Miners Hall Museum
Located in Franklin, Kansas, Miners Hall Museum is built on the original site of the Union Hall where thousands of women, christened the "Amazon Army" by the New York Times, marched in protest against unfair labor practices and laws across the coalfields of Southeast Kansas. It is dedicated to preserving and sharing Southeast Kansas coal mining history and its diverse immigrant culture.
Miners Hall Museum is located in the Franklin Community Center. Credit: Miners Hall Museum
Union Hall (UMWA Hall) in the early 1920s. Now the home of the Miners Hall Museum at the Franklin Community Center. Credit: Miners Hall Museum
The Women's Army of Kansas On The March: The Wives and Daughters of the Striking Coal Miners of the Pittsburg District Go on the Warpath to Oust the Strike Breakers, Invading the Mines and Scattering the Workers With a Red-Pepper Attack.
Backstory and Context
Crawford County Kansas, known as the Little Balkans, was home to immigrants from more than 50 nations, all drawn by the promise of jobs in the mines. At the time, southeast Kansas produced a third of the nation’s coal supply, but conditions were hazardous and the pay was minimal. In 1920, in response to bitter strikes nationwide, the Kansas legislature made strikes illegal by passing the Kansas Industrial Relations Act. But in September 1921, a southeast Kansas strike was called.
As families continued to suffer from the cold and hunger, the women of the area decided to do something about the situation. A few women organized a march to the mines in the area to dissuade any workers from continuing, calling on them to join the strike. What began as a smaller group soon grew to thousands of marchers.
In 1921, thousands of wives, daughters, mothers, sisters and sweethearts of striking coal miners in Southeast Kansas marched in protest against unfair labor practices in the local coal mines. The women's march made headlines across the nation and the New York Times christened them the "Amazon Army." The women's efforts were effective and halted work in the mines for three days. The Kansas governor ordered troops to the area to ‘preserve the peace’ and break up the march, and deputies arrested 49 women on charges of unlawful assembly, assault, and disturbing the peace.
Many, arrested late in the day, had to stay overnight in jail. But the next year, using their newly granted voting powers – the 19th Amendment was signed into law in August 1920 – the women of the region organized again and defeated the state’s governor and the county sheriff. In 1923, The United States Supreme Court overturned some of the Kansas Industrial Relations Act rulings and stripped it of much of its power. It was disbanded totally by the Kansas legislature in 1925.
Miners Hall Museum is built on the original site of the Union Hall (shown in photo below). The Union Hall served as a meeting house for the United Mine Workers Association and was also a historic location involving the Amazon Army March.
The center & museum was built shortly after the tornado of 2003 which destroyed much of the community including the former Franklin Community Hall. Miners Hall Museum was founded in 2012 and began with hosting a Smithsonian Exhibit titled "The Way We Worked".
Amazon Army. Miners Hall Museum. Accessed April 21, 2018. http://minershallmuseum.com/amazon-army/.
Franklin's Rich History. Miners Hall Museum. Accessed April 21, 2018. http://minershallmuseum.com/historic-sites-in-franklin/.
Miners’ Hall Museum holds grand opening. The Morning Sun. May 02, 2012. Accessed April 20, 2018. http://www.morningsun.net/article/20120502/NEWS/305029957.
Mining & Immigration. Miners Hall Museum. Accessed April 21, 2018. http://minershallmuseum.com/mining-industry/.