Amazon Army speaker series to launch this month

Jonathan Riley
Morning Sun

PITTSBURG, Kan. — In December 1921, thousands of local women, the wives and family members of area coal miners, became known as the “Amazon Army” for their protests against what they felt were unfair labor practices in the local coal mines. 

This week, Miners Hall Museum in Franklin announced it was recently awarded $1,000 from Humanities Kansas, a nonprofit that partners with a wide range of organizations in communities statewide to assist with a variety of projects, to support the museum’s Amazon Army Centennial Speaker Series. 

“Humanities Kansas supports projects that explore stories unique to our state," the group’s executive director, Julie Mulvihill, said in a press release. “This series’ focus on an important part of southeast Kansas history will help illuminate the impact of the Amazon Army’s march in the state and for laborers throughout the nation.”  

Miners Hall has already had an exhibit up since the beginning of the year highlighting the Amazon Army, but the additional grant money will help pay to add technology such as video displays, said Linda Knoll, who is hosting the exhibit and speaker series. 

Knoll, who has been researching the Amazon Army since 1986 and has written a play about local coal mining history titled “Army of Amazons: An Oral History of Southeast Kansas,” said that this part of the state played an important role in the early 20th century labor movement. 

“We were very much a part of that reform if you will,” Knoll said. “The eight-hour work day, for example, it was negotiated down here. United Mine Workers would get it before the nation did. Child labor laws, they were also part of what these people were fighting for.” 

Miners Hall also announced this week that it will host the first event of the speaker series, a program titled “Sharing Patterns, Sharing Lives” and presented by Deborah Divine, which focuses on how quilting became revered internationally, at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 25. The series will continue with a different speaker each month, culminating in a Sunday, December 12 presentation by Knoll, which will coincide with the centennial anniversary of the Amazon Army march, which occurred December 12,13, and 14, 1921.  

“The kinds of acts of bravery sometimes that it took to stand up for an idea or you know, what is right, sometimes we tend to forget how difficult it was to do that in the face of so much opposition and adversity, and these people did that,” Knoll said. “They were part of a movement that really made some important social reforms throughout the country, you know, that we all enjoy right now.” 

Miners Hall is open for viewing from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Admission to the museum and programs is free, although donations are accepted and appreciated. The museum and its facilities adhere to the current state and local COVID-19 public health restrictions and guidelines. 

The museum accepts artifacts and photos donated or loaned to it for its exhibits. For more information, follow “Miners Hall Museum” on Facebook or Twitter, or call 620-347-4220.