Women were not recognized as full participants in the United States coal industry until late 1973, when a consent decree forced the steel industry to begin hiring women in the coal mines it owned for steel production, called captive mines. Although it is not widely known, women did mine coal in the first half of the twentieth century, whenever the need for their labor overwhelmed the tradition against it. These workers were largely undocumented; most labored in small contract operations as an invisible component of a family work unit. Some disguised their sex for fear of detection. Very few were publicly acknowledged or accepted by coal operators as part of an established workforce.
"Hard Labor: Voices of Women from the Appalachian Coalfields,"
Yale Journal of Law & Feminism:
2, Article 2.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yjlf/vol2/iss2/2