The Coke Region Troubles

In 1892, there was a dramatic strike at the Carnegie steel works at Homestead, Pennsylvania. Henry Clay Frick, a Carnegie partner, was responsible for breaking the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers and defeating the strike. Frick was well known as an business executive hostile to unions, and one who was successful in breaking unions. Frick was especially important as a manufacturer for coke, a product made from coal that was essential to the manufacture of iron and steel. This 1891 account of what happened in Pennsylvania's coke fields relates something of the resistance of Frick's labor policies.

While the troubles in the coke region of Pennsylvania have subsided, so far as the work of production is concerned, the attempt of the operating companies to evict the striking miners from their houses has been followed by serious disorder, culminating, in one or two instances, in actual rioting, in which women, the wives of the Hungarian and Slav miners, have been prominent participants. The sheriff and his deputies were assailed with great violence in several cases, being pelted with missiles of every sort, and they appear to have been compelled to resort to the use of fire-arms in self-defense, with the result that one or two woman were killed and other persons were injured. In many instances the woman used axes and other equally dangerous implements in their assaults upon the officers. In some parts of the disaffected district it has been found necessary to re-enforce the civil authority by the presence of a company of militia.

The ferocity manifested by the women seems to have been greater than that displayed by the men, who appear to have been content that their wives and daughters and sweethearts should bear the brunt of the resistance to the execution of the legal processes. Notwithstanding the opposition of the strikers the houses belonging to the operating companies have been, for the most part, taken and held by the constabulary, while some of those resisting eviction have been placed under arrest.

The Pennsylvania Militia