Book Review: Holding the Line

January Book Review by Patti Van Tuyl

Holding the Line: Women in the Great Arizona Mine Strike of 1983
Barbara Kingsolver

Although not as well-known as her novels Pigs in Heaven or The Bean Trees, this non-fiction book by Barbara Kingsolver is a spellbinder, with strong characters and a compelling plot.

The story is based on Kingsolver’s interviews with women who participated in strikes in Clifton, Morenci, and Ajo, Arizona, in 1983-85, during a protracted contract dispute between copper miners and their employer, the giant mining corporation, Phelps Dodge. Women interrupted their domestic lives to join the strikers’ lines when their husbands were forbidden to, and evolved into a powerful force for resistance within their communities. Mining was about the only way the largely Latino population could earn a living in these small company-dominated towns, and the women’s fight for justice in the mines was equally a struggle to preserve their homes and family lives. The strikers found little sympathy for their cause within Arizona. Strikers were harassed by local law enforcement and the governor deployed the National Guard on at least two occasions. The women reached out beyond the local union, however, and brought their cause to the attention of international unions. In the end, the strike failed and the unions were decertified. The strike and its outcome are now seen as one of the earliest successes in deliberate strikebreaking and, as such, are regarded as a signal event in U.S. labor history.

We highly recommend this book.