Stunning New Biography Brings American Labor History
Alive And Up Close For Young Readers
SPOKANE, Wash. – From the author of critically acclaimed Pure Grit: How American World War II Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific comes the incredible story of labor activist Fannie Sellins.
In Fannie Never Flinched: One Woman’s Courage in the Struggle for American Labor Union Rights (Abrams Books for Young Readers, Nov. 1, 2016), Mary Cronk Farrell combines vivid prose, primary research and historical photos to reveal the life and death of one woman who helped pave the way for labor reform in the United States, illuminating the hard work, courage and spilled blood underlying the benefits many American workers enjoy today.
When immigrant women earning poverty wages in St. Louis sweatshops voted to strike, Fannie Sellins was there. When destitute coal mining families dared to unionize in West Virginia – and got thrown from their homes – Fannie was there. When hired
gunmen threatened, beat and shot miners walking the picket line in Pennsylvania, Fannie was there.
In August 1919, when miners struck Allegheny Coal and Coke in Western Pennsylvania, mine operators would have paid any price to get rid of Fannie. They even threatened to kill her, but Fannie refused to stop her work helping strikers and their families. One muggy afternoon, violence broke out on the picket line and a crowd of people saw company gunmen shoot Fannie down in cold blood. Young people will learn that her killers never paid for their crime and how such injustice could happen in America.
Fannie Sellins (1872-1919) lived during the Gilded Age of American Industrialization, when men like Andrew Carnegie and J. P Morgan lived lives of luxury while their workers spent long hours laboring for poverty wages.
Fannie Never Flinched, for ages 9 and up, portrays the life of an ordinary American girl who grew up in a time like today – a time of rapid change and economic crisis that called for extraordinary leadership.
An Interview with
Mary Cronk Farrell
I first ran across Fannie Sellins during a Google search in 2005. I knew immediately that I had to find out more about her and write her story. I was so curious about how she got the courage to stand up against such powerful forces and risk her life, how she came to care so passionately for poor women and children, and how she found the strength to spend so many years fighting with working families to better their lives.
It wasn’t as much that Fannie died for a cause she believed in that inspired me, but her courage, compassion and commitment to hang in there against such odds and work so hard for such a long time. Fannie’s story helped me see that even if I can’t do something big and heroic, it’s still important to look around me and be aware of injustice in my community. If I’m aware people are hurting or in need, then I can decide how best to act with compassion. Fannie inspired me to believe that I can make a difference in my own way.
I actually wrote this book fairly quickly once I had a fair grasp of the research, but for years, I couldn't find a publisher for Fannie's story. I kept getting the same rejection. Nobody's ever heard of Fannie Sellins. We can't sell a book about a woman nobody knows. But I could not let go. I believed that Fannie's story would inspire young people as much as it had inspired me. And I’m so grateful that Abrams Books for Young Readers shares my enthusiasm for uncovering this long-lost history and getting it into the hands of both children and adults. Once I had a contract for the book, which was seven years after I had started working on it, then I jumped into the research again. At that point, I uncovered new documents that helped me hone the story and improve its accuracy. So in the end, Fannie’s story will be published 10 years from the time I started working on it.
My research started with secondary sources, books and articles that had been written about Fannie and interviews with people who had already researched the topic. Those helped me get the basic facts of the story and gave me clues about where to look for more information. Many important details came from newspaper accounts of events Fannie took part in, for instance, the quotes from Fannie when she spoke at the rally in West Virginia came from an article written by a reporter who heard Fannie speak. I discovered other details in court records stored at the National Archives and Records Administration. I learned about Fannie’s children through census records and though I tried for many years to locate descendants, I was never able to locate any living family members.
The book is a great read for anyone who loves American history, and women’s history in particular. Fannie did what was considered a man’s job long before women were accepted in many professions, and she was very successful at it. It’s being marketed as a book for middle grade students, but since very little has been written about Fannie Sellins, I think older students and adults who haven’t heard about her would also enjoy the book.
FANNIE NEVER FLINCHED
One Woman’s Courage in the Struggle for American Labor Union Rights
Mary Cronk Farrell Ÿ Releasing Nov. 1, 2016 Ÿ Abrams Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 978-1-4197-1884-7 Ÿ $19.95 (hardcover)
Biography Ÿ Women’s History
Biography Ÿ Women’s History