Shawn Ellis, Labor co-chair of Labor's International Hall of Fame, presents an award honoring Big Annie Clemenc to Annie's great granddaughter Anne Marie Kelly of Oak Lawn, Illinois, during the Induction Ceremony for Big Annie held on July 26, 2013, in the Calumet Visitor Center. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)
CALUMET -- An estimated 175 people nearly filled the Third Floor Lodge Room of the Calumet Visitor Center on July 26, 2013, for the Induction Ceremony to mark the acceptance of Big Annie Clemenc, labor leader during the 1913 Copper Miners' Strike in Calumet, into Labor's International Hall of Fame.
Keweenaw National Historical Park officials hosted the event, which was held just a few days after the actual centennial of the strike's official beginning -- July 23, 1913. The ceremony was one of many events scheduled this year in commemoration of the centennial.*
Special guests for the ceremony included Big Annie's great granddaughters, Anne Marie Kelly and Debra Devlin of Oak Lawn, Illinois, and their children; Shawn Ellis, Labor co-chair of Labor's International Hall of Fame; Lyndon Comstock, nominator of Annie for the honor and author of Annie Clemenc and the Great Keweenaw Copper Strike (2013).
In the Calumet Visitor Center, Keweenaw National Historical Park Ranger Tom Baker welcomes the audience to the July 26, 2013, Induction of Annie Clemenc into Labor's International Hall of Fame and introduces special guests, including Annie's descendants -- Anne Marie Kelly and Debra Devlin of Oak Lawn, Illinois, and their children, seated in the front row.
After a welcome by Mike Pflaum, Keweenaw National Historical Park (KNHP) superintendent, and an introduction by Tom Baker, KNHP park ranger and management assistant, Comstock presented the historical context for the induction. He reported on the research he did for his book on Annie and the strike -- and he noted how his interest in Annie began while working on research with his cousin Joanne Thomas of Allouez, who put together the museum exhibit on Annie, now displayed in the Coppertown Mining Museum in Calumet.**
Comstock continues his talk about Annie and describes the events that led up to the Italian Hall tragedy of Christmas Eve, 1913:
A program from the May 16, 2013, Labor's International Hall of Fame event, distributed at the Calumet event, notes Annie Clemenc shared the honor of 2013 induction with Evelyn Dubrow, a lobbyist for the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union, and with Viola Liuzzo, who was killed by Ku Klux Klansmen while aiding civil rights marchers during the march to Selma, Alabama, in 1965.
The program describes how Annie Klobuchar Clemenc carried the flag in the daily marches during the 1913-14 Copper Miners' Strike in Calumet.
"She was arrested several times," the program notes. " She was physically attacked by strikebreakers, company goons and local police. But she never wavered in her determination to bring social justice to a mining workforce that was underpaid, forced to work under dangerous conditions and subject to constant management harassment."
Stuart Baird, manager of the Coppertown Mining Museum, who has been enthusiastic about having the "Big Annie" exhibit in the museum for the centennial, commented on the induction ceremony.
"I think it's the best event they ever had to celebrate Big Annie's legacy," Baird said.
After the Induction Ceremony, Big Annie's great-granddaughters, Anne Marie Kelly, right, and Debra Devlin (holding award) are pictured here with Shawn Ellis, Labor co-chair for Labor's International Hall of Fame.
Following the Induction Ceremony, authors Lyndon Comstock and Virginia Burns offered book signings for the public.
Virginia Burns makes a special friend during the book signing -- Madison La Bonte of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., who is doing a school project on Big Annie.
Virginia Burns is pictured here at her book signing in Coppertown Museum with her family members who attended the Induction Ceremony -- from left, her grandson John Ritchie, her daughter Meg Ritchie of Owosso (Mich.) and her son Duncan Ritchie. Duncan and his son John made the trip from Madison, Wis.
After the Induction Ceremony, Big Annie's descendants from Oak Lawn, Ill. -- Anne Marie Kelly and her daughter Aine, right, and Debra Devlin and her son Patrick -- visit the "Big Annie" exhibit at the Coppertown Mining Museum. Debra and Aine are holding the 2013 Labor's International Hall of Fame Induction Award the family received during the ceremony.
Susan Comstock, left, author Lyndon Comstock's sister, from Evanston, Ill., and Peggy Germain of Calumet, author of articles on the Italian Hall disaster, visit the "Big Annie" exhibit after the induction ceremony.
* Click here to see our videos of the Italian Hall Ceremony held in Calumet during Finn Fest on June 20, 2013.
** Click here to read our July 22, 2013, article with photos of the "Big Annie" exhibit, created by Joanne Thomas.