Gala planned for ‘Big Annie’ statue

KNHP Archives C& H Capello Strike Album #161 [Anna Clemenc Studio Portrait] Anna “Big Annie: Klobuchar Clemenc poses for a studio portrait with the 6-foot by 4-foot American flag she carried during strikers’ parades in Calumet during the 1913-14 Copper Miners’ Strike.

CALUMET — For over a year now, a group known as the Team Annie Committee has been raising community awareness of Anna “Big Annie” Klobuchar Clemenc, along with raising funds for a bronze statue of Clemenc, to honor her contributions to the early 20th century labor movement in Calumet. The committee’s goal is to raise $150,000 for the statue, and includes a gala dinner at the Calumet Theatre Ballroom on June 22.

Vada Riederich, chairwoman of the Team Annie Committee, formed under the umbrella of the Keweenaw Community Foundation as a special project, said that while many people in the local community are aware of the name “Big Annie, few are aware of what she did.

Clemenc is honored on the state and national level, Riederich said, but not recognized locally where she was active in promoting organized labor.

“Many books have been written,” Riederich said, “songs and poems written, theater productions, dance dramas, presentations and documentaries have been created to tell her story. Annid Klobuchar Clemec should not be forgotten locally.

Born in Calumet, Michigan to Slovenian immigrant parents in 1888, Anna Klobuchar Clemenc’s father, George, was a miner for the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company. At age 18, Anna married Slovenian immigrant miner, Joseph Clemenc.

In July 1913, local members of the labor organization, Western Federation of Miners, launched a district wide strike that involved nearly every mining company in the Copper Country. She founded and served as president of the Women’s Auxiliary No. 15 of the Western Federation of Miners, serving jail time and suffering with ostracization due to her efforts.

“She was an activist when labor unions were just being formed around the country,” Riederich said. “She led thousands of striking miners for nine months, speaking out for fair wages, job safety and social justice when women had no vote and no voice.”

Clemenc was affectionately known as “Big Annie,” because at six feet, two inches tall, she towered over most of the miners she led in strike parades.

In 1980, the Michigan House of Representatives declared June 17th “Annie Clemenc Day.” She is one of three women featured on the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame Medallion, along with Sojourner Truth and Anna Howard Shaw, representing women’s early struggle for economic justice. Clemenc was the first woman inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.

On July 26, 2013, 100 years and three days after the initiation of the strike, Clemenc was inducted into Labor’s International Hall of Fame, at the Calumet Visitor Center.

The gala, scheduled for June 22, beginning at 5 p.m., features an ethnic Slovenian dinner, complemented by the unveiling of an official “Big Annie” signature cocktail, featuring whisky by Iron Fish Distillery. Guest speaker, Steve Lehto, author of “Death’s Door” will offer insights, enriching the evening with stories and reflections. A silent auction will give guests a great opportunity to bid on exclusive items throughout the evening.

Highlights of the gala include the first look at a juried art rendition of the “Big Annie” statue and the availability of exclusive T-shirts designed by Lynn Mazzoleni. Enjoy the original song “Annie” by Penny Menze and cap off the night with entertainment by the Keweenaw Brewgrass Band.


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