Times Change
part: 1 2 3

Lynn Sterle with daughter Briana - Photo by Stephanie Hemphill

Lynn Sterle gathered some friends who had worked with her in the mines and met with Nikki Caro, along with Charlize Theron, Woody Harrelson, and other actors. "We told them we don't want to be 'Fargo' again," she says. "We don't want to come off as backwards people."

They got together and talked over dinners; they sat around a bonfire and toasted marshmallows. The people from Hollywood wanted to understand the people from the Iron Range.

Lynn Sterle and her friends shared their stories.

Sterle remembers one night soon after she started working at the Sherman mine. She was working a midnight shift out in the pit, giving directions to the trucks dumping waste rock. A foreman she'd never met before came out in a pickup truck to give her a ride to the plant for a bathroom break.

"I got in the truck, and he went for a minute to talk to the guy I was working with. He gets in the truck and says, 'I'll take you for a tour.' It's pitch black. He was taking me on these back roads; there was nothing there. It was weird."

She was only 19. But she didn't panic. "I said, 'I don't think my father would appreciate this.'" Her father was a foreman at the mine. The man turned back to her work site. "When I got back, the guy I was working with said they'd been trying to call him on the radio. He'd had the radio turned off in the truck. And before we left he'd asked my co-worker if I was on the pill."

The next night, the same man came again to take her to the bathroom. "I said, 'Don't pull that again. If you do, I’ll just go talk to my dad and he’ll handle it.”

Lynn Sterle was studying to become a teacher. But in the summer of 1975, when she was back at home, her dad told her the mines were hiring women. The federal government had forced some of the big steel companies to hire and promote minorities and women. There weren't many minorities living on the Iron Range, and U.S. Steel began hiring women at its mines.

"I told my dad, 'Whatever -- I'll give it a try.' And I started on my 19th birthday."

At first, it overwhelming. "Living up here, as a child, you're very aware that folks work in the mines, but you don't have any idea what your dad did. It was scary," she says. "The immenseness of the equipment, the noise, the trains running, the rocks coming down the conveyer belts, the constant droning. It makes you tired after eight hours a day."

Next: part 2

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