birthplace

Calumet, Michigan

Death Date

1956

Occupation

Labor organizer

Biographical Text

Anna Clemenc (1888-1956), or "Big Annie" as she was called, was an expert labor organizer who helped shape the labor movement in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. She led Local Woman's Auxiliary No. 15 of the Western Federation of Miners in support of the miners' cause during the 1913-1914 Strike. When the men fought to change their working conditions, Annie was constantly at the front of marches, proudly carrying the flag, using her tall stature (6’2”) to lead the striking men and their supporters. She was arrested and jailed twice for her efforts to help unionize Michigan's Copper Country. Annie also witnessed the tragedy that occurred during a party for striking workers and their families at the Italian Hall on Christmas Eve. Someone falsely yelled “fire” upstairs during the party causing a stampede that killed 73 people, 59 of them children. The violent and, sometimes, deadly strike put Annie in harm's way, but she persevered. Although the miners did not gain the right to unionize, they secured higher wages and a shorter workday. 1913 Italian Hall Tragedy and Annie Woody Guthrie wrote a song titled "1913 Massacre" where he talked about the Italian Hall tragedy where the striking workers were innocently celebrating Christmas with their families on Christmas Eve only to have someone (some say it was the opposing side) yell upstairs to the hall where they were having the party that there was a fire. Annie tried to keep the children and their parents calm, but fear of fire and being trapped on the second story of the building won out. With inadequate means to get out, a stamped occurred and many were trampled to death. Seventy-three people lost their lives that night--59 of them children. Guthrie wrote this song around 1941 when stories about the strike and people who witnessed it were still very much alive. He immortalized Annie in the following lyrics:
The copper boss' thugs stuck their heads in the door,
One of them yelled and he screamed, "there's a fire,"
A lady she hollered, "there's no such a thing.
Keep on with your party, there's no such thing."
(1913 Massacre, Woody Guthrie, @1941)

Woody's song

Movie about the song

More media about Annie:

National Parks Service Website

Calumet Museum Exhibit about Annie

Michigan Women's Hall of Fame Website 

Italian Hall Disaster Video

Annie and her role in the Italian Hall Tragedy Website

Bibliography

Comstock, Lyndon. Annie Clemenc and the Great Keweenaw Copper Strike. Lyndon Comstock, 2013.

Engle, Diana Paiz. "Standing Tall with Big Annie." Michigan History Magazine 83, no. 4 (July-August 1999): 16-18.

Kirkwood, Shannon. "In Defense of the Home: Working-Class Domesticity and Community Action in the Michigan Copper Country." Michigan Historical Review 43, no. 1 (Spring 2017): 1-27.

Historical Fiction

Russell, Maria Doria. The Women of the Copper Country. New York: Atria Books, 2020.

Files

Clemenc.jpg

Social Bookmarking

Date Added
June 3, 2014
Collection
Reform (Social or Labor)
Item Type
Person
Tags
, ,
Citation
Amy French, “Anna "Annie" Clemenc,” Women Who Dared, accessed December 1, 2022, https://womenwhodared.omeka.net/items/show/7.