So begins Motherlode: Legacies of Women's Lives and Labors in Butte, Montana, the latest release from Clark City Press, edited by Janet L. Finn and Ellen Crain. ""Like the mother lode, the women of Butte have been a rich, if hidden, resource. We have chosen the single word-Motherlode-in the title to represent the fusion of gender, labor, and abundant resource which lies at the heart of this book.""
Here is an alternative history of an impossibly troubled society. The writing is clear, incisive, sometimes brilliant-and often heartbreaking. The diversity these stories represent in terms of interests, socio-economic conditions, personality, life experiences and mission, are what transport their stories to the larger context of women's 20th century urban life. From the early champions of women and children caught up in the dirty secret of domestic violence fed by economic uncertainty and alcoholism; to the founders of the first women's labor unions; to the first female doctor in Butte and the early nursing pioneers, the Sisters of Charity and the Cadet Nurses; to the ethnic women's clubs and early female entrepreneurs and reformers; there is plenty to appeal to and inform the many interests. Motherlode addresses the value of women's work, the interplay of love and justice, feminine wit, wisdom, and visions of possibility, intergenerational ties and influences, and the power of women as makers of change. It resonates with the stories of women's lives across a country and a century.
With courage, grace, and humor, Butte women have built and sustained community in good times and bad. They have persevered for the sake of individual, family, and community survival, and they have taught us the value of commitment for the long haul. Motherlode is a call for sympathy and understanding, a testament to the vision and strength of the early stalwarts, and a cry for a more intelligent and humane future, one built upon equality and mutual trust.
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