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Keywords:

  • Women;
  • class;
  • collective identity;
  • strikes;
  • politics;
  • gender;
  • social movements

This article investigates the intersections and tensions between two collective identities, those of class and gender, for working-class women involved in supporting the 1989–1990 strike against Pittston Coal Group in southwestern Virginia. In the case of this year-long (and ultimately successful) strike, women were organized by United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) staff in strike support activities, but they also sought to organize themselves as women. The tensions between their identity as members of the working class and their identity as women are revealed by examining their forms of activism, their relationship with the UMWA, the divisions between groups of activist women, and the articulation of women's involvement in the strike. The experiences of these women are briefly compared with women's activism in the 1984–1985 British Coal strike. The article concludes by arguing that collective identity is best understood as it emerges in response to specific contexts.