Friday, Aug 2, 2013
On July 26th, Keweenaw National Historical Park hosted a ceremony that inducted Annie “Big Annie” Clemenc into Labor’s International Hall of Fame.
As part of the centennial commemoration of the famed 1913 Michigan Copper Miners’ Strike, and 100 years to the day when Annie was first noted in the press, Copper Country’s eminent labor champion and strike leader was honored in a ceremony at the Calumet Visitor Center.
The Annie Legacy Project, Labor’s International Hall of Fame, and the NPS partnered on the event, which brought Annie’s descendants northward from Chicago. Anne Marie Kelly and her family proudly accepted the honor on behalf of their widely-admired great-grandmother.
Big Annie, who stood 6’2”, was a charismatic leader of the labor movement in Upper Michigan’s copper mines, which provided the vast majority of the nation’s copper production from the purest copper deposit known in the world during the American Industrial Revolution. Annie’s imposing stature was further enhanced by the enormous American flag she brandished at the head of every strike rallying parade in which she participated. She was famously known for standing her ground between striking miners and bayonet-wielding National Guard troops, defiantly stating that they would have to strike down the flag and her if they wanted to stop the rally.
Annie was looked to as a heroine of the movement and continues to be an inspiring “she-roe” for women young and old. Two middle school girls and their families, who travelled more than five hours from divergent parts of Michigan, attended the event because they have been so inspired by the stories of her courage and tenacity.
Lyndon Comstock, nominator and author of Annie Clemenc and the Great Keweenaw Copper Strike, provided historical context for the 160 people filling the third floor Lodge Room of the Calumet Visitor Center. In an emotional recounting of Annie’s leadership in the Slovenian and broader immigrant copper miners’ community, including Annie’s life-changing personal involvement in the Italian Hall Tragedy on Christmas Eve of 1913, Comstock evoked strong connections to Annie for every person in the room.
Shawn Ellis, labor co-chair from Labor’s International Hall of Fame, made the 500-mile trek from Detroit to present the family members with the artful commemorative award, welcoming Annie into company that includes Walter P. Reuther, Mother Jones, and other famed figures of labor in the United States. Ellis credited NPS staff for the success of the event, citing the strong technical assistance received in the planning and publicity for the event.
The induction ceremony was the third event connected to the 1913 Michigan Copper Miners’ Strike Centennial – commemorating the strike that started on July 23, 1913 and ended on April 4, 1914 – in which the NPS is deeply involved. Keweenaw National Historical Park preserves and interprets the nationally significant copper mining heritage across the 800,000-acre breadth of Upper Michigan’s Copper Country through a combination of traditional park experiences and partnerships with state and local governments, and public and private entities. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/kewe .