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.
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,
Coordinator, the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival,
Cork Mother Jones Committee.