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Death and Dying in the Working Class, 1865-1920$
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Michael K. Rosenow

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780252039133

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252039133.001.0001

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Every New Grave Brought a Thousand Members

Every New Grave Brought a Thousand Members

The Politics of Death in Illinois Coal Communities, 1883–1910

(p.68) 3 Every New Grave Brought a Thousand Members
Death and Dying in the Working Class, 1865-1920

Michael K. Rosenow

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines the politics of death in Illinois coal mining communities during the period 1883–1910, with particular emphasis on how miners and their families experienced death in one of the country's most dangerous occupations. It explores three causes of death in coal mines and how they shaped miners' experiences with death: mass-fatality mine disasters, the deadly hazards in everyday mining, and the violent confrontations between miners and employers. It also discusses the coal miners' political and cultural responses to the deaths of their coworkers, focusing on the emergence of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), which combined previous burial practices established by churches, fraternal societies, and other unions to lay the foundations for a coherent set of ritual practices for union coal miners. Finally, it describes the coal miners' creation of a repertoire of rituals of death that melded religious, fraternal, and immigrant traditions. The Illinois coal miners' experiences with death and dying highlights the human and emotional impact of industrialization.

Keywords:   death, Illinois, coal miners, dying, mine disasters, coal mining, United Mine Workers of America, burial, death rituals, industrialization

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