Women of Appalachia

The Women of Appalachia

Fearless women settled Appalachia – and are still fighting for it.

Alongside men, they plowed fields, put up food, kept the family and faced conflict.

Women like Mary Draper Ingles, taken hostage in 1755 by Shawnee Indians, hiked 500 hundred miles of wilderness barefoot to find her way back home, founding the settlement that became the city of Radford, Va. Women like Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, who in the 1900s organized women for the labor movement. Women like Judy Bonds, who fought the coal industry’s destruction of mountain communities in the 21st century.

Women have played a major role in the labor and activist movements in the coal-bearing regions of Appalachia. In 1965, Ollie “Widow” Combs laid down in front of the bulldozer that was preparing to strip-mine her Kentucky farm. She spent Thanksgiving in jail, but her protests led to strip mining legislation in 1967 in the Kentucky General Assembly. Ten years later, Widow Combs was invited to the White House for the signing of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977.

And in 1989, a group of women who called themselves the “daughters of Mother Jones” played a crucial role on the picket lines during the Pittston strike.

Other crucial roles for women have involved education, literature, healthcare and art, and the promotion of minorities in our region.

In the following links, we present to you the region’s most powerful natural resource — the outstanding and fearless women of Appalachia.