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The Radical History of Appalachian Women Activists

ELIZABETH CATTE NOTES that women’s grassroots leadership has been fundamental to progressive movements in Appalachia. She offers illustrations that range from Florence Reece penning the ballad “Which Side Are You On?” during a 1930s labor struggle, to teachers in Mingo County, West Virginia, leading the state’s teacher strike.

I agree that we can learn from the history of women’s activism in Appalachia—and women’s relationship to extractive capitalism—as we accept Catte’s call to move forward “through the past.” In response, I would like to provide further context by discussing another crucial moment in the history of women’s grassroots organizing, when women drew upon the zeitgeist of the 1960s and took advantage of Great Society legislation, most notably during and after the War on Poverty.

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