Women in Mining Towns: A Look at the Past through Accident Reports

28 Jun

A couple of months ago as I processed the Montana Mine collection I found myself sifting through the Accident Reports for the mine. As I was placing them into the appropriate folders, certain accidents became familiar to me: dirt/rock chip in the eye, small wounds like cuts, bumps on the head, sprained this or that and the occasional broken bone.  There were other and more serious injuries of course, but the majority of things seemed pretty minor in that they wouldn’t keep the miner from his work for more than a few days. These were all very interesting of course, but what was most interesting to me was the amount of accident reports that were present for women. There were not many of them, especially compared to the reports filed by men, so I noticed them pretty quickly and once I did I kept track of them. The pictures you’ll see in this post are scans of a few of my favorites.

I was struck by their presence in the collection. I had not really thought about women in Ruby working for the Montana Mine. I had assumed that they were probably all housewives with sweet, rosy-cheeked picturesque children. I was happy to find that there were women in Ruby working for the Montana Mine who were married, single, and even widowed. Women of many ages were represented in the reports from those in their 20s to those in their 40s. Though it doesn’t seem they were employed in the actual mine itself, we can see that they helped run the boarding house, kitchens and hospitals kept by the Eagle-Picher Mining Company in Ruby. This is a reflection of the kind of work women were doing at that moment in history. A lot has changed since then! Another tidbit I found interesting, is the actual Accident Report form that was filled out. Rather than use the term “employee” to refer to the injured person, the forms all use the word “man.” As they were filling out the forms, some people crossed out the “man” and wrote “woman” or added the “wo” to the typed form letters and some didn’t bother to change it at all. These observations are all a snapshot of a certain moment in history when women in the workforce were not as prominent as they are today and often limited to a very specific set of jobs. You’ve come a long way, ladies!

Want to learn more about Ruby, Arizona and the Montana Mine? Pick up a copy of “Ruby, Arizona: Mining, Mayhem and Murder” by Bob Ring, Al Ring and Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon. Copies are available in the Mercantile here at the Arizona Historical Society!

Two accident reports from the Montana Mine collection.

Two accident reports from the Montana Mine collection. Yikes! These both probably hurt a lot! Check out the difference in pay per month.

This Accident Report is written in faded pencil, so it's harder to see. Interesting that the accident was deemed "unavoidable." I guess all jobs have a certain amount of risk.

This Accident Report is written in faded pencil, so it’s harder to see. Interesting that the accident was deemed “unavoidable.” I guess all jobs have a certain amount of risk.

Notice that in the left one, "Man's" is XXXed out and "Woman's" typed in.

Notice that in the left one, “Man’s” is XXXed out and “Woman’s” typed in. Jennie Gover’s accident description is really detailed and the incorrect pronouns corrected throughout the Accident Report. In the Accident Report on the right side, Mrs. Gover is listed as the shift boss.

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