Injustice In Kettle Bottom

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Social Injustices Explored in Kettle Bottom At the beginning of the twentieth century, the United States moved from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy based on textile factories, steel mills, and new inventions. The mechanization of America required an energy source, and that energy source was coal. Diane Gilliam Fisher, a sixty-one-year-old American poet, uses her poems in Kettle Bottom to tell the world about the mining community. Kettle Bottom by Diane Fisher explores the history of West Virginia coal miners’ struggle against greedy mine owners as the miners fight for better working conditions and pay, the emotional strain on the miners and their families, and the dangerous working conditions faced by the miners. First off,…show more content…
According to information from the Mine Safety and Health Administration in the early 1900s mine explosions and other accidents claimed thousands of victims. “The deadliest year in United States coal mining history was 1907, when an estimated 3,242 deaths occurred” (Injury Trends in Mining). While many miners died in mine accidents, “For each laborer killed directly, several were maimed, and several more found their lives shortened by coal dust, lead, and other poisons” (Andrews). When a miner was unable to perform his job even if this was due to work related issues, he got replaced. The disabled miner was given no compensation, no resources to provide for his family, and no medical care; he was simply tossed aside by company officials. The chance of an explosion or the collapse of a tunnel roof due to unsafe working conditions and machinery was so great that mothers, wives, and daughters had to memorize physical attributes or tangible aspects of clothing in case they needed to identify the body of a loved one. Fisher acknowledges this haunting reality in “Explosion at Winco No. 9” when she writes that it is “Us that learns by heart birthmarks, scars, bends of fingers, how the teeth set crooked or straight” (Lines 10-12). One can feel the anguish of grieving relatives in the final…show more content…
Huge corporations built homes, schools, churches, and general stores in towns near the mines. Everything the miners and their families needed could be purchased from the company, but unfortunately, under this system the living conditions were horrible and wages were low. As a result, many miners began to support the idea of joining a union. Lorraine Boissoneault stated that union supporters were fired, beaten, arrested, and subjected to a campaign of terror. “When this union business started up, first thing the Company did was turn us out” (Lines 7-9). The mine owners also retaliated by hiring the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency. According to Lon Savage, Baldwin-Felts enforced “public law in the coal fields at the direction of the coal operators using brutal, repressive policies.” The harsh methods employed by these detectives are reflected in the poem. “Last night Baldwin-Felts and sheriff’s deputies rode through, shooting in the air and slashing tents with bayonets, so now we ain’t even got that” (Lines 15-18). Coal miners unionized to secure higher wages and better living conditions. “We ain’t got no houses,” (Line 6) … “They ought to turn around and take a good look at the morning after – babies’ heads everywhere, poppin’ up through the holes in the tents” (Lines 21-23). Coal miners endured a rough existence, and many joined unions in
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