Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical SocietyUnderground miner, Mesabi Range, c.1906.Tired of ethnic discrimination as well as dangerous working conditions, low wages, and long work days, immigrant iron miners on the Mesabi Range in northeastern Minnesota went on strike on
Aaron J. Brown, author of "Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range," reviews Sheila Packa's "Night Train, Red Dust: Poems of the Iron Range."
Sheila Packa's insight:
"Taken together, Packa’s poems act like a pack of strikers jumping the berm of an iron mine, hoping that in number one of them would avoid the bulls to reach the works. The elements of poems overlap, but the mission, the theme, each follows its own path. What it means to be an immigrant, what it is to be cheated, what it is to work your life out through your arms.
"More than that, though, also the landscape. The colors. The odd mix of isolation and community comprising life on the Iron Range. I’m no regular reader of poetry, certainly not in the form of anthologies like this. But “Night Train, Red Dust” resonated with me; like songs mixed onto a great album, back when albums meant something. I read this with the windows open and frogs practically screaming out in the swamp. There was a light breeze. Goosebumps speckled my arms for most of the evening."
Located near Hibbing, Mesaba Co-op Park is one of the few remaining continuously operated cooperative parks in the country. A gathering place of the Finnish cooperative movement, the park served the ethnic political radicals who energized the Iron Range labor movement and Minnesota’s Farmer-Labor party.
October is Women’s History Month and the Department of History is pleased to announce a virtual film festival consisting of films by Professor Kelly Saxberg…
Sheila Packa's insight:
This important film of labor history in Thunder Bay, Ontario features Finnish-Canadian Sanna Kallio Kannasto, labor and women's rights activist, and Tommy Hill (Tomio Maki). Sanna Kannasto visited Hibbing, MInnesota in 1925, scheduled to do public speaking. She was arrested for crossing the border illegally. This arrest was a pretense. Obviously, her radical politics, her commitment to socialist causes (which caused Canada to consider her a dangerous agitator) was the primary threat. She advocated the abolition of child labor, women's suffrage, and availability birth control. She lived with her boyfriend and took his last name. They had a child together, but her boyfriend committed many infidelities and later married another woman. Sanna was married to the socialist cause.
The first load of iron ore through the Soo Locks amounted to 132 tons in August 1855. Total ore tonnage that year was 1,447. During the 1860 shipping season 120,000 tons of ore passed through the Soo Locks. One century later the total volume of downbound iron recorded at the Soo exceeded 100 million tons.
with an introduction by Margaret Culkin Banning. There is a new edition now with a new introduction by Cathy Wurzer. The WPA Guide to the Minnesota Arrowhead Country, first published in 1941, offers a lively and detailed introduction to the northeastern part of the state, long famed for the breathtaking beauty of its landscape, the colorful variety of its ethnic groups, and the worldwide impact of its industries. Also see The WPA Guide to Minnesota (Borealis Books).
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