I love stories of women in history who saw something wrong or unjust in their local communities and bravely spoke out and fought for justice.
Dr. Elizabeth Hayes, also known as Dr. Betty, was one of those women, as she was a major influence in providing better working conditions for American coal miners.
Elizabeth was born in 1912 in Pennsylvania. Her mother was a housewife, and her father was Dr. Leo Z. Hayes, a physician with a history of advocating for coal miners at Shawmut Mining Company.
Elizabeth and her siblings decided to follow in their father’s footsteps as they got older and decided to practice medicine. After becoming a doctor, she briefly worked in Newfoundland before returning to Bennett’s Valley, Pennsylvania, in the early 1940s.
In 1943, after Elizabeth’s father passed away, she took over his role of being the physician for miners at the Shawmut Mining Company. She ended up treating and helping more people than she thought she would have to, as she was the assigned physician for the miners and soon became the only physician in the area.
Elizabeth spent years treating wounds, delivering babies, and offering treatments to thousands of people in the Bennett’s Valley area. During this time, she began to notice the terrible conditions coal miners had to work in and the overall poor living conditions for mining town residents.
There were terrible sewage issues, contaminated drinking water, and homes that were falling apart. Sewer water flowed throughout the town, even onto people’s front lawns where their children would play.
Determined to help the mining town community further, Elizabeth started contacting Shawmut executives, demanding they do something to help these people.
Elizabeth was often met with weak excuses for not improving these dangerous issues that were affecting the physical and mental health of these miners and their families, the most popular of which being that it would cost too much to fix everything.