Packinghouse Daughter: A Memoir
Packinghouse Daughter merges personal memoir and public history to tell a compelling story about family loyalty, small-town life, and working-class values in the face of a violent labor strike in 1959. The daughter of a Wilson & Company packinghouse worker, Cheri Register recalls the meatpackers’ strike that devastated and divided her hometown of Albert Lea, Minnesota.
The violence that erupted when the company "replaced" its union workers with strikebreakers tested family loyalty and community stability, and attracted national attention when the governor of Minnesota called in the National Guard, declared martial law, and closed the plant. Register skillfully interweaves her own memories, historical research, and first-person interviews of participants on both sides of the strike into a narrative that is thoughtful and impassioned about the value of blue-collar work and the dignity of those who do it. Packinghouse Daughter also testifies to the hold that childhood experience has on personal values and notions of social class, despite the upward mobility that is the great promise of American democracy.
American Book Award Winner
Minnesota Book Award Winner
- By: Cheri Register
- Format: Cloth, 288 pp., 5 1/2
- Publisher: MNHS Press
- Product ##: 9780873513913
CHERI REGISTER is a writer and teacher of creative writing. The opening chapter of Packinghouse Daughter was cited as a "Notable Essay" in Best American Essays 1996. Other excerpts have appeared in Hungry Mind Review, the University of Chicago Magazine, and the book, Is Academic Feminism Dead? Her other books include Living with Chronic Illness: Days of Patience and Passion and "Are Those Kids Yours?": American Families with Children Adopted from Other Countries.
Praise for Packinghouse Daughter:
"Cheri Register, in her lovely, deeply moving memoir, has done more than resurrect a buried history of America's laboring people; in this instance, the bitter 1959-60 Wilson & Co. packinghouse strike in Albert Lea, Minn. At a time in which the two major party candidates for President appealed to the "middle class," as though there were no other, Register gives rebirth to an old honored phrase in our daily vocabulary: working class. Yes, she is a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy), but to me and, I hope, scores of thousands of readers, she is a Ph.D. (Packinghouse Daughter). This is must reading, especially for the young who have so long been short-changed in the knowledge of labor history." — Studs Terkel
"Packinghouse Daughter is a treat—a big good-tempered, rich, personal and public memoir of a labor family. We see everything in the author’s amazing memory and from her fascinating later research. Best of all, her story-telling style is second to none. Without ever sounding a shrill note her book reminds us that we don’t want to be indifferent to what happens in the places where people go to work." — Carol Bly, author of Letters from the Country and My Lord Bag of Rice
"The word ‘class’ has all but dropped out of public conversations here in America, where everyone dreams of becoming rich. Yet class divisions continue to shape our politics, our culture, and our minds, as Cheri Register demonstrates in this lively, lucid memoir. With a dignity and bite reminiscent of other great chroniclers of blue-collar life in the Midwest—Carl Sandburg, Meridel Le Sueur, James T. Farrell, Upton Sinclair—she reminds us of the labor that goes into every bite we eat, every garment we wear, every house we inhabit. Clearly, much skillful and loving labor has gone into this engaging book. May it find a wide audience." — Scott Russell Sanders, author of Staying Put and Hunting for Hope
More Information about this book: