Guest lecturer and historian Linda Knoll gave a poignant lecture on the Amazon Army march on Oct. 5, at 7 p.m. in the Axe Library Basement. Knoll spoke on the coalminers of southeast Kansas, the struggles they faced, and the rise of the women’s Amazon Army to fight for their rights.
The Amazon Army was a group of 6,000 wives and children of the coalminers of southeast Kansas. Some were pregnant, and others brought small children with them to fight for their cause. After World War One, production for coalmining slowed as fewer workers were needed. As a result of these poor conditions, unfair pay, and lesser need for their labor, they held strikes. This advocacy swept across Cherokee and Crawford County, as well as the rest of Kansas.
“It contains all of the seeds of social reform,” Knoll said. “These women stood up for justice and fairness, and safety and child labor. They were concerned about some of the same issues that we are concerned about today. But they were willing to be ahead of time when people said it wasn’t ladylike to go out there and do what they did.”
The Amazon Army garnered controversy at the time. The Kansas National Guard was soon mobilized to reestablish order. The women were then considered local heroes, rather than condemned for their actions which included property damage and some violence. The Amazon Army joined numerous voices across the nation that advocated for reform and change. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled four years later, in 1925, that the Court of Industrial Relations was unconstitutional, and it was disbanded.
Linda Knoll was invited to speak as part of the Gene DeGruson Memorial Lecture series. Linda has done extensive research on the Amazon Army and has also curated a museum exhibit at the Miner’s Hall Museum in Pittsburg as well as advocated for its inclusion in history books.
Knoll is the coordinator for gifted education in SEK Interlocal 637. Gene DeGruson is known for curating and establishing the special collections and university archives at Pittsburg State.
“[The most inspiring part is that] I just think all the idea that so many women decided through lots of hardships to actually come together and decide to do this in and of itself is a miracle,” Knoll said.
Anyone seeking further information on the Amazon Army can visit the website amazonarmy.com, or the Miner’s Hall Museum in Pittsburg, which features a 100-year anniversary exhibit on the important events and justice enacted so many years ago.