Abstract

This article identifies the social and cognitive norms that degraded the value of a largely descriptive mining literature by examining the aftermath of the 1907 Monongah explosions and the experiences of a transnational migrant, Maria. The literature treated death as only a physical reality, not a social construction, and recovery as procedural, not causal, and emotions relegated to death, not shaped by other ordeals, while neglecting women’s experiences in exploring aftermath organization and its consequences. This work uses primary sources and substantiated memories to illustrate how covert recovery of dead miners made horrors beyond death, rational administration of relief made distributions seem arbitrary, and how tortured memories helped corroborate the recovery’s covert operations. Findings show not only relations between aftermath organization and intimate sorrows of a widow but also how biography expands the frames of time, action, and consequence. Maria’s life also demonstrates the importance of language, culture, and character in exploring disasters. Though an ordinary and imperfect woman, Maria affirms the importance of gender in exploring the intricacies of social organization and social history. This work also—and unexpectedly—confirms the importance of time, particularly when a disaster-related and fatal consequence occurred almost two decades after the explosions.

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