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Sisters in Coal

A History of Women in the West Virginia Mines

By Anna Sale

woman miner
Libby Lindsay on her way to work at the Eagle’s Nest mine in Boone County, around 1988. Photograph courtesy of The Charleston Gazette.


Nancy Dorset badgered the human resources office for a year and a half, and in 1978, she was finally hired at a Consolidation Coal mine outside Morgantown. It was time to break for dinner during one of her first shifts, and she’d worked up a hunger.

“I don’t know if it was monkey business, being new, or being female, but I went up on a section sometime in the first two weeks,” she says, “and when it came lunchtime, my bucket was nowhere to be found in the dinner hole.”

She asked her male coworkers about her bucket, and they told her to look for it. “We only had 30 minutes for dinner, so I just decided I wasn’t going to look for it. So I ate the boss’ dinner,” she says. Later on, when the boss found his empty bucket, word quickly got to him that the new woman miner had eaten his dinner. He confronted her, but Nancy took it in stride. “Well, I says, ‘If you can find my bucket, you can have everything in it, but you’ve got to make those guys tell you where it was.’” Nancy says that’s all she had to say. “That nipped that in the bud. No one ever tried that trick again on me.”

You can read the rest of this article in this issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.