Mother Jones….. US National Mining Hall of Fame Inductee 248.

Mary “Mother” Jones picture from 1901

Mother Jones…..National Mining Hall of Fame Inductee 248.

On September 14, 2019 Mother Jones was inducted into the National Mining Hall of Fame in Leadville, Colorado.

According to its website….

“The National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum is a monument to the memory of the men and women who pioneered the discovery, development, and processing of our nation’s natural resources. Our mission is to “tell the story of mining, its people, its importance to the American public, and to society’s sustainability.”  Known as the “Smithsonian of the Rockies” and the “Premier Showcase of American Mining” the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum houses 25,000 square feet of interactive and informative exhibits sharing the evolving narrative of mining and its relationship to our everyday lives.”

Mother Jones is Inductee 248.

The National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum at Leadville, Colorado, USA

Her induction citation read as follows;

Mary Harris “Mother” Jones is one of the most famous labor activists in the cause of economic justice. Her battle cry, “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living,” truly said it all.  Her powerful speeches and knack for theatrics encouraged many to form unions and strike for fair wages and safe working conditions. Known as the “Miner’s Angel” for her advocacy on their behalf, Mother Jones’s activism set the stage for the labor and safety laws we all benefit from today. A champion of the working class, she organized numerous miners’ strikes against low pay, 12-hour days, 7-day work weeks, extreme mortality rates, and child labor, and railed against the servitude of company stores and company housing.  When she began organizing for the United Mine Workers Union in the 1890s, it had 10,000 members; within a few years, 300,000 men had joined.  Hearing Jones speak, you discovered the secret of her influence – she had force, she had wit, and above all she had the fire of indignation. Mother Jones’s impassioned work is recognized in the National Women’s Hall of Fame, U.S. Department of Labor’s Hall of Honors, and the Irish American Hall of Fame. 

National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum

The historian and sociologist James Loewen (Author of Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything your High School History Textbook Got Wrong) criticised the National Mining Hall of Fame a few years ago for inducting mostly white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant men, who were disproportionately engineers, executives and wealthy mine owners. Where were the miners, Loewen asked, where the immigrants and workers of colour, the labour organisers, the women.  Why was there no commemoration to the thousands who died in the mines?

Mother Jones biographer Prof Elliot Gorn at last year’s Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in Cork, Ireland

Elliott Gorn, author of Mother Jones – The Most Dangerous Woman in America, who spoke at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in Cork in 2019 stated

The Mining Hall of Fame has become a bit more inclusive in recent years, a little more attuned to worker exploitation, safety and environmental issues.  Hopefully, the inclusion of Mother Jones signals that the Hall of Fame will continue to pay more attention to the issues she long agitated about.”

Mother Jones visits Calumet, Michigan in August 1913

Mother Jones arrives at Calumet, Michigan in August 1913.

Mother Jones visits Calumet, Michigan in August 1913.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is very grateful to Jeremiah Mason, Archivist of the National Parks Service, Lake Superior Collection Management Centre at Keweenaw National Historical Park at Calumet in Michigan for providing the Cork Mother Jones Committee with a collection of five photographs of Mother Jones.

These show her arriving and taking part in a march in the town of Calumet in August 1913 to support an ongoing strike by the copper miners of the Western Federation of Miners (WFM).

Mother Jones greeted bylarge crowds as she arrives by car with local strike leaders

These photos from August 1913 show the sense of excitement, expectation and colour in the town at the arrival of 76 year old Mother Jones. She is surrounded by male union leaders and local dignitaries. The look of wonder in some of the workers standing close to Mother Jones gives the impression of the legendary status and reverence in which she is held by miners. Mother Jones herself appears very serious and quietly determined amidst the phalanx of union men. She addressed the workers later at a mass meeting in the town.

Mother Jones (in car) leads march of strikers through Calumet, Michigan, August 1913

The wider context of these rare photos (in addition to the earlier Michigan Technological University photos on this site) is even more important as 1913/14 was the period of the Coal Wars and of frenetic activity by Mother Jones, who was at the height of her fame. Earlier in 1913, she had been very active in the West Virginia miner strikes, which had turned violent.

Mother Jones arrives with union leaders

Mother Jones was arrested by the military, court-martialled and jailed. Detained from 12th February until 8th May 1913, she was as defiant as ever when released and continued working to support the miners, addressing a meeting at Carnegie Hall in New York on 27th May 1913.

Following this August visit to Calumet, she proceeded to Colorado to actively support the United Mine Workers of America in the year long strike. During this period she was deported by the militia from Trinidad, Colorado and imprisoned twice, for a two month period and later for 23 days in          Walsenburg in appalling conditions in a dark basement cell.

On release she made speeches in Boston, New York, Washington, Seattle and British Colombia and even found time to travel south to El Paso on the Mexican border to prevent the introduction of scab labour from Mexico. She testified in Washington before House Committee on Mines and Mining.

While she was in Washington, the massacre at Ludlow on April 20th 1914 took place.  Women and children were burned to death following the local militia setting fire to the miners tent colony established during the strike.

Over 70 people died during and after Ludlow and President Woodrow Wilson dispatched Federal troops to the region to prevent civil war breaking out. Mother Jones had called for the Federal Government to take over the mines. This was rejected by President Wilson, who subsequently made proposals to settle the strikes, she urged the miners to accept the proposals.

Mother Jones (seated in car) leads the parade in support of striking copper miners

Mother Jones, although by then almost 77 years old worked constantly to assist and provide support to “her boys”. She had attained legendary status among workers everywhere and was feared by the authorities and mine owners.

These photos show the huge impact of her arrival to help the union in “Copper Country”.

Our thanks to Jeremiah Mason and all at Calumet.

The photographs are courtesy of the National Parks Service, Lake Superior Collection Management Centre at Keweenaw National Historical Park in Calumet.