Holding the line : women in the great Arizona mine strike of 1983

by Barbara Kingsolver

Paper Book, 1996


Holding the Line, Barbara Kingsolver's first non-fiction book, is the story of women's lives transformed by an a signal event. Set in the small mining towns of Arizona, it is part oral history and part social criticism, exploring the process of empowerment which occurs when people work together as a community. Like Kingsolver's award-winning novels, Holding the Line is a beautifully written book grounded on the strength of its characters. Hundreds of families held the line in the 1983 strike against Phelps Dodge Copper in Arizona. After more than a year the strikers lost their union certification, but the battle permanently altered the social order in these small, predominantly Hispanic mining towns. At the time the strike began, many women said they couldn't leave the house without their husband's permission. Yet, when injunctions barred union men from picketing, their wives and daughters turned out for the daily picket lines. When the strike dragged on and men left to seek jobs elsewhere, women continued to picket, organize support, and defend their rights even when the towns were occupied by the National Guard. "Nothing can ever be the same as it was before," said Diane McCormick of the Morenci Miners Women's Auxiliary. "Look at us. At the beginning of this strike, we were just a bunch of ladies."… (more)



Call number




New York : ILR Press, 1996.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Castlelass
This was Barbara Kingsolver’s first book, written during her work as a reporter while living in Arizona. She covers the 1983 strike at the Morenci Copper Mine where women played a key role. The union workers began striking at the end of their contract with corporate giant Phelps Dodge, and thus
Show More
began a standoff that lasted a year and a half. The company brought in “scab” labor to try to break both the strike and the union itself.

Kingsolver states in the preface that she personally knew the strikers and was on their side. There are many interviews with women involved in working the picket lines, organizing strike-related events, making food for the strikers, and maintaining morale. Some of the women were employed in the mine and others were there in support of their husbands.

There are many power plays and abuse of human rights documented in this book. The police and National Guard were called in. The situation escalated. The media coverage focused on sensationalistic headlines. It is hard to believe this all took place in the 1980s. It reads as something you might expect in the early days of unions.

One of the main themes is how these women found a sense of empowerment. Barbara Kingsolver uses her strong writing skills in portraying the anger, frustration, determination, and accomplishments of these women. There are probably a few too many interviews and long quotations. It is fairly obvious this is an early work, but definitely shows Kingsolver’s potential, which she has since developed into a successful writing career.
Show Less


Original publication date



0801483891 / 9780801483899
Page: 0.1209 seconds