We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE
OR

Making a Living

Work and Environment in the United States

Chad Montrie

Publication Year: 2008

In an innovative fusion of labor and environmental history, ###Making a Living# examines work as a central part of Americans' evolving relationship with nature, revealing the unexpected connections between the fight for workers' rights and the rise of the modern environmental movement. Chad Montrie offers six case studies: textile "mill girls" in antebellum New England, plantation slaves and newly freed sharecroppers in the Mississippi Delta, homesteading women in the Kansas and Nebraska grasslands, native-born coal miners in southern Appalachia, autoworkers in Detroit, and Mexican and Mexican American farm workers in southern California. Montrie shows how increasingly organized and mechanized production drove a wedge between workers and nature--and how workers fought back. Workers' resistance not only addressed wages and conditions, he argues, but also planted the seeds of environmental reform and environmental justice activism. Workers played a critical role in raising popular consciousness, pioneering strategies for enacting environmental regulatory policy, and initiating militant local protest. Filled with poignant and illuminating vignettes, ###Making a Living# provides new insights into the intersection of the labor movement and environmentalism in America. Blending the histories of labor, the environment, and social movements, Montrie offers an innovative examination of how work has been a central part of Americans’ evolving relationship with nature during the rise and advance of industrial capitalism. He makes his argument through 6 case studies: textile “mill girls” in antebellum New England, male plantation slaves and freed black sharecroppers in the Mississippi Delta, homesteading women in Kansas and Nebraska, coal miners in southern Appalachia, male and female autoworkers in Detroit, and Mexican and Mexican American farmworkers in southern California. Montrie considers the historical connections between increasingly degraded labor and intensified separation from nature, recovering the varied and linked ways that workers responded to these conditions. He argues that informal as well as formal resistance to economic exploitation not only improved wages, benefits, and working conditions, but also established the foundation for modern environmental reform and environmental justice movements. The fight for workers’ rights meets the environmental movement in this imaginative study. Chad Montrie offers six case studies to show how increasingly organized and mechanized production drove a wedge between workers and nature--and how workers fought back. Workers' resistance not only addressed wages and conditions, he argues, but also planted the seeds of environmental reform and environmental justice activism. Workers played a critical role in raising popular consciousness, pioneering strategies for enacting environmental regulatory policy, and initiating militant local protest. In an innovative fusion of labor and environmental history, ###Making a Living# examines work as a central part of Americans' evolving relationship with nature, revealing the unexpected connections between the fight for workers' rights and the rise of the modern environmental movement. Chad Montrie offers six case studies: textile "mill girls" in antebellum New England, plantation slaves and newly freed sharecroppers in the Mississippi Delta, homesteading women in the Kansas and Nebraska grasslands, native-born coal miners in southern Appalachia, autoworkers in Detroit, and Mexican and Mexican American farm workers in southern California. Montrie shows how increasingly organized and mechanized production drove a wedge between workers and nature--and how workers fought back. Workers' resistance not only addressed wages and conditions, he argues, but also planted the seeds of environmental reform and environmental justice activism. Workers played a critical role in raising popular consciousness, pioneering strategies for enacting environmental regulatory policy, and initiating militant local protest. Filled with poignant and illuminating vignettes, ###Making a Living# provides new insights into the intersection of the labor movement and environmentalism in America.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (623.4 KB)
pp. 2-7

Contents

pdf iconDownload PDF (53.8 KB)
pp. vii-9

read more

Acknowledgments

pdf iconDownload PDF (59.7 KB)
pp. ix-13

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-...

read more

Introduction

pdf iconDownload PDF (71.5 KB)
pp. 1-12

...‘‘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...

read more

1. I Think Less of the Factory Than of My Native Dell: Labor, Nature, and the Lowell Mill Girls

pdf iconDownload PDF (110.2 KB)
pp. 13-34

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,...

read more

2. Living by Themselves: Slaves’ and Freedmen’s Hunting, Fishing, and Gardening in the Mississippi Delta

pdf iconDownload PDF (96.3 KB)
pp. 35-52

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...

read more

3. Men Alone Cannot Settle a Country: Domesticating Nature in the Kansas-Nebraska Grasslands

pdf iconDownload PDF (96.0 KB)
pp. 53-70

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...

read more

4. Degrees of Separation: Nature and the Shift from Farmer to Miner to Factory Hand in Southern West Virginia

pdf iconDownload PDF (102.3 KB)
pp. 71-90

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...

read more

5. A Decent, Wholesome Living Environment for Everyone: Michigan Autoworkers and the Origins of Modern Environmentalism

pdf iconDownload PDF (112.4 KB)
pp. 91-112

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....

read more

6. A Landscape Foreign and Physically Threatening: Southern California Farmworkers, Pesticides, and Environmental Justice

pdf iconDownload PDF (90.3 KB)
pp. 113-128

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...

read more

Conclusion

pdf iconDownload PDF (62.4 KB)
pp. 129-132

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...

Notes

pdf iconDownload PDF (129.0 KB)
pp. 133-158

Bibliography

pdf iconDownload PDF (80.2 KB)
pp. 159-172

Index

pdf iconDownload PDF (273.6 KB)
pp. 173-177


E-ISBN-13: 9781469606170
E-ISBN-10: 1469606178
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807831977
Print-ISBN-10: 0807831972

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2008