Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Gussie Mills, September 23, 1986

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:01 - Anecdotes from Brookside strike--Part I / Picketing

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Partial Transcript: Gussie.

Segment Synopsis: Mills talks about various people from the strike while looking at pictures of them. Mills also discusses the conditions on the picket line, including the church services and the jailing of children along with their parents.

Keywords: Brookside Mine; Families; Florence Jones; Hearings; Otis King; Picket lines; Spouses; Travels; United Mine Workers of America (UMWA); Violence

Subjects: Children; Coal Miners' Strike, Harlan County, Ky., 1973.; Coal miners--Labor unions--Organizing; Strikes and lockouts--Coal mining--Kentucky; United States--Trials, litigation, etc.; Women political activists

00:07:51 - Connection to unions and strikes

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Partial Transcript: Well, when did you first hear about the strike?

Segment Synopsis: Mills talks about how she became involved with the Brookside strike because of her union ties as a result of her first husband. Her husband participated in the previous mining strike in Harlan.

Keywords: Bellcrossing; Black lung; Bloody Harlan; Brookside Mine; Families; Jerry Johnson; Jobs; Picket lines; Spouses; Strikes; Working conditions

Subjects: Coal Miners' Strike, Harlan County, Ky., 1973.; Coal miners' spouses; Coal miners--Labor unions--Organizing; Lungs--Dust diseases; Strikes and lockouts--Coal mining--Kentucky; United States--Trials, litigation, etc.; Women political activists

00:12:07 - Strike involvement

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Partial Transcript: So when you first heard about it, what did you think the strike was going to be like?

Segment Synopsis: Mills discusses her most memorable moments on the picket line, especially interacting with the police and the creation of a mock strikebreaker. She also talks about other means of involvement for strikers, like violence and trips to build support. Mills also discusses the conditions of a previous mining strike from the late 1920s/early 1930s.

Keywords: Booster Clubs; Brookside Mine; Brookside Women's Club; Conventions; Fundraising; Norman Yarborough; Picket lines; Police; Road blocks; Scabs; Spouses; Travel; United Mine Workers of America (UMWA); Violence

Subjects: Coal Miners' Strike, Harlan County, Ky., 1973.; Coal miners' spouses; Depressions--1929--Kentucky; Strikebreakers; Strikes and lockouts--Coal mining--Kentucky; United Mine Workers of America; United States--Trials, litigation, etc.; Women political activists

00:25:23 - Personal background

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Partial Transcript: Gussie, where were you born?

Segment Synopsis: Mills discusses her upbringing by her parents and an older sister, as well her education. She also talks about her adult life, including marriages, children, moving, and illness. Mills discusses her family's support of the strike.

Keywords: Brice Mills; Evictions; Georgia-Pacific; Harlan Land and Coal Company; Households; Housewives; Illness; Marriages; Moves; Parents; Siblings; Unions; Widows

Subjects: Children; Coal miners' spouses; Education--Kentucky; Families.; Lungs--Dust diseases; Occupations.; Picketing.

00:35:33 - Reflections on unions and strikes

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Partial Transcript: Did you talk much about stuff that wasn't the strike while you all were sitting up there?

Segment Synopsis: Mills discusses her interactions on the picket line and with the union, including the union's concerns with women strikers. She also talks about the need for more unionization today. Mills discusses the violence of the Brookside and Jericho strikes.

Keywords: Bill Bruner; Brookside Mine; Duke Power Company; Families; Highsplint; Housing; Jericho strikes; Jobs; Minnie Lunsford; Picket lines; Violence; Working conditions

Subjects: Coal Miners' Strike, Harlan County, Ky., 1973.; Coal miners' spouses; Coal miners--Labor unions--Organizing; Strikes and lockouts--Coal mining--Kentucky; Women political activists

00:44:44 - Anecdotes from Brookside strike--Part II / Opinion of the press

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Partial Transcript: Okay, where's your book?

Segment Synopsis: Mills talks about various people from the strike while looking at pictures of them. She discusses her items from the strike, like paperwork from a conference.

Keywords: Brookside Mine; Families; Hearings; Minnie Lunsford; Picket lines; Spouses; Travels; United Mine Workers of America (UMWA); Violence

Subjects: Children; Coal Miners' Strike, Harlan County, Ky., 1973.; Coal miners--Labor unions--Organizing; Strikes and lockouts--Coal mining--Kentucky; United States--Trials, litigation, etc.; Women political activists

01:02:26 - Female activism and responses

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Partial Transcript: Let's start asking some questions then again.

Segment Synopsis: Mills discusses picketing conditions as well as strike benefits. Mills also talks about being a female protester, including the critiques of others and the women's club.

Keywords: Brookside Mine; Brookside Women's Club; Evictions; Housing; Mother Jones; Norman Yarborough; Picket lines; Roadblocks; Scabs; Strikes; United Mine Workers of America (UMWA); Violence

Subjects: Coal Miners' Strike, Harlan County, Ky., 1973.; Coal miners' spouses; Coal miners--Labor unions--Organizing; Strikes and lockouts--Coal mining--Kentucky; Women in the labor movement; Women political activists

01:12:47 - Household during and after the strike

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Partial Transcript: I was going to ask you that next. How did people get--manage their households and their work while the strike was going on and you were on the picket line too. How did you do that?

Segment Synopsis: Mills discusses how she and her husband adapted their household during the strike, including establishing a garden. She also talks about her life after her second husband died, especially her financial circumstances and living with a disability.

Keywords: Black lung; Brookside Mine; Gardening; Gardens; Illness; Jobs; Marriages; Pensions; Picket lines; Spouses; Strikes; United Mine Workers of America (UMWA); Working conditions

Subjects: Children; Coal Miners' Strike, Harlan County, Ky., 1973.; Coal miners' spouses; Families.; Lungs--Dust diseases; Strikes and lockouts--Coal mining--Kentucky; United Mine Workers of America; United States--Trials, litigation, etc.; Women political activists

01:23:32 - Aspirations / Completion of the Brookside strike

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Partial Transcript: Let's see.

Segment Synopsis: Mills discusses her dreams for the future, like going back to school. Mills also talks about her feelings about the strike now that it is completed.

Keywords: GED; Households; Housewives; Illness; Marriages; Organizers; Organizing; Parents; Siblings; Unions; Widows

Subjects: Children; Coal miners' spouses; Education--Kentucky; Families.; Occupations.; Picketing.

01:28:07 - Family / Anecdotes from Brookside strike--Part III

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Partial Transcript: Let's see, you got any grandkids?

Segment Synopsis: Mills talks about her children and grandchildren. She also discusses her family and the strike as she looks back at pictures. She especially talks about the murder during the strike.

Keywords: Arnold Miller; Bill Bruner; Grandchildren; Households; Housewives; Illness; Marriages; Parents; Siblings; Tommy Ferguson; Unions; Violence; Widows

Subjects: Children; Coal miners' spouses; Education--Kentucky; Families.; Lungs--Dust diseases; Occupations.; Picketing.