Category Archives: Women’s History

On Dark and Bloody Ground

Now for sale from West Virginia University Press! This set of oral histories from 1972 circulated for many years as an informal typescript volume, acquiring an almost legendary status among those intrigued by the subject. Key selections appear here for the first time as a published book, supplemented with introductory material, maps, educational resources, and photographs. Published to coincide with the celebration of the Blair Mountain Centennial in 2021, the book includes a preface by me and an afterword by Cecil E. Roberts of the United Mine Workers of America. All proceeds benefit the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum.

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Out of the Fire

Next year, West Virginia University Press will publish a rare 1973 manuscript, On Dark and Bloody Ground: An Oral History of the West Virginia Mine Wars, by Anne Lawrence, with a Foreword by me and an Afterword by none other than Cecil E. Roberts, President of the United Mine Workers of America. I’m pretty excited to share this treasure with the world! It will include some excellent maps and a few photos as well. Not to mention that Anne has graciously offered to donate all proceeds to the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum, where we work to preserve the archives and testimony of local communities affected by these early 20th century battles for unionization in the Central Appalachian coalfields.

“The difference working in a non-union mine and a union mine was like jumping out of the fire into a cool stream of water. Before it was every dog eat dog. When you go into anything collectively, everybody is striving to do the same thing. That’s the only way you can have peace in the coal fields.” –Kelly Buchanan, retired UMWA miner from Matewan, WV

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Kudzu Punks

Larah Helayne (left) wears a Girls Rock Whitesburg shirt while holding a banjo and a protest sign at the Blackjewel blockade in Cumberland, Kentucky. Helayne visited the blockade to show support for the protesting miners and their families. (Photo by Lou Murray)

I’m an editor at Inside Appalachia, a weekly themed radio program based at WV Public Broadcasting. We recently published a story that I’m particularly proud of, produced by folkways reporter Nicole Musgrave. The story follows two campers at Girls Rock–a summer music camp in Whitesburg, KY, for female, gender-fluid, non-binary, and trans youth–as they discover how the rich Appalachian tradition of protest music sung by women maintains its relevance today.

On the surface, songs like Florence Reece’s labor anthem, “Which Side Are You On?”–which draws on the ballad and old-time music traditions–might not seem to have much in common with the punk tradition that inspire many Girls Rock campers and organizers. But there’s more in common than meets the ear. Listen here…

Georgia Review

The writer Jessica Smith graciously reviewed The Book of the Deada new edition of Muriel Rukeyser’s famous poem cycle about the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel Disaster–for The Georgia Review:

Admirers of Muriel Rukeyser have been waiting for a reprint of The Book of the Dead, long out of print, and West Virginia University Press’s new edition does not disappoint. Of course, it’s exciting to have Rukeyser’s seminal hybrid poetic work of social justice in its own affordable softcover volume (with French flaps!), but the great surprise for fans and scholars of Rukeyser is Catherine Venable Moore’s extended introductory essay, which comprises the first half of this volume.

Read the full review…

Millay Colony

This October, I’ve been in residence at the Millay Colony in Austerlitz, NY, working on my book. Once the home of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, it’s now a place for writers and artists to come for intense periods of work and wonder, punctuated by long wanderings through the meadows, hills, and forests of Steepletop, Millay’s gorgeous estate in the foothills of the Berkshires.

White with daisies and red with sorrel
   And empty, empty under the sky!—
Life is a quest and love a quarrel—
   Here is a place for me to lie.

(from “Weeds,” Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1921)

Glamour

I wrote a short piece for Glamour magazine’s September issue, published alongside the voices of women in Arizona, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Florida, speaking about the issues that will decide their vote ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. “I’m a Woman in a Battleground State. Here’s What Politicians Don’t Understand About Me.” For the record: I don’t hate the city where I started my Ph.D. That was an error introduced in the editing process, over which I had limited control. 😉

Two Reviews

Two review-essays prompted by WVU Press’s recent reprint of Muriel Rukeyser’s 1938 poem cycle, The Book of the Deadto which I wrote an introduction…

Los Angeles Review of Books, I Wake Up Choking,” by Maggie Messitt:

The Book of the Dead is a story about race. It’s about industry. It’s about being held accountable and the right to a safe workplace. But, to me — like so many Great Depression narratives — it’s about wealth and power and the ways in which that has trumped humanity and justice across time.

The Paris Review, Muriel Rukeyser, Mother of Everyone” by Sam Huber:

We often lament our porosity to the world’s data as a uniquely contemporary curse. Rukeyser imagines it instead as a capacity we might cultivate, no easier for having been attempted before by others like her, from whom we are lucky to learn, and by many more who will not be preserved or restored. So often in her poems, Rukeyser is both student and teacher.

Taylor Books Reading March 1

Wrapping up a series of readings for the re-issue of Muriel Rukeyser’s poem collection, The Book of the Dead, by West Virginia University Press. One more chance to catch a reading here in the region, and this one should be pretty special. I’ll be joined by several descendants of Hawks Nest Tunnel silicosis victims, who will read from Rukeyser’s work. I’ll also read a bit of my nonfiction essay that introduces the new edition of the book. March 1, 5:30-7:00 PM. Visit the event page for details.

Works In Progress

In September 2017, I sold two nonfiction books to Random House. One is about the history and legacy of the Battle of Blair Mountain; the other is an essay collection. Here’s the announcement from Publishers Marketplace:

University of Montana MFA graduate, Best American Essays 2017 writer and producer of public radio documentaries Catherine Venable Moore’s two works of narrative non-fiction set in Appalachia, exploring events in the past of America and of that region, from the violent West Virginia Mine Wars and the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921, up to the politics of today, to Kate Medina at Random House, in a pre-empt, by Meredith Kaffel Simonoff at DeFiore and Company (World English). UK rights: decronin@penguinrandomhouse.com . Translation: linda@defliterary.com.

Best American Essays

The Book of the Dead“—my essay on the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel Disaster and the poet Muriel Rukeyser from the Fall 2016 issue of Oxford American—will be included in the The Best American Essays 2017. One of my favorite writers, Leslie Jamison, edited this year’s collection. From the publisher’s listing:

The best-selling essayist Leslie Jamison picks the best essays from hundreds of magazines, journals, and websites, bringing her incredible ability to “stitch together the intellectual and the emotional with the finesse of a crackerjack surgeon” (NPR) to the task.

Crackerjack! Preorder your copy