Mary Murphy's Butte oral history project, 1980-1981  PDF  XML

Overview of the Collection

Murphy, Mary 1953-
Mary Murphy's Butte oral history project
1980-1981 (inclusive)
24 interviews
Collection Number
OH 098
From 1980-1981, Mary Murphy, working with Helen Bresler, conducted a series of labor history oral history interviews with a variety of Butte, Montana, working-class residents. The interviewees ranged from miners, grocers, waitresses, boarding house keepers to a blacksmith, union agent and nurse.
University of Montana, Mansfield Library, Archives and Special Collections
Archives and Special Collections
Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library
University of Montana
32 Campus Dr. #9936
Missoula, MT
Telephone: 406-243-2053
Fax: 406-243-4067
Access Restrictions

Researchers must use collection in accordance with the policies of Archives and Special Collections, the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, and The University of Montana-Missoula.


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Born in 1953, Mary Murphy received her B.A. from University of Massachusetts at Boston in 1977 and her M.A. and PhD from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1983 and 1990 respectively. She joined the Montana State University's Department of History and Philosophy in 1990.

Murphy's most recent book, Hope in Hard Times: New Deal Photographs of Montana, 1936-1942, received the Montana Book Award for 2003. The book, drawing on more than 140 Farm Security Administration photographs, looks at Montana during the Great Depression. Murphy also wrote, Mining Cultures: Men, Women, and Leisure in Butte, 1914-41, published in 1997. She co-edited Montana Legacy: Essays on History, People, and Place, published in 2002, as well as dozens of book chapters, peer-reviewed articles and book reviews. She has lectured across the country on Western mining history, women in the West and history of the Great Depression. She has served as historical advisor on numerous films and museum exhibits.

Murphy teaches courses in American history, women in the West, the American West, social and cultural history and a variety of upper-level seminars at Montana State University in Bozeman.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

From 1980-1981, in a grant project funded by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Mary Murphy, working with Helen Bresler, conducted forty-seven oral history interviews with twenty-four Butte, Montana, working-class residents. The interviewees ranged from miners, grocers, waitresses, and boarding house keepers to a blacksmith, union agent and nurse. A few highlights within the topics are Montana and the Anaconda Company, mining, unions, recreation, and ethnic variety in Butte. At the time of the interview project, Mary Murphy was a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Researchers are responsible for using in accordance with 17 U.S.C. and any other applicable statutes. Copyright transferred to the University of Montana-Missoula.

Preferred Citation

[Name of document or photograph number], Mary Murphy's Butte Oral History Project, Archives and Special Collections, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, The University of Montana-Missoula.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Custodial History

Most interviews were recorded by Mary Murphy or Helen Bresler before deposit in Archives & Special Collections.

Acquisition Information

The interviews were deposited at the Archives as a group by Mary Murphy upon completion of the project.

Processing Note

A few interviews were transcribed before deposit, but the bulk of the interviews were transcribed by Archives & Special Collections personnel.

Related Materials

The Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives in Butte, Montana, also holds audio cassette copies of these interviews.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Description Dates
OH 098-1 and 2: Interview with Donald A. Calder
Sound Recording, audio cassette, analog
Transcript, 19 leaves
Donald A. Calder describes his family’s life in Butte, Montana. His father, a tailor from Scotland, moved to Butte in 1894. Calder explains his own WPA work until 1942 and his early years in the blacksmith trade. He discusses the blacksmith’s union workings and its eventual early 1960s merger with the boilermakers. Calder discusses some ethnic divisions in Butte.
19 June 1980
OH 098-3, 4, 5, and 6: Interview with Raymond F. Calkins
Sound Recording, audio cassette, analog
Transcript, 43 leaves
Raymond Calkins discusses his experiences living and working in Montana and some of the neighboring states. A graduate of the University of Montana-Missoula he describes his employment with the Forest Service and in logging. After that he moved to Butte, Montana, where he worked as a mine draftsman for the Anaconda Company. He recounts the 1946 miners strike and surrounding events from his perspective as non-Union worker. He recounts many anecdotes of life and culture in Butte, Missoula, and Montana, and in the woods.
14 May 1980
OH 098-7 and 8: Interview with Elizabeth Christy
Sound Recording, audio cassette, analog
Transcript, 26 leaves
Born in Missoula, Montana, Elizabeth Christy moved to Butte, Montana, as a young child and recalls growing up there. She talks about mining, the Depression, Butte nightlife, the old Columbia Gardens, parades, and the Ringling Brothers circus coming to town. In 1923 she married Matt Christy and together they owned and ran a grocery store on the corner of Granite and Crystal streets in Butte. She also discusses her adult social life, describing parties and changing fashions. She ends by talking about her grandfather, who helped build the Greenough House in Missoula, and her grandmother who was a Reorganized Latter-Day Saint.
13 May 1980
OH 098-9 and 10: Interview with Matt Christy
Sound Recording, audio cassette, analog
Transcript, 30 leaves
Matt Christy (original Christovitch) describes his life and work in the grocery store business from his start as a clerk to his ownership of multiple stores in Butte, Montana. He recounts various aspects life in Butte including the mines, business, economics, relationships amongst ethnic groups, prostitution, entertainment, holidays, and religion. He describes cultural and attitude shifts he witnessed amongst the local population during his life. An immigrant from Yugoslavia as a boy, he describes a return trip there and compares that and other global locations that he visited to each other and to Butte and America.
13 March 1980
OH 098-11 and 12: Interview with Blanche Averett Copenhaver
Sound Recording, audio cassette, analog
Transcript, 28 leaves
Copenhaver describes life working as a waitress through the West, her move to Butte, Montana in 1937, her discovery of the benefits of unions, a 1948 strike and her appointment to Executive Board of the union. While she was initially a member of the Women's Protective Union, it merged with the AFL, prior to that union's merger with the CIO. She describes her in involvement on various union boards, Status of Women Committee, her term as president of the union, and the role of women in unions and the labor force.
13 March 1980
OH 098-13: Interview with Agnes (Mattson) Cramer
Sound Recording, audio cassette, analog
Transcript, in process
Cramer describes growing up in boarding houses where her mother worked in Butte, Montana, and later meeting her husband in a boarding house in 1929. She continued to work in boarding houses after marriage up until 1945 when boarding houses were disappearing. Also describes childhood in Butte, going to Columbia Gardens (amusement park) and Lake Avoca.
28 March 1980
OH 098-14 and 15: Interview with Margaret Cunningham
Sound Recording, audio cassette, analog
Transcript, in process
Cunningham tells stories about growing up in Butte, Montana, working as a clerk, the Depression, WPA projects, and social life. She describes areas in Butte including Walkerville, Centerville, String Town, and Butcher Town.
24 April 1980
OH 098-16: Interview with James Curtin
Sound Recording, audio cassette, analog
Transcript, 21 leaves
Curtin first describes the unique in-home style wake for his uncle who was a secretary of the Wobblies. He tells about working in Butte, Montana, mines including the work itself, the dangers, and the conflict between mining laborers and the hegemonic power of the Anaconda Company. He also describes his large family, and family life and the problems they faced during the Depression.
8 April 1980
OH 098-17 and 18: Interview with Perdita E. Duncan
Sound Recording, audio cassette, analog
Transcript, in process
:Duncan describes growing up African-American in Butte, Montana, and discrimination against adult blacks in employment and social activities in high school. She mentions her father, a podiatrist, treating many white patients. She describes attending Oberlin College, the first college to admit African-American women, a long career in the law department of the New York City Department of Social Services, and writing reviews as a music critic for a New York newspaper. She returned to Butte to care for her mother in 1969.
18 March 1980
OH 098-19: Interview with Marjorie Dunstan
Sound Recording, audio cassette, analog
Transcript, in process
Dunstan describes growing up in Butte, Montana, the Columbia Gardens, being part of the Norwegian community and preserving that Scandinavian heritage. She discusses unions and her viewpoint that unions ruined Butte.
23 April 1980
OH 098-20 and 21: Interview with Aili Maki Goldberg
Sound Recording, audio cassette, analog
Transcript, in process
Goldberg describes growing up in the Finnish community in Butte, Montana, where her mother worked as a cook in boarding houses to support her three children. Goldberg explains how boarding houses operated, changes from the 1920s up to the 1950s when they nearly disappeared and the different kinds of foods offered and cooked. She describes other kinds of women’s work and unions in Butte.
22 March 1980
OH 098-22, 23, and 24: Interview with Clarence Goldberg
Sound Recording, audio cassette, analog
Transcript, 51 leaves
Goldberg begins by describing how his parents emigrated from Sweden to the United States and finally to Butte, Montana. Goldberg details his work history; but he especially provides insight into the life and work of a miner, along with information on the development of Butte’s mining industry, health and safety conditions, and organized labor. Goldberg’s anecdotes place the life of the miner in the broader cultural context of Butte as it existed in the first half of the 20th century. He recalls stories pertaining to a wide variety of aspects of life in Butte, including bootlegging, prostitution, and local business.
22 March 1980
OH 098-25: Interview with Richard P. Grace
Sound Recording, audio cassette, analog
Transcript, in process
Richards talks about the different sports teams in Butte and watching them play. He also talks about how the Butte mine workers participated in these sports teams. He discusses the Anaconda Company’s role in Butte and its influence in the Montana Legislature.
OH 098-27 and 28: Interview with Chester Kinsey
Sound Recording, audio cassette, analog
Transcript, in process
Chester Kinsey describes coming to Montana as a teenager and living mostly in the Havre and Great Falls area. Kinsey explains his lifelong belief in socialism, is a self-declared communist, and a full union supporter. He describes his work in the Farmer’s Union, Mine-Mill, and Progressive party. Kinsey explains the workings of the Farmer’s Union, the ethnic divisions, and internal problems.
14 April 1980
OH 098-29 and 30: Interview with Margaret Lemm
Sound Recording, audio cassette, analog
Transcript, in process
Lemm describes growing up in the McQueen section of Butte, Montana, her father who worked in the mines, and her education in Butte including nurse’s training at St. James beginning in 1929. Lemm stopped nursing when she married Robert Lemm in 1930 and resumed special duty nursing in 1942. She also discusses the Montana Nurses Association, the short-lived Butte Nurses Union, and her experiences in different kinds of nursing
9 May 1980
OH 098-31 and 32: Interview with Anna Marinovich
Sound Recording, audio cassette, analog
Transcript, in process
Marinovich describes her mother’s immigration from Yugoslavia to Anaconda, Montana, as a mail-order bride. She discusses her family and living in Butte, Montana, during the early 1900s.
28 May 1980
OH 098-33 and 34: Interview with Helen B. McGregor
Sound Recording, audio cassette, analog
Transcript, in process
McGregor describes growing up in Butte, Montana, her experiences helping her father in his veterinary practice, various ethnic groups, the red lights district, miners and strikes, and economic changes in Butte. She also explains her education, being a speech and drama student at the University of Montana in Missoula, teaching speech in Butte, and the importance of speech and teaching in education and later life.
16 April 1980
OH 098-35: Interview with Dorothy Melvin
Sound Recording, audio cassette, analog
Transcript, in process
: Melvin describes how her parents met and married after moving to Montana. She talks about going to high school in Butte, Montana, and the ethnic diversity of the town.
16 May 1980
OH 098-36 and 37: Interview with Robert Melvin
Sound Recording, audio cassette, analog
Transcript, 25 leaves
Melvin describes his Irish parents, growing up in Butte, Montana, and his father’s mining and union experience. He explains working in the CCC during Great Depression and later working in a mine. He describes the work, the benefits of the unions, the organization of The Company (Anaconda Company), and the mining accident that took his leg and the side of his face
17 April 1980
OH 098-38 and 39: Interview with Maurice (Sonny) Powers
Sound Recording, audio cassette, analog
Transcript, in process
Powers describes growing up in Butte, Montana, and having to work at age nine after his father passed away. He provides anecdotes about his family and about life in Butte.
17 April 1980
OH 098-40 and 41: Interview with Stephen Reardon
Sound Recording, audio cassette, analog
Transcript, in process
Reardon describes his father’s work through the years from serving as a soldier during World War II to working as a mechanic for Butte, Montana, mine motor generators, and as a troubleshooter in the Butte mines.
April 1980
OH 098-42, 43, and 44: Interview with Henry Stanley
Sound Recording, audio cassette, analog
Transcript, in process
Stanley discusses Butte, Montana, labor history.
11 August 1981
OH 098-45 and 46: Interview with Alice Smith
Sound Recording, audio cassette, analog
Transcript, in process
Smith describes some of the buildings in Butte, Montana, that her father, an architect, designed. She discusses growing up in Butte during the 1920s and 1930s.
11 August 1981
OH 098-47: Interview with Val Webster
Sound Recording, audio cassette, analog
Transcript, in process
Webster describes growing up in a real union family in Butte, Montana. She recalls her experiences as waitress, waiting on the miners, and joining the Women’s Protective Union in 1929. She was the recording secretary in 1936 and then its business agent for 16 years. She describes her experiences as a union agent negotiating with restaurants, hotels and chains.
8 May 1980

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Speech--Study and teaching-- Montana--Missoula
  • Immigrants--Montana--Butte--Interviews
  • African American families--Montana--Butte
  • African American women--Montana--Butte--Interviews
  • Amusement parks--Montana--Butte
  • Amusements--Montana--Butte
  • Architects--Montana--Butte
  • Architecture--Montana--Butte
  • Blacklisting, Labor--Montana--Butte
  • Blacksmithing--Montana--Butte
  • Blacksmiths--Labor unions--Montana--Butte
  • Blacksmiths--Montana--Butte--Interviews
  • Boardinghouses--Montana--Butte
  • Boardinghouses--Montana--Butte--Employees--Interviews
  • Business agents (Labor union officials)--Montana--Butte--Interviews
  • Business enterprises--Montana--Butte
  • Child labor--Montana--Butte
  • Children--Montana--Butte
  • Children--Montana--Butte
  • Circus--Montana--Butte
  • Communists--Montana--Interviews
  • Community life--Montana--Butte
  • Cooking--Montana--Butte
  • Copper miners--Montana--Butte
  • Corporations--Political activity-- Montana
  • Depressions--1929--Montana--Butte
  • Discrimination in employment--Montana--Butte
  • Drafters--Montana--Butte--Interviews
  • Dwellings--Montana--Missoula
  • Ethnic groups-- Montana-- Butte
  • Families--Montana--Butte
  • Farmers--Labor unions--Montana
  • Farmers--Montana--Interviews
  • Farmers--Political activity--Montana
  • Finnish American women--Montana--Butte--Interviews
  • Finnish Americans--Montana--Butte
  • Grocers--Montana--Butte--Interviews
  • Grocery trade--Montana
  • High schools--Montana--Butte
  • Holidays--Montana--Butte
  • Immigrants--Montana
  • Industrial relations--Montana--Butte
  • Irish American copper miners--Montana--Butte
  • Irish Americans--Montana--Butte
  • Labor union members--Montana--Butte--Interviews
  • Labor union members--Montana--Interviews
  • Labor unions--Montana--Butte--Officials and employees--Interviews
  • Labor movement--Montana--Butte--History
  • Labor unions--Montana--Butte
  • Labor unions--Montana--Butte--Public opinion
  • Logging--Montana
  • Mail order brides-- Montana-- Anaconda
  • Mechanics (Persons)--Montana--Butte
  • Milkmen--Montana--Butte
  • Mine accidents--Montana--Butte
  • Miners--Labor unions--Montana--Butte
  • Miners--Labor unions--Organizing--Montana--Butte
  • Miners--Montana--Butte--Interviews
  • Miners--Recreation--Montana--Butte
  • Mines and mineral resources--Montana--Butte
  • Mining corporations--Montana--Butte
  • Mining machinery--Montana--Butte
  • Musical criticism--New York (State)
  • New Deal, 1933-1939--Montana
  • Norwegian American women--Montana--Butte--Interviews
  • Norwegian Americans--Montana--Butte
  • Nurses-- Montana-- Butte
  • Nurses--Labor unions-- Montana-- Butte
  • Nursing-- Montana-- Butte
  • Nursing-- Montana--Societies, etc.
  • Nursing--Study and teaching--Montana--Butte
  • Outdoor life--Montana--Anecdotes
  • Parades--Montana--Butte
  • Podiatrists--Montana--Butte
  • Prostitution--Montana--Butte
  • Public works--Montana
  • Recreation--Montana--Butte
  • Red-light districts--Montana--Butte
  • Retired teachers--Montana--Butte--Interviews
  • Scottish Americans--Montana--Butte--Interviews
  • Socialism
  • Speech--Study and teaching--Montana--Butte
  • Sports teams--Montana--Butte
  • Strikes and lockouts--Miners--Montana--Butte
  • Swedish Americans--Montana--Butte
  • Swedish Americans--Montana--Butte--Interviews
  • Tailors--Montana--Butte
  • Veterans--Montana--Butte
  • Veterinarians--Montana--Butte
  • Veterinary medicine-- Montana--Butte
  • Waitresses--Montana--Butte--Interviews
  • Waitresses--West (U.S.)--Interviews
  • Wake services--Montana--Butte
  • Women clerks (Retail trade)--Montana--Butte--Interviews
  • Women employees--Labor unions--Montana--Butte
  • Women labor union members--Montana--Butte--Interviews
  • Women music critics--New York (State)--Interviews
  • Women teachers-- Montana-- Butte
  • Women cooks--Montana--Butte
  • Women--Employment--Montana--Butte
  • Women--Montana--Butte--Interviews
  • World War, 1939-1945--Veterans--Montana--Butte
  • Yugoslav Americans-- Montana

Personal Names

  • Calder, Donald A., 1917-1988--interviewee (interviewee)
  • Calkins, Raymond F., 1910-1981--interviewee (interviewee)
  • Christy, Elizabeth, 1903-198-- interviewee (interviewee)
  • Christy, Matt, 1895-1985--interviewee (interviewee)
  • Copenhaver, Blanche Averett, 1900-1995--interviewee (interviewee)
  • Cramer, Agnes Mattson, 1910-1995--interviewee (interviewee)
  • Cunningham, Margaret E. 1906-2002--interviewee (interviewee)
  • Curtin, James Andrew, 1910-2005-- interviewee (interviewee)
  • Duncan, Perdita, d. 1985--interviewee (interviewee)
  • Dunstan, Marjorie Knoyle, 1924- --interviewee (interviewee)
  • Goldberg, Aili Maki, 1916-2007-- interviewee (interviewee)
  • Goldberg, Clarence, 1900-1981-- interviewee (interviewee)
  • Grace, Richard P., 1911-1996-- interviewee (interviewee)
  • Greenough, Thomas L., 1851-1911--Homes and haunts--Montana--Missoula
  • Kinsey, Chester, 1913-2006--interviewee (interviewee)
  • Lemm, Margaret R., 1906-1988--interviewee (interviewee)
  • Marinovich, Anna C., 1901-1994--interviewee (interviewee)
  • McGregor, Helen B., 1903-1989--interviewee (interviewee)
  • Melvin, Dorothy, 1918-1982--interviewee (interviewee)
  • Melvin, Robert E., 1914-1989--interviewee (interviewee)
  • Powers, Maurice, 1909-1992--interviewee (interviewee)
  • Reardon, Stephen--interviewee (interviewee)
  • Reardon, Stephen J.(Stephen James)--1888-1968
  • Smith, Alice, 1924-2009--interviewee (interviewee)
  • Stanley, Henry, 1902- --interviewee (interviewee)
  • Stefanac, Agnes Rauh
  • Webster, Val,--1913-1993--interviewee (interviewee)

Corporate Names

  • Anaconda Company
  • Women's Protective Union (Butte, Mont.)
  • Anaconda Company--Employees--Interviews
  • Anaconda Company--Politicial activity--Montana
  • Butte Nurses Union
  • Civilian Conservation Corps (U.S.)
  • Greenhough House (Missoula, Mont.)
  • Industrial Workers of the World
  • International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers
  • Montana Farmers Union
  • Montana Nurses' Association
  • Montana. Legislature
  • New York (N.Y.). Dept. of Social Services. Officials and employees--Interviews
  • Oberlin College--Alumni and alumnae--Interviews
  • Progressive Party (U.S. : 1948)
  • Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
  • Ringling Brothers
  • St. James Hospital (Butte, Mont.)
  • United States. Forest Service--Officials and employees--Interviews
  • United States. Work Projects Administration
  • University of Montana--Missoula--Alumni and alumnae--Interviews

Family Names

  • Goldberg family--Anecdotes
  • Powers family--Anecdotes

Geographical Names

  • Anaconda (Mont.)--History
  • Avoca, Lake (Mont.)
  • Butcher Town (Butte, Mont.)
  • Butte (Mont.)--Anecdotes
  • Butte (Mont.)--Buildings, structures, etc.
  • Butte (Mont.)--Economic conditions--20th century
  • Butte (Mont.)--History--20th century
  • Butte (Mont.)--Race relations
  • Butte (Mont.)--Religious life and customs
  • Butte (Mont.)--Social life and customs--20th century
  • Centerville (Silver Bow County, Mont.)
  • Columbia Gardens (Butte, Mont.)
  • Great Falls (Mont.)--History--20th century
  • Havre (Mont.)--History--20th century
  • McQueen (Butte, Mont.)--History
  • Missoula (Mont.)--Buildings, structures, etc.
  • Missoula (Mont.)--History--20th century
  • Montana--History--20th century
  • Montana--Politics and government--20th century
  • String Town (Butte, Mont.)
  • University of Montana--Missoula--Alumni and alumnae--Interviews
  • Walkerville (Mont.)

Form or Genre Terms

  • Interviews--Montana
  • Oral histories--Montana

Other Creators

  • Personal Names
    • Bresler, Helen--interviewer (interviewer)
    • Murphy, Mary, 1953- --interviewer (interviewer)