Women in Labor History Is Theme of Symposium

The Wheeling Academy of Law and Science (WALS) Foundation, through its Reuther-Wheeling Library and Labor History Archive, will offer the third Reuther-Pollack Labor History Symposium, themed “Women in Labor History,” on Saturday, Aug. 31, at The First State Capitol at 1413 Eoff St. in Wheeling.

The kickoff event for the symposium will take place Friday, Aug.30, when famed West Virginia songwriter and union activist Elaine Purkey will perform, beginning at 7 p.m., also at the First State Capitol.

Purkey is an activist songwriter and musician from Harts Creek, West Virginia. She wrote songs for the Pittston Coal Strike and Ravenswood Lockout and performed at concerts and festivals across the continent. Her song “One Day More” is featured on the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings compilation “Classic Labor Songs.” The kickoff event is free.

Elaine Purkey

The Saturday symposium will feature presentations from four dynamic speakers, including:

• 11 a.m.: Joseph Tropea, “The Widows of the 1907 Monongah Mining Disaster.” Tropea is a retired professor and former chair of sociology, George Washington University. He is a grandson of a Monongah miner.

• Noon: Dr. Anne Marie Lofaso, “The Once and Future Female Worker: Legal Rights Then and Now.” Lofaso is the Arthur B. Hodges Professor of Law at West Virginia University College of Law, where she teaches labor and employment law.

• 2:30 p.m.: Mary Cronk Farrell, “Where Does Courage Come From? Exploring One Woman’s Courage in the Struggle for American Labor Union Rights.” Farrell is an award-winning author and former journalist who writes about little-known historical women finding courage and strength through struggle. She is the author of Fannie Never Flinched: One Woman’s Courage in the Struggle for American Labor Union Rights, a book about Fannie Sellins.

Subscribe to Weelunk

• 3:30 p.m.: Dr. Jessica Wilkerson (author of To Live Here You Have to Fight), “Nothing Worse Than Being Poor and a Woman: Feminism and Caring Labor in the Mountain South.” Wilkerson is an assistant professor of history and southern studies at the University of Mississippi. She is the author of the acclaimed, To Live Here, You Have to Fight: How Women Led Appalachian Movements for Social Justice.

Joseph Tropea, Anne Marie Lofaso, Mary Cronk Farrell and Jessica Wilkerson.

During the lunch break, after a birthday celebration for Walter Reuther with cake and refreshments, symposium attendees will have the opportunity to join a walking tour, led by Dr. David Javersak, to view both the Pollack and Reuther monuments at Heritage Port on the Wheeling riverfront.

The symposium will also feature an appearance by Pittsburgh-based fine artist and muralist, Jennifer Rempel, who will show her painting of labor activist Fannie Sellins.

Registration is $30 and includes a box lunch. All proceeds go toward event expenses. Tickets can be purchased online at eventbrite.com. To RSVP, send an email to lunchwithbooks@yahoo.com or call 304-905-1690.

The symposium is presented in partnership with Wheeling Heritage, Cassidy, Cogan, Shapell & Voegelin LC and the Ohio County Public Library. Additional Heritage Partners include the Battle of Homestead Foundation and the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum.