Making a Living

Work and Environment in the United States

By Chad Montrie

192 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5878-3
    Published: May 2008
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-7764-7
    Published: January 2009
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-7957-8
    Published: January 2009

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In an innovative fusion of labor and environmental history, Making a Living examines work as a central part of Americans' evolving relationship with nature, revealing the unexpected connections between the fight for workers' rights and the rise of the modern environmental movement.

Chad Montrie offers six case studies: textile "mill girls" in antebellum New England, plantation slaves and newly freed sharecroppers in the Mississippi Delta, homesteading women in the Kansas and Nebraska grasslands, native-born coal miners in southern Appalachia, autoworkers in Detroit, and Mexican and Mexican American farm workers in southern California. Montrie shows how increasingly organized and mechanized production drove a wedge between workers and nature--and how workers fought back. Workers' resistance not only addressed wages and conditions, he argues, but also planted the seeds of environmental reform and environmental justice activism. Workers played a critical role in raising popular consciousness, pioneering strategies for enacting environmental regulatory policy, and initiating militant local protest.

Filled with poignant and illuminating vignettes, Making a Living provides new insights into the intersection of the labor movement and environmentalism in America.

About the Author

Chad Montrie is assistant professor of history at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and author of To Save the Land and People: A History of Opposition to Surface Coal Mining in Appalachia (from the University of North Carolina Press).
For more information about Chad Montrie, visit the Author Page.


"Perfect for the undergraduate classroom. . . . Provides readers new to both labor and environmental history with a succinct introduction to the ways in which American workers across divisions of race, class, and gender used ideas of nature, physical labor within the natural world, and outdoor recreation to negotiate, buffer, and resist the transition from rural to urban life, from preindustrial to industrial labor."--American Historical Review

"Makes meaningful contributions to the integration of labor history and environmental history. . . . Montrie's skilled use of secondary and primary sources enriches every chapter."--Journal of Southern History

"A valid and important contribution to the development of a relatively less explored area of environmental history."--Environment and History

β€œA solid collection of case studies. . . . will no doubt appear on reading lists in both environmental and labor history courses.”--Journal of Appalachian Studies

β€œMaking a Living offers a place to begin talking about the historical relationship of workers and work to the environment.”--Journal of American Studies

"By illuminating the entanglement of past labor and environmental struggles, [Montrie] not only successfully challenges disciplinary boundaries but also shows that there are important precedents for contemporary efforts to unite labor and environmental activism."--Journal of American History