Support from America

Letter from Illinois Labor History Society

Letter from Illinois Labor History Society in solidarity with the Cork Mother Jones Festival

There has been a phenomenal growth of interest in Mother Jones in her native Cork and throughout Ireland since we first announced we would be commemorating her with the Cork Mother Jones festival which takes place from 31st July to 2nd August. There has also been growing interest in the event and in Mother Jones’ Irish roots across the Atlantic and we have had plenty of traffic on this site from the United States and Canada.

We have been heartened by the level of support and particularly by the latest letter we received this week from the Illinois Labor History Society. Below is the text of their message of support which was sent by email earlier this week:-

To the people of Cork from the Illinois Labor History Society

Dear brothers and sisters of working people,
We are most honored to lend our name and support, as the City of Cork honors a trail-blazing, pioneer of the American Labor Movement, Mary “Mother” Jones. Your city has bequeathed not only a leader, but a leader who has become an inspiring legend to the world labor movement.
Mary Jones knew oppression growing up. She knew the oppression of foreign rule; she knew the oppressions of hunger and poverty. Rather than allowing oppression to grind her and her family down, she learned that creative response sustains the human spirit and ignites the flame to light the way for hope.

Coming to America, she watched her father and brothers labor at low wages building railroads and canals. As a young mother, she watched her husband and children die from yellow fever in 1867 in Memphis, while the wealthy escaped from the river bottoms to higher ground. A widow, she came to Chicago watched a city destroyed by fire, even as working people suffered low wages, inadequate housing and a political system that denied their rights.
She finally said, “enough.” Her “enough” echoed across the American landscape for the next forty years. She became “Mother” Jones, the Mother who stood against child labor and for education. As an older woman, she traveled the nation, daring to go where few men were brave enough to tread. Her forthright stand and fiery speech awakened the ember of resistance, kindling bravery in working families as they stood up for their rights.

She faced gun barrels and prison cells, yet she never backed down. She knew the uplift of the working class would be the uplift of families like her own, moving them from the darkness of poverty to the light of possibility. Today she lies beneath the sod in Mount Olive, Illinois, with what she called her “brave boys,” miners gunned down as they defended their rights.

Thank you, Cork. Thank you for giving the world a woman of nerve, who never backed down and always stood up. We salute you as you salute her.
In solidarity,

Larry Spivack
Illinois Labor History Society
United States of America

Mother Jones Commemorative Coin

“Mother Jones Commemorative coin now in production! The Cork Mother Jones committee has decided to order a very limited number of specially designed coins for the Mother Jones 175th anniversary. As far as we know, this is the only such coin in existence so they should prove a collectors piece.They will be 50mm in dimension and it is hoped to sell them at a very reasonable price of €10 (plus post and packaging for orders by post); they will be on sale during the festival but if anyone wants to order one in advance ( at the moment we can only sell one per customer), they can do so by contacting Jim ( with customer’s name, address and  contact telephone number) at  – please put the word “coin” in the subject field of your email.

US campaign to put Mother Jones on postage stamp

An interesting story which appeared in the Huffington Post about a month ago regarding a new campaign that has been started in the United States to have Mother Jones commemorated on a postage stamp in her adopted country.

According to the article by author, playwright and former union activist David Macaray, a group of US labour activists and historians have got together and formed a campaign to put a Mother Jones stamp on millions of letters, postcards and parcels posted in the USA. Macaray argues that if Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and John Wayne could be featured on postage stamps, then why not Mother Jones?

The campaign is asking people, and particularly US citizens, to write to the US Postal Administration and ask for Mother Jones to be featured on a commemorative stamp in the near future.  It is a call we wholeheartedly endorse at the Cork Mother Jones Commemorative Committee.   As we’re at it, the same request could be put to the Irish postal authorities (An Post).  They even have an online form where suitable subjects and individuals who people think should be put on commemorative stamps can be suggested.     You can make that submission here.   There is a precedent for join stamp issues between the US and Ireland.  In the past identical stamps were issued simultaneously in the US and Ireland to mark the 150th anniversary of the Irish Great Famine.   Maybe we can make that a transatlantic campaign to put the head of Mother Jones on postage stamps on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean!

Mother Jones plaque takes shape

Mother Jones plaque

Mother Jones plaque – a work in progress by sculptor Mick WIlkins

The photo above shows the commemorative plaque to Mother Jones which will be unveiled on Wednesday, 1st August during the Cork Mother Jones festival.  This photo was taken some time ago when the bronze image of Mother Jones was in being cast.  This will be highly polished and will stand out from the main plaque.  Sculptor Mick Wilkins has done a marvellous job on the plaque and we hope to have some more photos soon of the finished product.  Of course the best place to see the plaque will be to attend the unveiling ceremony at John Redmond Street, Shandon at 7.30pm on August 1st.   There you will see history taking place as Cork finally remembers its rebel daughter Mary Harris Jone / Mother Jones.

Cork’s Mother Jones Festival launched at packed press conference

The Cork Mother Jones Festival was formally launched yesterday at a packed press conference at Shandon’s Maldron Hotel.

Between 50 and 60 people, including reporters, photographers, columnists and members of the Cork Mother Jones committee attended the press launch where the full line-up of events and acts was announced.

Committee member Jim Fitzpatrick said that there had been a phenomenal growth in public interest in Mother Jones since the committee had been formed last year and had announced its intention of formally commemorating a Cork woman who had made her mark on the social, political and labour history of the United States of America and indeed throughout North America.

Councillor Ted Tynan, whose 2010 motion to Cork City Council calling for official recognition to be given to Mary Harris Jones, said that the Cork woman, once practically unknown in her native city, would now be a well known icon of the city and of the Shandon area in particular.

The list of events and musical performances taking place during the July 31st to August 2nd Festival is quite impressive:-

The Firkin Crane will see the opening of a photographic exhibition, which details her life at 12.15 on Wednesday 1st August. This will be followed at 1pm by a concert featuring many local artists performing songs, poetry and extracts from the writings of Mother Jones. Later at 3pm, Professor Elliott Gorn of Brown University and Marat Moore a former miner and member of the United Mineworkers of America will give a talk on the historical significance of “the most dangerous woman in America”.

The Butter Exchange Band will perform some Mother Jones classic songs such as “She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain When She Comes”, “Union Maid” in a recital, just after the famous Bells of Shandon ring out at 18.37.

Following the formal unveiling of the plaque by members of the Cork Mother Jones Commemoration Committee, the evening’s entertainment will continue at 8.30 with a spectacular fundraising concert at St Anne’s Church, Shandon featuring Andy Irvine  (Tickets for the Andy Irivine concert can be got from any committee member or by phoning Ger on (086) 3196063 or Jim on (086) 3033576.

The Maldron Hotel will be the venue for the final musical event of the festival with a spectacular free concert featuring Hank Wedel, Two Time polka and a host of artists beginning at 9.30.

The previous evening’s “gathering” will see the Irish premiere of the film, “Mother Jones, the most dangerous woman in America” directed by Rosemary Feurer who will attend the launch also at the Maldron Hotel, followed by an evening of songs and music featuring the Cork Singers Club.

There will also be a bus tour for the guests and other interested people including a trip to Cobh from where Mary Harris emigrated with her family during the Great Famine and to Inchigeela where Mary Harris’s mother Ellen Cotter came from.  Bus tickets are €15 euro and can also be got from Ger on (086) 3196063 or Jim on (086) 3033576 or from any committee member.

The Manager of the Maldron Hotel, where much of the weekend’s events will be centred, said that the Mother Jones Festival would be an important boost to tourism in the Shandon which is a microcosm of the city’s history.  Michael Lally, who is also a member of the committee, said that the Mother Jones Festival, the redevelopment of the area and its wealth of historical assets was making the Shandon area a magnet for tourism.

Historian Richard T. Cooke agreed while Jim Nolan of the Shandon Street Festival said that the rediscovery of Mother Jones added new colour and diversity to the history and culture of the area.

Mother Jones featured on Irish genealogy magazine

Irish Lives remembered magazine

Mother Jones and the forthcoming Cork Mother Jones festival have been featured prominently in the latest edition of the Irish Lives Remembered genealogy magazine.   The emagazine can be viewed here:

The magazine can be viewed online or downloaded in PDF format and in addition to the Mother Jones articles provides a wealth of information and interesting features on Irish ancestry and related themes.

The appearance of the article on Mother Jones and several prominent articles in local and national newspapers and magazines is all sign of a growing interest in Mother Jones in her native Ireland and in particular in her native city of Cork where she has been heretofore practically unknown.