Anna "Big Annie" Klobuchar Clemenc[a](1888 – 1956; pronounced "Clements") was an American labor activist. Born in Calumet, Michigan, she founded and served as president of the local Women's Auxiliary No. 15 of the Western Federation of Miners and was an active participant in the Copper Country Strike of 1913–1914. She is an inducted member of the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame.
Biography[edit | edit source]
Clemenc was born in 1888 in Calumet, Michigan, to George and Mary Klobuchar, and was the eldest of five children. Her parents were Croatian immigrants; George was employed in one of the Calumet and Hecla mines and Mary was a domestic worker.
Education[edit | edit source]
Clemenc graduated from the eighth grade at a school operated by the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company. She then began working with a local church giving aid to crippled miners and assisted her family financially by doing laundry. Because of her 6-foot-2-inch (1.88 m) height, Clemenc was commonly known as "Big Annie" and less commonly as "Tall Annie".
First marriage[edit | edit source]
At age eighteen, Anna married Croatian miner Joseph Clemenc. The only description of Joseph came from Anna's brother Frank, who stated that he was 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 m) tall and "quiet and mild-mannered." Following Joseph's repeated physical abuse of Anna and marital discord related to Joseph's alcoholism, the couple divorced around 1914.
Labor activism[edit | edit source]
In February 1913, Clemenc spearheaded the formation of the Women's Auxiliary No. 15 of the Western Federation of Miners in Calumet. On July 23, a miners' strike was called in Michigan's Copper Country. Clemenc frequently led marches in support of the miners wearing a plain gingham dress and carrying a large American flag on a ten-foot pole. In August, Clemenc led the funeral procession for Alois Tijan and Steve Putrich who died in the Seeberville Affair. On September 10, Clemenc and five other women stopped a man from going to work, whom they mistakenly believed to be a non-striker, and were arrested after fighting with deputies.
Clemenc was elected president of the auxiliary by December 1913.
Italian Hall disaster[edit | edit source]
Five months into the strike, Clemenc and the Women's Auxiliary planned a Christmas party to be held at Italian Hall in Calumet on December 24. About 500 children and 175 parents were in attendance in the second-floor hall when a false cry of "fire" was heard, leading to a stampede down the main staircase in what became known as the Italian Hall disaster. Over 75 died, most of them children. Carrying her flag, Clemenc led the funeral procession for the victims.
In Jail[edit | edit source]
In January 1914, Clemenc served a ten-day jail sentence for previously assaulting a non-striking miner. In February and March, she went on a lecture tour of the Midwest to raise funds for survivors of the Italian Hall disaster and to encourage workers to unionize.
Second marriage and daughter[edit | edit source]
After the tour, she moved to Chicago and married Frank Shavs. At the age of 26, she gave birth to her only child, Darwina. Little is known of Anna's later life; Anna worked two jobs making hats, Darwina lost her left arm in an automobile accident, and Frank became a "drunkard and a wife-beater". Clemenc died of cancer in Chicago in the summer of 1956 at the age of sixty-eight.[