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.
The Spirit of Mother Jones Festival is proud to welcome Dave Hopper, General Secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association, and Secretary of the National Union of Miners (North East Area), which he represents on the National Executive Committee of the NUM.
Dave has been involved all his life in mining, he began as a coal miner before becoming active in the union. He played an active role in the Miners’ Strike in 1984/85 and witnessed the events at Orgreave on 18th June 1984.
He will speak about the impact of the 1984/85 Miners’ Strike and explain the significance of the Durham Miners Gala.
The Durham Gala.
The first Gala was held on 12th August 1871 and was organised by the Durham Miners. It is the largest annual organised gathering of workers in Europe. Miners from various National Mineworkers Union branches march behind their lodge or village banners and their colliery brass bands. Over 100, 000 can take part in the event, it has survived the virtual demise of the coal industry and goes from strength to strength.
The focal point is at the County Hotel at Old Elvet in Durham, where various processions of workers converge before heading to the Racecourse for speeches and a festival for all the family.
The Gala is a festive, colourful expression of union, socialist and working class traditions and takes place each year on the second Saturday of July in Durham. The Durham Gala at its core is about the expression of identity of mining communities, its resplendent and unique banners represent and display the heart and soul of the nobility of union membership and social and community solidarity.
Although the mines may be almost silent now and the traditions deemed old fashioned, the proud spirit and history of the mining communities remain and in the Durham Gala are displayed in all their resilient and powerful glory as a beacon of hope and belief in a fairer and equal and just society for all.
Dave Hopper will speak during “Miners Day” at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival on Thursday 31st July at the Firkin Crane in Shandon.
The Cork Mother Jones Committee is privileged to welcome Betty Cook and Anne Scargill to Cork.
Betty Cook was born in 1938 in Doncaster. Having trained as a nurse, Betty married and raised her family of three children and watched from home as the coal strikes of 1972 to 1974 took place. She was determined not to look on from the sidelines when the next strike began.
Anne was born in 1941, in 1961 she married Arthur Scargill and they have one daughter. She has worked at the local Co-operative Retail Society all her life. The Miners’ Strike and its aftermath was a life changing experience for both.
In March 1984, the National Coal Board announced that it was going to close 20 coal mines with the loss of almost 20,000 mining jobs. The leader of the National Union of Mineworkers, Arthur Scargill claimed this was part of a master plan by the Thatcher government to close many more pits and destroy the Mineworkers Union. (The release of the British Cabinet papers reported in the BBC earlier this year demonstrates that he was correct as there were secret plans to close 75 pits over 3 years with the loss of 64,000 jobs). Sporadic strikes broke out immediately and by the 12th March, Arthur Scargill had declared a national strike. Betty and Anne were founder members of the Barnsley Miners Wives Action Group. They became key members of the community support groups which eventually led to the formation of Woman against Pit Closures in Barnsley.
Betty and Anne Scargill had become friends and both were instrumental in the formation of Women Against Pit Closures. WAPC played a major role in the period of the strike and has remained active to the present day. Many women including Betty and Anne initially organised the community kitchens, which fed whole communities during the strike. Soon they took on a more active role in the strike and joined in the pickets and protests and marches. In August 1984, over 20,000 women marched in support of the strike in London. Out of this activism emerged a new movement which brought together and empowered working class woman from mining communities all over the country and which has survived the closure of the pits. Following the miners defeat, life was never the same for many of the women activists as they had experienced a new sense of individual freedom, of personal strength and had found their voices as they addressed packed meetings up and down the country during the strike.
Betty and Anne have campaigned actively over many years. They attended the World Social Forum in Mumbai and were shocked at the poverty they witnessed when they walked the streets. During a renewed wave of pit closures in 1993 they helped with the pit camps, most notably Grimethorpe which were organized along the lines of the Greenham Womens Peace camp. Anne spent 5 days underground as part of a protest in 1993 at the Parkside Colliery in Lancashire. They have campaigned in support of the Wapping print workers. Both helped provide work wear for miners’, medicines and toiletries for Cuban miners and their trip to Cuba became the subject of a Channel 4 documentary. In 2012, a new banner from the Woman against Pit Closures featured in the Durham Miners Gala, accompanied by Betty Cook and Anne Scargill.
In Cork, Betty and Anne will discuss their experiences of 1984 and 1985 and the impact on their local communities at the festival, they will give their recollections of an event that changed the face of Britain and changed them also forever. The British Miners’ strike and its aftermath may yet prove to have been a watershed moment in the history of British trade unionism, organised labour and the solidarity of the working class. All are welcome.
One of Cork’s newest festivals has just won a prestigious national award. Just three years in existence the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival, based at Shandon has been awarded one of the Irish Hotel Federation top Gathering awards in the Best Arts and Culture category.
The announcement was made at the Irish Hotel Federation Conference at the Knightbrook Hotel in Trim Co Meath on Tuesday morning.
The festival founded in 2012 and designed to celebrate Cork born Mary Harris, who became known as “the most dangerous woman in America” for her trade union activities and her support for the miners and their families has already become an international event.
Jim Nolan accepted the IHF award on behalf of the Cork Mother Jones Committee from Minister Michael Ring at a reception at the Hotels Conference and thanked the IHF for this practical demonstration of support for the event.
“We are absolutely thrilled with this award, it will really put historic Shandon and the Mother Jones festival on the map” stated Jim Nolan of the Cork Mother Jones Committee. It is down to the amazing hard work of an outstanding voluntary committee”
“The Spirit of Mother Jones Festival is a unique and innovative event, which seeks out inspirational people who fight for social justice to come to our Shandon summer school
and tell their story” declared Mr. Nolan, “it has managed to attract huge interest from abroad, especially America”
“We are very much based in the community of Shandon and the festival prides itself on being free and open to everyone to come along and attend. We want to thank the local community, not least the local Maldron Hotel and the Firkin Crane Centre for providing practical support and venues and our sponsors SIPTU and Cork City Council for their encouragement which has enabled the event to grow and thrive.” reiterated Mr. Nolan.
The 2014 Festival will be held again from Thursday 29th July until 1st August at the Maldron Hotel and the Firkin Crane Centre in the heart of historic Shandon and will again feature a host of international and Irish speakers, concerts, lectures, workshops and music.
A full festival programme of events will be announced shortly and up to date details can be found on http://www.motherjonescork.com or contact Jim Nolan 086 1651356, or Ger O’Mahony at 086 3196063.
The Cork Mother Jones Committee is proud to announce that renowned labour and union activist, folk musician and singer is also on her way to the 2014 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival. Each year Anne organises a tour of Ireland and this year for the first time she will include the festival in Cork as part of her itinery.
Anne was born in Charleroi, Pennsylvania in 1951; she was deeply influenced by the Civil Rights movement and the anti Vietnam War movement. Her grandfather, William Patrick Feeney, was a mineworkers’ organizer who played his violin at labour and union rallies, and was also a key role model.
Her first public concert was at an anti-war rally in November 1969. Anne graduated from the Pittsburgh School of Law in 1978, and worked as a trial attorney for 12 years. She served as president of the Pittsburgh Musicians Union in 1997 and 1998.
She is a member of the IWW (Mother Jones was among the founders) and the American Federation of Musicians.
Since 1991, Anne has toured North America and many other countries to participate in labour rallies.
Her solo albums:
Look to the Left (1992)
Have you been to jail for justice? (2001)
Union Maid (2003)
If I can’t dance (2006)
Dump the Bosses off your back (2008)
Enchanted Way (2010)
The track Union Maid on the 2003 Union Maid CD which was written by Woody Guthrie and sung by Anne was recorded at the grave of Mother Jones at Mount Olive, Illinois on October 9th 1994. She has recorded songs written by Ewan McColl, Peggy Seeger, Si Kahn, Tom Paxton as well as many of her own compositions.
Many consider that her rendering of the famous union song written by Florence Reese, Which Side Are You On? to be the definitive version!
Anne was once described by Utah Philips as “the best labour Singer in North America”. while her music has been recorded by many artists including Peter, Paul & Mary.
“Few women have taken Woody Guthrie’s path……but Anne Feeney has made a career of it.” Labour History Foundation.
Her business card proclaims her hell-raising activities and lists her business as folksinger and agitator.
Anne was diagnosed in August 2010 with small cell lung cancer, yet Anne has continued to tour and travel. She visited Cork briefly in 2013 to see the Mother Jones plaque and will now return for the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival from 29th July till 1st August.
Anne will play a joint concert with Si Kahn at 8.30 at the Firkin Crane Centre in Shandon on Thursday evening 31st July.
She is leading a Labour History Tour to Ireland which will take in the Spirit of Mother Jones festival in Cork.
It would be remiss of us not to mention the passing of Pete Seeger, legendary singer / songwriter and activist on so many causes. Pete passed away in hospital in his native New York on Monday morning aged 94 years.
Born in 1919 while Mother Jones was busy fighting to unionise steel workers in Pennsylvania, one can easily see the influence she and others such as Joe Hill had on Pete Seeger. His radical but deeply religious parents were also seminal influences on Seeger. From an early age his life was steeped in music and activism.
The life and career of Pete Seeger has been chronicled elsewhere. His death made worldwide news with praise heaped on him from all quarters, including those of whom he was deeply critical.
From the Almanac Singers to the Weavers and a lengthy career, Seeger went through almost every genre of music but folk was his mainstay. He was never afraid to take on the powerful, whether it was facing up to police dogs in Alabama in the struggle for civil rights or the cynical witch-hunts of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s “Unamerican Activities Commission”. Still active until a short time before his death, Seeger’s name and legacy will go on.
For more on Pete’s long life and career read this tribute from Rolling Stone magazine: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/pete-seeger-folk-legend-dead-at-94-20140128
The Cork Mother Jones Committee is delighted to announce that Si Kahn, singer, songwriter, writer, community organiser, union activist and environmental campaigner is coming to Cork for the 2014 Spirit of Mother Festival.
Si has been an active supporter of the Spirit of Mother Jones festival in Cork since it began in 2012 and will perform his sole Irish concert at this year’s event.
The concert will take place at the Firkin Crane centre on Thursday 31st July at 8.30.
Si was born in 1944 and was greatly influenced by the Civil Rights movement. He began his organising career in 1965 in Arkansas with the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the student wing of the Civil Rights movement.
During the 1970’s, he worked with the United Mineworkers of America in the Brookside Strike in Harlan County, Kentucky, and was an area director of the J.P. Stevens campaign for the ACTWU in Roanoke Rapids in North Carolina. These historic labour struggles are portrayed in the movies Harlan County USA and Norma Rae.
In the early 70’s he spent a few days in Aragon, Georgia where a textile mill had closed down putting about 700 people out of work. He wrote the folk classic Aragon Mill which is a haunting song of quiet despair after the closure of the local mill.
“And the only tune I hear
Is the sound of the wind
As it blows through the town,
Weave and spin, weave and spin”
“There’s no children at all
In the narrow empty streets
Now the looms have all gone
It’s so quiet I can’t sleep”
Aragon Mill was included in “New Wood”, Si’s first album. It has been recorded by Planxty, Hazel Dickens, Hans Theessink and many others. The Furey Brothers recorded it as Belfast Mill and there is a version called Douglas Mill.
Si’s songs have been recorded by many of artists including Dolores Keane, Eleanor Shanley, Dick Gaughan, June Tabor, Peggy Seeger, the Dublin City Ramblers and Kathy Mattea.
Si has toured all over Europe, Canada and North America. He has released 14 albums of original songs, a CD of original songs for children, “Good Times and Bedtimes”: a collection of traditional labour, civil rights and women’s songs recorded with Pete Seeger and Jane Sapp.
In 1980, Si founded Grassroots Leadership, a Southern-based national progressive organisation, and he served as its Executive Director for 30 years, retiring on May Day 2010. For the past 13 years, Grassroots Leadership has worked to oppose privatisation and to defend the public sector.
He is currently very involved with a campaign to stop what would be the world’s largest open pit mine in Alaska and by doing so to save Bristol Bay, one of the greatest remaining wild fisheries in the world. He released an album in 2013 entitled “Bristol Bay” and is active with Musicians United to Protect Bristol Bay. He is also campaigning against mountaintop removal in West Virginia.
Si is also an accomplished author. In 2010 he wrote “Creative Community Organising: A guide for Rabble-Rousers, Activists and Quiet Lovers of Justice (Berrett-Koehler 2010).
An earlier book in 2006 “The Fox in the Henhouse: How Privatisation Threatens Democracy” was co-authored with feminist philosopher Elizabeth Minnich, his long term partner and spouse. Two earlier widely used organizing handbooks, “How People Get Power” and “Organising: A Guide for Grassroots Leaders”, have sold over 80,000 copies.
“Si Kahn is one of the best….a solid thinker who is able to humanize the political……I hope he lives to be 120” is longstanding friend and fellow songwriter’s Pete Seeger’s view of Si.
Rosanne Cash stated “I put Si in the same category as Woody Guthrie, as Pete Seeger and in a strange way my Dad, who shared his righteous sense of humanity and his love of the meek who he truly believed would inherit the earth.”
Si has recently completed a musical about Mother Jones, “Mother Jones in Heaven” and hopes to perform it some day in Cork. With his permission some of the songs from this musical were originally performed at the inaugural Mother Jones Festival in 2012 by Jim Williamson. The dream of the Cork Mother Jones Committee is to see the full musical, “Mother Jones in Heaven” performed in Cork, the birthplace of Mary Harris.
We are indeed very honoured to welcome Si Kahn and Elizabeth Minnich to Cork for the 2014 festival.
It’s that time of year again folks and the Cork Mother Jones committee are busy preparing the final line-up of speakers and performers for the 2014 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival which will take-in an extended programme from Sunday, 27th July to Friday, 1st August 2014 as part of Cork City’s official Mother Jones Week.
Over the coming weeks we will introduce our performers to give a taste of what’s to come. We start with Jim Green who will deliver the 3rd Annual “Mother Jones Lecture” at the Firkin Crane, Shandon at 7.30pm on Tuesday, 29th January.
Professor James Green is a writer, teacher and activist. He is professor of History at the University of Massachusetts where he founded the Labour Studies BA degree program and the Labour Resource Centre; he currently teaches history and directs the public history graduate program. He has had a long and distinguished career in ensuring that the history of social movements such as trade unions, civil rights groups and community empowerment groups is detailed and their stories told.
He was born in Oak Park, Illinois and raised in Carpentersville, a small factory town outside of Chicago and educated at Northwestern University.
He is the author of five history books on labour and protest movements in America and he is working on the story of Mother Jones the West Virginia mine wars which will be published by Grove Atlantic. The book will be the basis of a television documentary film for the Public Broadcasting System to air as part of the award-winning American Experience series. He also teaches courses on the history of Boston, working class history and a course on Social Justice.
Originally inspired by John F Kennedy and later by Martin Luther King, Jim Green admired politicians such as senators Paul Douglas, Eugene McCarthy (he worked for his Primary campaign) and George McGovern.
He earned a PhD in history from Yale University in 1972.He had played an active part in the student and anti-war movements in the late 60s and early 70s. He had developed an interest in social movements and sought ways through his scholarship to bring their stories to a wider public.
In his website jamesgreenworks.com, Jim describes how “four experiences offered me stimulating opportunities to practice history in the world outside the academy: first, living and working in a contested neighbourhood, Boston’s South End; second, participating in the Radical America editorial collective; third, teaching in England and discovering the History Workshop movement and four, joining the faculty at the College of Public and Community Service, located within the University of Massachusetts Boston.”
During the 1980s he became very active in the trade union movement where he taught courses for union members such as the United Mine Workers of America as well as lecturing at the Harvard Trade Union program. He helped to make a video with film maker Barbara Kopple of the Pittston Strike in Appalachia in 1989.
In 1995-96 he was a historical consultant to the documentary film “The fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farm Workers” produced by Paradigm Productions, San Francisco.
In 1998 he was selected as a Fulbright Senior Scholar and taught at the University of Genoa in Italy. One result of this was the publication of his book “Taking History to Heart” in 2000 which he describes as “a personal and political reflection on making movement history”
Jim has held lectureships at Warwick University in England and at Harvard University, where he has taught in the Trade Union Program since 1987. He has published widely in many international academic journals. In 2002 he was elected president of the Labour and Working Class History Association, and in 2004 he was awarded a fellowship by the Bogilasco Foundation to study and write at the Liguria Study Centre in Italy. In 2009, the Sidney Hillman Foundation presented Professor Green with the Sol Stetin Prize for his accomplishments in the field of labour and working-class history.
He has also had a particular interest in the events at Ludlow in Colorado on 20th April 1914 when children, women and men were massacred and which has become infamous in American labour history. His article entitled “Crime Against Memory at Ludlow” available on his website is particularly powerful.
A further book “Death at the Haymarket” in March 2006 allowed Jim to tell the epic story of the events that took place in Chicago on 1st May 1886, events which had a huge influence on generations of labour and trade union activists around the world including Mary Harris. 20,000 copies of this have been sold and it has been adopted in many college courses.
With almost 50 years of active contribution to the telling and documenting of the history of working class and social movements behind him, Jim is a very welcome and worthy contributor to the 2014 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.
The town of Mount Olive, Illinois is the resting place of Mother Jones, born Mary Harris in Cork, Ireland in 1837. Mount Olive and surrounding areas of Illinois were devastated by a tornado in May 2013 and major damage was done to homes and public buildings. This included Mount Olive City Hall which is to be replaced. The good news for followers of Mother Jones is that beside the new City Hall is to be a brand new museum dedicated to Mother Jones. The story featured in the Illinois State Register-Journal, a local newspaper on 29th December and the story has now been picked up by the Cork Evening Echo.
You can read the article in the Illinois State Register Journal here and click the photo to read the Evening Echo article. http://www.sj-r.com/article/20131229/NEWS/131229617/0/SEARCH/?tag=2