Clearing up the Big Annie story

To the editor:

I have been privileged with opportunities to reintroduce the story and legacy of Annie Clemenc to the Keweenaw. My initial plan was simple and minimal, but a quality representation developed with support from the community.

This letter is intended to clarify some of the inaccuracies from various reporting about the research and researchers in the related projects.

I included my cousin Lyndon Comstock (residing in California) in the research of Annie’s life, and I initiated him to the books and resources; the folks to communicate with; and to an inside understanding of who our audience is, and what ‘knowledge vacancies’ we need to fill. I scoured all the Keweenaw archives for the existing documents and periodicals that related to Annie’s life, contacting authors and communicating all this material and commentary to my (now widening) team.

The exhibit in the Coppertown Mining Museum is the direct result of my collecting and condensing all of the previously available material on Annie into a comprehensive archive exhibit of her involvement in the 1913 strike.

Included are some of the best photographs of Annie post-1914 that Annie’s great granddaughter, Anne Marie Kelly provided from her collection. They are published in Lyndon’s book, but the intriguing story of my involvement in the discovery of those lost photos has surprisingly not yet been chronicled. That story will be included in a publication of essays that I am writing – a woman’s story about a woman’s story.

The one and only bit of research that IS NEW in this exhibit is Annie’s presidency in the Slovenian society that Lyndon discovered (which is valuable to me personally as well, as my grandmother was found to be its treasurer).

The book that Lyndon compiled includes a wider researched expanse of material that surrounded Annie’s life. It also includes a couple of never-before-published studio photos of Annie provided to me by the KNHP. In discussing my plans for a portrait painting project (I completed) of Annie to donate to Calumet, the park honored me with scans of those photos that the archives had only recently acquired, to use in my portrait project. The park also granted permission to me to share those photos with Lyndon to use in the (then collaborative) publication that is now in print. One of those ‘new’ photos grace the cover of the book, which I felt would powerfully attract earned attention, and he apparently agreed.

Joanne Thomas