Montana Historical Society

Big Sky ~ Big History

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Minda McAnnally

Born in Wisconsin in 1898, McAnnally’s family moved to Glendive in 1905, where her father worked for the Northern Pacific Railroad as a switchman. During the war, McAnnally worked for the Northern Pacific as a telegraph operator. Her job took her across eastern Montana and North Dakota—including to Miles City, Glendive, and Richardton. Her work was essential; railroads were the primary means of transportation and vital for national security. In December 1917, the U.S. government temporarily nationalized the railroads to ensure the efficient movement of troops and material. It also set wages and prohibited strikes. Listen to hear McAnnally discuss her wartime memories, including:

  • Her sympathy for the Western Union Pacific Railroad Company’s striking telegraph operators (They Couldn’t Fight the Government)
  • The preferential treatment given to troop trains and the possibility of sabotage by “German spies” (Everything Was Hush-Hush)
  • Her encounter with an Industrial Workers of the World “spy” in Miles City (You’re Not a Hobo, You’re an IWW)
  • Her experience in Miles City during the outbreak of the Spanish Flu (The Doctors Couldn’t Begin to Keep Up with It, Gauze and Listerine, and The Hearse Was Always Going By)
  • The welcome—or lack thereof—Montanan veterans received upon returning from France (Broken in Body and in Spirit)

Click here for transcripts of the clips below.

Minda P Brownell McAnnally, Interview by Laurie Mercier, April 24, 1983, Glendive, MT, for the Montanans at Work Oral History Project, OH 528, Montana Historical Society Archives. 2 audio tapes (1 hour, 40 minutes) and summary.

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