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The woman who faced down the mob and championed a union

Min Matheson Brought Her Transformative Vision to an Unlikely Corner of America


Labor leader Min Lurye Matheson made her name facing down the mob. She arrived in Northeast Pennsylvania in 1944, dispatched by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, or ILGWU, to organize the hard-pressed garment workers of the Wyoming Valley anthracite coal region. Here, in towns with deep mob roots such as Pittston, she soon observed first-hand “the system,” an election day practice in which women signed the polling roster but had their husbands cast their votes—all under the watchful eye of authorities controlled by Russell Bufalino, the gangster depicted in Martin Scorsese’s 2019 filmThe Irishman.

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