93-year-old picketer remembers the H.W. Gossard strike on its 70th anniversary

ISHPEMING, Mich. (WLUC) - Friday April 12th marks the 70th anniversary since the four month HW Gossard strike in Ishpeming.

The strike effected nearly 600 workers and 93-year-old Elaine Peterson remembers the strike as if it was yesterday.

"5 am we showed up, it was colder than heck."

Elaine Peterson had just turned 23 on April 12th 1949 when she and her fellow workers took up their signs and formed a picket line around the Gossard building.

"Of course the non-union members they all came in a bunch tried to break through our line," said Peterson. "There was pushing and shoving and nasty words but we stuck by it."

From April to August the workers 'stuck by it' fighting for better wages, benefits, working conditions and equality in the workplace.

"I wanted that contract and I wanted women’s lib to go on to speak up and to make a stand."

Elaine even was one of 25 workers that were arrested over the picketing.

"The manager was trying to take work out of the building to bring to the Gwinn plant and there was a bunch of us blocking the car from going around."

But getting arrested wasn’t the only highlight of the picket line.

"Elaine’s boyfriend proposed to her on the picket line," said Sandra Arsenault, the current manager of Gossard Building.

"I got my diamond on the picket line and married him two days after the strike was settled," laughed Peterson.

The strike ended in August of 1949 with a settlement an equivalent wage increase of six cents per hour, union security and arbitration and seniority provisions.

Now 70 years later, Peterson only wants one thing for others take away from her story.

"Woman’s lib," Peterson firmly stated.

The current owner of the Gossard building, Sandra Arsenault agrees and thanks Peterson for paving the way for women.

"Women today, the ones that are graduation from college and having the jobs that they have today a lot of it came from this generation 70 years ago that stood up for themselves," said Arsenault.

Currently Arseault is collecting names, pictures articles and artifacts from the times at Gossard to keep the rich history alive so the strength of women like Peterson can be shared.