Anna Clemenc

Anna Clemenc

Anna Klobuchar Clemenc
Smiling woman with an American flag
Photograph of Anna Clemenc in a newspaper publication on February 28, 1914
Born Anna Klobuchar
Calumet, Michigan
Died 1956 (aged 67–68)
Chicago, Illinois
Other names "Big Annie"
Height 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Children Darwina

Anna "Big Annie" Klobuchar Clemenc[1] (1888 – 1956; pronounced "Clements"[4]) 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 1
    • Education 1.1
    • First marriage 1.2
    • Labor activism 1.3
      • Italian Hall disaster 1.3.1
    • Second marriage and daughter 1.4
  • Legacy 2
  • Notes 3
  • References 4
  • Works cited 5
  • External links 6


Clemenc was born in 1888 in Calumet, Michigan, to George and Mary Klobuchar, and was the eldest of five children.[5] Her parents were Croatian immigrants; George was employed in one of the Calumet and Hecla mines and Mary was a domestic worker.[4]


Clemenc graduated from the eighth grade at a school operated by the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company.[4][6] She then began working with a local church giving aid to crippled miners and assisted her family financially by doing laundry.[4] Because of her 6-foot-2-inch (1.88 m) height, Clemenc was commonly known as "Big Annie" and less commonly as "Tall Annie".[7]

First marriage

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."[8] Following Joseph's repeated physical abuse of Anna and marital discord related to Joseph's alcoholism, the couple divorced around 1914.[9]

Labor activism

In February 1913, Clemenc spearheaded the formation of the Women's Auxiliary No. 15 of the Western Federation of Miners in Calumet.[4] On July 23, a miners' strike was called in Michigan's Copper Country.[10] 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.[11] In August, Clemenc led the funeral procession for Alis Tijan and Steve Putrich who died in the Seeberville Affair.[12] 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.[13]

Clemenc was elected president of the auxiliary by December 1913.[14]

Italian Hall disaster

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.[13] 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.[15] Over 75 died, most of them children.[16][17] Carrying her flag, Clemenc led the funeral procession for the victims.[18]

Clemenc carrying her flag and a head shot

In January 1914, Clemenc served a ten-day jail sentence for previously assaulting a non-striking miner.[19] 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.[20]

Second marriage and daughter

After the tour, she moved to Chicago and married Frank Shavs. At the age of 26, she gave birth to her only child, Darwina.[21] Little is known of Anna's later life; Anna worked two jobs making hats,[21] Darwina lost her left arm in an automobile accident, and Frank became a "drunkard and a wife-beater".[22] Clemenc died of cancer in Chicago in the summer of 1956 at the age of sixty-eight.[3][22]


Contemporary accounts of Clemenc referred to her as an "American [25] June 17, 1980, was declared Annie Clemenc day in Michigan.[22] A portrait of Clemenc with her flag was commissioned by the Michigan Women's Studies Association and painted by Andy Willis.[3][25] It was unveiled in the Michigan State Capitol on June 17, 1980, and later transferred to the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame.[6][25] She was the first person nominated for the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame, was inducted in 1996, and is one of three women included on the Hall of Fame medallion.[6][22] A sign commemorating her induction into the hall of fame stood at the site of the now demolished Italian Hall, but it was removed at some point.[26][27]


  1. ^ Her last name has been misspelled as "Clemens",[1] "Clements",[2] "Clemence", and "Clemenec".[3] In addition, she signed her first name at least once as "Ana".[2]


  1. ^ "Rioters Arrested; One a Woman". Reading Eagle. October 1, 1913. p. 15. Retrieved November 10, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Thurner 1994, p. 343.
  3. ^ a b c Wendland 1986, p. 7.
  4. ^ a b c d e Stanley 1996, p. 27.
  5. ^ Engle 1999, p. 17.
  6. ^ a b c "Anna Clemenc". Michigan Women's Historical Center & Hall of Fame. Retrieved October 20, 2012. 
  7. ^ Wendland 1986, p. 4.
  8. ^ Stanley 1996, pp. 27–28.
  9. ^ Comstock, Lyndon (2013). Annie Clemenc and the Great Keweenaw Copper Strike. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. pp. 110, 125 et seq.  
  10. ^ United States Department of Labor 1914, p. 42.
  11. ^ Stanley 1996, p. 31.
  12. ^ Stanley 1996, p. 51.
  13. ^ a b Engle 1999, p. 19.
  14. ^ Stanley 1996, p. 66.
  15. ^ Hoagland 2010, p. 220.
  16. ^ Harrington 1975, p. 1.
  17. ^ Harrington 1975, p. 6.
  18. ^ Stanley 1996, p. 74.
  19. ^ Stanley 1996, p. 82.
  20. ^ Stanley 1996, pp. 82–83.
  21. ^ a b Stanley 1996, p. 93.
  22. ^ a b c d e Stanley 1996, p. 94.
  23. ^ Stanley 1996, p. 53.
  24. ^ Cochran, N. D. (October 8, 1913). "A Heroine Whose Name is not Found in the Society Columns". The Day Book (Chicago). p. 1. Retrieved October 31, 2012. 
  25. ^ a b c Michigan House of Representatives 1980, p. 1804.
  26. ^ Hoagland 2010, p. 228.
  27. ^ Hauglie, Kurt (December 23, 2013). "Big Annie Focus of Coppertown Exhibit". The Daily Mining Gazette. 

Works cited

  • Engle, Diana Paiz (July–August 1999). "Standing Tall With Big Annie". Michigan History: 16–19. Retrieved October 20, 2012. 
  • Harrington, Kevin (1975). "Italian Hall" (PDF). Historic American Buildings Survey. National Park Service. HABS No. MI-425. Retrieved June 24, 2012. 
  • Hoagland, Alison K. (2010). Mine Towns: Buildings for Workers in Michigan's Copper Country. University of Minnesota Press.  
  • Michigan House of Representatives (1980). "House Concurrent Resolution No. 772". Journal of the House of Representatives of the State of Michigan 2. 
  • Stanley, Jerry (1996). Big Annie of Calumet: A true story of the Industrial Revolution. Crown Publishers.  
  • Thurner, Arthur W. (1994). Strangers and Sojourners: A History of Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.  
  • United States Department of Labor (1914). Strike in the copper mining district of Michigan: Letter from the secretary of labor, transmitting in response to a Senate resolution of January 29, 1914, a report in regard to the strike of mine workers in the Michigan copper district which began on July 23, 1913 (Report). Government Printing Office.
  • Wendland, Michael F. (April–May 1986). "The Calumet Tragedy".  

External links

  • Image of Anna Clemenc from the Michigan Tech Archives