Viking, Minnesota

Rural Reflections Radio

Lisa and I recently went to the movies. We rent more often than go to the theatre but this was a nice exception. The movie we saw was “Northcountry” and I want to tell you about it.

Northcountry deals with life in the mines of Minnesota’s Iron Range during the late eighties. Specifically with Josie Aimes who leaves an abusive husband, returns to her home in Northeastern Minnesota and finds work on the Mesabi Iron Range. Charlize Theron play Aimes who along with her other female co-workers is harassed and even physical abused by the men of the mines. Josie Aimes then files the first class-action lawsuit for sexual harassment and forces the mining company to protect the women and their right to a safe work environment.

The true story behind “Northcountry” is Lois Jenson who currently lives in Babbitt, Minnesota. Lois Jenson began work in the taconite mines in 1975. Many of her fellow male co-workers felt threatened by women in the workplace and so made work absolute hell for the ladies. Somewhere along the way Jenson decided she’d had enough and filed the lawsuit that changed things on the iron range then across the nation. The movie is a dramatized story of what actually took place and sometimes consolidates the experiences of many women in the mines into the character Josie Aimes.

I liked the movie, it really moved me. I have known several men from the iron range and found them to be great guys. Lois Jenson even demanded that the good guys in the mines be represented in the movie along with the bad. I’ve listened and read several interviews that also revealed the terrible actions of the some of these miners. It made me think of how people will justify terrible acts. The women in the mines were the same women employees of the mine saw at company picnics. They were treated with kindness and respect in this surrounding but found just the opposite in the mines. Some would say that these men had never worked with women before and didn’t know how to act. It brings a phrase to my mind, “just act like you would in front of your wife or mother and you’ll always be fine.” It’s too bad nobody explained this before those ladies found work in the taconite mines.

The bad thing about the movie “Northcountry” is the reason kids should see it is the reason they shouldn’t see it. There is violence and abuse that I couldn’t stand to watch but the violence is such an integral part to an important story. It carries an “R” rating because of the violence and language. The movie is very inspirational as the main character never gives up but rather pursues her dream of respect from the community, her own home and a safe place to work. All she had to do to attain these simple goals was file and win her own class-action lawsuit.