Making a Living
Work and Environment in the United States
Publication Year: 2008
Published by: The University of North Carolina Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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As is always the case with a book, I could not have written this one but for the support, assistance, patience, and good humor of many different people. I now have been privileged to work with Sian Hunter at the University of North Carolina Press on two separate projects. This time around, like before,she helped me broaden the scope of my research and deepen my interpreta-...
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...‘‘When one speaks of increasing power, machinery, and industry,’’ HenryFord wrote in 1922, ‘‘there comes up a picture of a cold, metallic sort of worldin which great factories will drive away the trees, the flowers, the birds, andthe green fields.’’ This was how he began an early memoir, on the defensive,and the rest of the book was an answer to both skeptics and critics. The bleak...
1. I Think Less of the Factory Than of My Native Dell: Labor, Nature, and the Lowell Mill Girls
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In 1840, as part of a defense of factory life in Lowell, Massachusetts, textile operative Sarah Bagley pointed out that ‘‘mill girls’’ were not really ‘‘so far from God and nature, as many persons might suppose.’’ They managed to maintain their relationship with nature, and nature’s God, by cultivating roses, lilies, geraniums, and other plants in pots on the mill’s window sills,...
2. Living by Themselves: Slaves’ and Freedmen’s Hunting, Fishing, and Gardening in the Mississippi Delta
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The story of Yankee mill girls’ venture from New England farms to urban factories demonstrates the importance of both place and work in shaping people’s relationship with the natural world. Yet theirs is not the only story. Examining other regions and sectors of the American economy in the same period or at different times complicates the historical narrative. Former slaves...
3. Men Alone Cannot Settle a Country: Domesticating Nature in the Kansas-Nebraska Grasslands
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As the stories of the Lowell mill girls and Delta slaves and freed people make clear, there were both similarities and differences in the ways changes in work affected how various groups of people thought about and used the environment around them. Gender mattered to both the Yankee white women and the southern black men, but race was perhaps a more significant factor for the...
4. Degrees of Separation: Nature and the Shift from Farmer to Miner to Factory Hand in Southern West Virginia
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As was the case with many homesteading women and their male counterparts, and even more so with the children of homesteading families, the process of moving to the grasslands to make a farm was sometimes just a step on the road to a town or city. Family fortunes declined, forcing the abandonment of a quarter section and a search for new means to make a living, and...
5. A Decent, Wholesome Living Environment for Everyone: Michigan Autoworkers and the Origins of Modern Environmentalism
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Part of the power of Harriet Arnow Simpson’s portrayal of the fictional Nevel family was its pointed accuracy. Like the family in The Doll maker, many early twentieth-century autoworkers were migrants from rural areas, and they found a considerable amount of heartache and trouble when they made their journey to a city. Yet the move was not without at least a few good ends....
6. A Landscape Foreign and Physically Threatening: Southern California Farmworkers, Pesticides, and Environmental Justice
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Although cooperation between organized labor and mainstream environmental groups was faltering by the late 1970s and early 1980s, those same years also witnessed events that set the stage for formation of an ‘‘environmental justice’’movement. Starting in 1978, Lois Gibbs rallied her neighbors in a Buffalo suburb after they linked pervasive, chronic illness in the area to toxic chemicals...
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In its most basic form work is the transformation of nature. To produce both food and shelter, as well as countless other goods and amenities as needs and wants evolve over time, human beings must change parts of the natural world around them. This continuous use of the physical and organic environment, and the remaking of self and communities that it necessarily entails, is the core...
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Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2008