It was Lois Jenson, an electrician's helper, who finally brought a legal challenge to what she claimed was pervasive sexual harassment in the taconite mine here. She and 20 other women miners filed a class-action lawsuit in 1988 in federal district court in Minneapolis, naming as defendants the operators of the mine and Local 6860 of the United Steel Workers union.
For Jenson and Patricia Kosmach, who joined in launching the first-of-its-kind case establishing that workers could challenge sexual harassment in the workplace through class-action lawsuits, the noose was only one of many signs of what was to come. For the next eight years, as the women plaintiffs traveled back and forth to Minneapolis 250 miles away to testify in depositions and at trial, they encountered a backlash of anger, retaliation and sabotage from their co-workers. In the small towns where they lived, the women became pariahs.
Jenson and Kosmach were among the first women hired at the Eveleth mine in the mid-1970s, and they testified later that the sexual harassment began almost immediately. At first they didn't have any way to explain what was happening to them. Then Jenson saw an article about sexual harassment in a women's magazine and went to the library to learn more about her legal rights.
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