Centenary of Ludlow Massacre

The Ludlow Massacre, April 20th 1914.

To commemorate the centenary of the Ludlow Massacre Professor Jim Green of Massachusetts University will discuss the implications of this watershed event in American history at the 2014 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival which takes place at the Firkin Crane on Thursday evening 31st July.

Professor Green is the author of “Crime against Memory at Ludlow”, Labor: Studies of Working Class History in the Americas Vol 1 No 1 (Spring 2004). 

Armed agents of the Baldwin-Felts detective agency in their "Death Special" armoured car

Armed agents of the Baldwin-Felts detective agency in their “Death Special” armoured car

During the infamous and bitter Colorado mining strikes of 1913/14, Mother Jones had been imprisoned several times on the orders of General John Chase and Governor Elias Ammons. She had repeatedly entered the State to support the striking miners and had been imprisoned without trial or charge for almost three months. Mother Jones had become a lightning rod of agitation in Southern Colorado and following the threat of an order of habeas corpus order being made to Colorado’s Supreme Court, she was finally released in mid-April 1914. So weakened was this 76 year old woman after languishing in the rat infested Walsenburg Courthouse Jail that she left the State to recover.

The strike which was about union recognition, safety issues and wages continued and the miners’ camp at Ludlow, some 20km north west of Trinidad, which had been surrounded for several weeks by the Colorado National Guard and a private army of mine company hired thugs, began to fear the worst. With Mother Jones gone for the moment and with her the media presence, the mine owners felt they had a licence to sort out the miners.

As the miners had been evicted from their company houses at the beginning of the strike and lived in union tent camps many of them had dug caves underneath the tents to try and protect their families from the incoming bullets fired by these thugs who operated with impunity.

On Sunday April 19th the miners and their families gathered to celebrate Easter and the festivities continued all day. The following morning bullets began to pour into the camp and while the miners fought back they soon ran out of ammunition due to the prolonged nature of the attack. Many families fled to the pits to escape. Later that evening the guards and hired thugs invaded the camp itself and set fire to many tents and wrecked the community facilities. The courageous miners’ leader Louis Tikas was murdered by a Lieutenant Karl Linderfelt, whose later punishment was a mild reprimand.

The following morning, the full extent of the massacre unfolded, in one pit, the bodies of two woman and eleven children were uncovered, in all a total of 19 miners and their families lay dead.

The miners across southern Colorado revolted and as guerrilla warfare erupted, dozens died in what was the largest civil insurrection in the United States since the Civil War. President Woodrow Wilson ordered in the US Army to restore an uneasy peace.

Easter Sunday 2014 is the centenary of the infamous Ludlow Massacre, whose very name and slogan “Remember Ludlow” still resonates across the history of labour and union struggles. The original Ludlow monument erected in 1916 which included a man, a woman and a child representing a mining family was badly damaged in 2003 by anti-union vandals, it has since been repaired. The site of the original Tent Colony is now a US National Historic Landmark.

“I thank God for the Mine Workers Union and then I hung my head and cried”

Woody Guthrie from his 1941 ballad, “Ludlow Massacre”.

Mother Jones joins Irish American Hall of Fame

Mother Jones inducted into the Irish American Hall of Fame
ImageMJ Hall of Fame 1

Mother Jones was inducted into the Irish American Hall of Fame on Saturday, April 22, 2014. ILHS President Larry Spivack and Margaret Fulkerson proudly accepted the award for her. The Irish Galway Crystal vase will be placed in her exhibit at the Irish American Heritage Center.

Mother Jones inducted into Irish American Hall of Fame

Induction of Mother Jones to the Irish American Heritage Center Hall of Fame.

On behalf of the Cork Mother Jones Committee which organises the annual Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in the Irish city of the birthplace of Mary Harris, I wish to congratulate the Irish American Heritage Center on selecting Mother Jones for induction to Irish American Heritage Center Hall of Fame.

Irish American Hall of Fame award

Irish American Hall of Fame award

Mary Harris was born in this city of Cork in 1837 and was baptised at the North Cathedral on 1st August in that year. As a young girl she witnessed and experienced appalling scenes of poverty hunger and disease in the streets and lanes of Cork city culminating in the deaths of many thousands in the Great Hunger of the Irish Famine from 1846 to 1848.

Like millions of other Irish, she and her family emigrated from Ireland to find a new and better life in the New World. In spite of the tragedy of losing her entire family in Memphis and later her business in the Chicago fire, she began again her new life working to protect the poor and oppressed, to oppose child labour and to defend American workers’ rights at an age when many people simply opt for a quiet life.

Her indomitable courage, her resilience, her fiery oratory and her rage against the prevailing system and working conditions which left millions of miners and other workers living in poverty and exploitation encapsulate all that is good, admired and valued in community and society.

Her robust defense of workers and their families, many of whom were Irish immigrants who had already fled similar living conditions in Ireland represents the true rebel spirit of the Irish Nation and Diaspora.

Mary Harris Jones was a truly inspirational figure, as an elderly woman operating in a male working world she stood out as an extraordinary woman, revered as a “Mother” by countless thousands of miners and marked out as “the most dangerous woman in America” by others, her legacy as a hell raiser remains as a source of pride to many.

In her native city of “Rebel Cork”, the growing reputation of Mary Harris is a source of immense hope and solidarity for Cork people. This is especially relevant now as our young people are again emigrating and working families are struggling for decent lives in Ireland.

Real figures from history such as Mary Harris, who sought a “grander civilisation” demonstrate that we too must now embrace the incredible compassionate and activist spirit of Mother Jones to build our country based on the principles of fairness, justice, freedom and equality as espoused by this courageous woman.

For too long Mother Jones has remained in the margins of consciousness, a victim of the lesser explored recesses of history. She is at last emerging from these shadows in both Ireland and America as new generations of young people seek her relevance and wonder at her powerful message to “pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”

The Cork Mother Jones Committee salutes the Irish American Heritage Society for your splendid foresight in selecting this proud Cork woman for inclusion in the Irish American Hall of Fame.

We take immense pleasure that you have chosen to honour Mary Harris Jones in this magnificent manner and we trust that her unique fighting spirit will once again take its rightful place and permanent place as a symbol of human courage in adversity and as a practical reminder of the solid American and Irish bonds which exist among working people.

Sincerely yours in solidarity,

Gerard O’Mahony,
Coordinator, the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival,
Cork Mother Jones Committee.