Goodbye Wifes and Daughters


Goodbye Wifes and Daughters

Susan Kushner Resnick

262 pages
16 photographs


March 2010


$34.95 Add to Cart

March 2011


$19.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

March 2010


$19.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

One morning in 1943, close to eighty men descended into the Smith coal mine in Bearcreek, Montana. Only three came out alive. “Goodbye wifes and daughters . . .” wrote two of the miners as they died. The story of that tragic day and its aftermath unfolds in this book through the eyes of those wives and daughters—women who lost their husbands, fathers, and sons, livelihoods, neighbors, and homes, yet managed to fight back and persevere.
Susan Kushner Resnick has uncovered the story behind all those losses. She chronicles the missteps and questionable ethics of the mine’s managers, who blamed their disregard for safety on the exigencies of World War II; the efforts of an earnest federal mine inspector and the mine union’s president (later a notorious murderer), who tried in vain to make the mine safer; the heroism of the men who battled for nine days to rescue the trapped miners; and the effect the disaster had on the entire mining industry. Resnick illuminates a particular historical tragedy with all its human ramifications while also reminding us that such tragedies caused by corporate greed and indifference are with us to this day.

Author Bio

Susan Kushner Resnick is the author of Sleepless Days: One Woman’s Journey through Postpartum Depression. She has been a journalist for twenty-five years; her work has appeared in The Best American Essays, the New York Times Magazine, Boston Magazine,, Parents Magazine, and Utne Reader.


"Few accounts have ever done justice to the women, families and communities of coal towns, or depicted their character with such clarity as this book does. The heartrending and yet, in the end, inspiring portraits of actual people willing to battle against a callous industry are skillfully rendered."—Gordon Simmons, Charleston Gazette

"Resnick does an admirable job of breathing life into the story of a small town's demise and its questioning of whether the disaster could have been avoided."—Lisa Bonos, Washington Post

"Those who enjoy reading history and about the perseverance of the human spirit will not soon forget this story of the tragedy that left fifty-eight women widowed and 125 children fatherless."—Robin Rarrell Edmunds, ForeWord

"Ms. Resnick writes about a tougher time, of miners who sensed they were in danger but went into the mine anyway, determined to feed their families and keep the coal coming. . . . This story will never be told better."—David Crisp, Billings Outpost

"Goodbye Wifes and Daughters weaves together a narrative about death and survival that provides a fascinating window into the underground coal-mining industry during World War II. Most importantly, the book is filled with the stories of people—including those of the Wakenshaw, Mourich, Anderson, and Freeman families—that place the Smith Mine disaster squarely in a context not previously known." Jon Axline, Montana, the Magazine of Western History

"What makes Resnick's book significant . . . is her account of the people of Bearcreek, the miners and their families. Her treatment of the actions of surviving women, and their relentless determination to get answers and justice, not only humanizes our understanding of the tragedy and its aftermath, it vividly illustrates the strength and courage of ordinary people living and working in a coal mining community."—Gordon Simmons, Charleston Gazette

Table of Contents



Prologue: The Centennial

1. The Romance

2. The Inspection

3. The Teenagers

4. The Union

5. The Mice

6. The Notebook

7. The Explosion

8. The Panic

9. The Rescuers

10. The Travelers

11. The Wait

12. The Games

13. The Beloved

14. The Good-byes

15. The Grief

16. The Clues

17. The Exodus

18. The Inquest

19. The Blame

20. The Crash

21. The Survivors




2010 Independent Publisher Book Awards’ gold medal winner, Nonfiction West-Mountain region
2011 Montana Book Awards, honor book
2011 Western Writers of America Spur Awards, finalist, Best Contemporary Nonfiction category
2011 High Plains Book Awards, winner, Best Woman Writer category

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