Greetings from American women miners

American Women Miners Celebrate New Name—“Daughters of Mother Jones”

by Marat Moore (US)

Women miners reunion at Jonesborough, Tennessee

Women miners reunion at Jonesborough, Tennessee

Mother Jones had a very busy week on both sides of the Atlantic! Buoyed by your festival in Cork, her spirit sprinted over to aptly-named Jonesborough, Tennessee, to a reunion of 60 women miners and supporters on Aug. 2-4.

Women miners traveled from across the United States, England and Canada to east Tennessee for their  first gathering in 14 years—and celebrated their rebirth as the “Daughters of Mother Jones.” The women miners, mostly retired, renewed strong bonds and the commitment to organize in the labor movement in the tradition of Mother Jones. They held a special memorial to women miners who have died, including nine killed on the job.

The group held broad discussions of organizing more broadly and the need to preserve their history in the USA, held in the large archive of the Coal Employment Project at East Tennessee State University. Women miners were active for 20 years in CEP, their national support, education, and advocacy group as well as being very active members of the United Mine Workers of America. CEP held national conferences for 20 years from which drew hundreds of activists, union officials and union brothers along with women coal miners. This year is the first time women miners have reunited since CEP closed its doors in 1999.  They brought memorabilia of their mining years—suitcases full of political t-shirts, photographs, audiotapes, media clips and personal archives.

Jody Hogge, a local UMWA president from Illinois, dressed as Mother Jones and gave a fiery update on the union’s fight against coal giants Peabody and Arch Coal to preserve retiree health benefits and pensions for 23,000 families l, which sold off their “legacy obligations” to a company that is in bankruptcy.

Many coal areas and states were represented: Alberta, Canada; and Arizona’s Navajo Nation, Illinois, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama, Ohio, and Tennessee, , along with participants from Georgia and North Carolina. Special guests included CEP friends Anne Scargill and Betty Cook from the Women Against Pit Closures in Barnesley, England, which has fought for justice alongside the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) since the mid-1980s. Other special guests included nine members of the family of Patsy Fraley, a woman miner from eastern Kentucky who traveled from three states to honor her memory.

On Saturday night musician and social activist Sue Massek performed a new play by Si Kahn, “Precious Memories” based on the life and music of Sarah Ogan Gunning, a miner’s wife in eastern Kentucky in the 1930s. Gunning wrote songs about union organizing and miner’s struggles that were deeply admired by folksinger and fellow activist Woodie Guthrie. Women sang along and clapped to the familiar songs.

The “Daughters of Mother Jones” originally grew from the women miners’ movement, when two CEP members worked to organize miners’ wives and families in the UMWA Pittston strike in 1988-89. Women staged the first nonviolent act of civil disobedience of the strike, occupying the corporate headquarters, and the CEP members suggested the name, which the women adopted.

Now the tradition has expanded to encompass the still-active and amazing group of women coal miners, and next year we have been invited to the Durham Gala to mark the 30-year anniversary of the national strike in England in mid-July. We hope to travel from Durham to your next festival in 2014 and help build the spirit of Mother Jones!

James Connolly song book

A songbook, edited by James Connolly in 1907, is to be republished for the first time in over a century and will be launched separately in a number of locations. The Cork launch will take place on Wednesday, 2nd October 2013 at Cork City Library with a concert from 9.00pm at the Pavilion, Carey’s Lane (off Patrick Street). Full details on the advert below.

Cork Concert Adv0002 (1)

Festival opens to acclaim

There was a sizeable turnout on Tuesday night (30 July) for the opening session of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2013.  After the opening of the Mother Jones exhibition at the Maldron  Hotel by Cork’s Lord Mayor Catherine Clancy, the attendance moved to the Firkin Crane theatre up the street for the main session.

Margaret Aspinall and Sue Rogers

Margaret Aspinall (centre) and Sue Rogers enjoying performance by members of the Cork Singers Club at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2013 (Photo: John Jefferies)

Margaret Aspinall of the Hillsborough Family Support Group gave a passionate speech to the crowd which included both veteran Liverpool supporters and people from all walks of life.  She told the gathering about how officialdom had conspired against the families of the 96 victims of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster and outlined long struggle of the families for the truth, a campaign which continues to this day.  Accompanied by another Hillsborough relative, Sue Rogers, Margaret impressed the audience with her honesty and no-nonsense manner.   The Spirit of Mother Jones Award 2013 was presented to Margaret and the session ended with a rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone sung by Jim Williamson.

Tadhg Barry signature

A fascinating piece of history has come to light thanks to an Irish Times reader who forwarded a copy of a unique document to Frank McNally after his article on the Mother Jones festival in the newspaper last week which referred to the story of Alderman Tadhg Barry who was shot dead at Ballykinlar Internment Camp, County Down in November 1921.

Owen Smyth from Monaghan forwarded the following document which has never before been published.  It is a letter in the Irish language in which a presentation and note of thanks is made to the camp chaplain at Ballykinlar (Fr. Sean McLeister).  Hand drawn and written in old Gaelic you will find the signature of Tadhg Barry (Tadhg de Barra) on the sheet, fourth from the top. Our sincere thanks to Owen for sharing this and to Frank McNally for forwarding to us. The documentary and discussion on Tadhg Barry will be held at the Firkin Crane theatre, Shandon, Cork on Wednesday, 31st July at 12.00 Noon as part of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival. All welcome and admission is free.

BALLYKINLAR  1 Ballykinlar 2 Ballykinlar 3

Hillsborough, the torment of injustice

The Annual service of remembrance brings the families and friends of the 96 men, women and children who were killed at Hillsborough to Anfield each year. (95 died on that day and one later).

The thousands, who attend the service, fall silent at 3.06 on the 15th April. It was the exact time that the referee at the FA Cup semi final stopped the match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on that faithful afternoon in 1989. It is a symbolic, moving and painful moment.

96 Banner

Justice for the 96 Banner at a Liverpool match (photo Manchester Wired)

Back in 1989, it was Everton V Norwich at Birmingham and Liverpool V Nottingham Forest so a possible Merseyside Cup Final was a prospect. The stand at the rear of Leppings Lane end held 4500, while the terraces could hold 10,100. The disaster unfolded at this terrace when fans, who were given no direction by police, made their way down the tunnel into already overcrowded pens on the already packed terrace

For those on the Leppings Lane terrace it was a matter of life and death and for those family and friends, many watching the game, it was the beginning of a long nightmare.

Phil Scraton in his excellent book…….. “Hillsborough……. the truth” has identified why this disaster was different from many others….

“Hillsborough however remains unique in that the victims, their families and the survivors were subjected to a concerted attack on their reputations which added to the denial of their rights”

This compounded the tragedy for the families and friends and for the people of Liverpool, the fabrication of the truth in the infamous Sun newspaper on 19th April, the terrible insensitivity of the authorities, the taking of blood alcohol levels of the dead, even of the children, the pursuit of “enemy within” by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the failure of the legal and administrative processes and most of all the cover up by many officials who walked away from their responsibility.

Football hooliganism was to Thatcher part of the enemy within and some of the police operated a policy of force and coercion when it came to football fans. But it did not stop there…….basically the figure of blame was placed on the supporters and the people who died. A miscarriage of justice does not even begin to describe what took place.

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Solidarity Across the Ocean

An extraordinary gathering of Women Coal Miners will take place in Tennessee in the United States from August 2nd. Large numbers of women miners from the US, Canada and Britain will come together for a reunion in Jonesborough, near the Archives of Appalachia at East Tennessee University. On August 1st, Mother Jones Day in Cork, a group of the women who are part of the “Daughters of Mother Jones” will unfurl a banner to express their solidarity and support for the Cork Mother Jones Festival and to mark the 176th anniversary of the baptism of Mary Harris / Mother Jones on 1st August 1837 at the North Cathedral in Cork.

Women Miners Reunion, Jonesborough, Tennessee

Women Miners Reunion, Jonesborough, Tennessee

Participants will include former underground miners who pioneered gender integration in the coal industry in the 1970s and representatives from Women Against Pit Closures in England. This reunion is the first international gathering of women coal miners in nearly 15 years.

Marat Moore on Croagh Patrick

Marat Moore at the summit of Croagh Patrick mountain, Co. Mayo, Ireland after last year’s inaugural Cork Mother Jones Festival

We hope to have photos of the unfurling of the “Daughters of Mother Jones” banner on this site next week. Our thanks to Marat Moore from the group who was one of our main speakers at last year’s cork Mother Jones festival.

In the meantime we send best wishes and solidarity to the women and hope that their gathering will be an outstanding success.

Dublin 1913 Lock-out Centenary

Padraig Yeates

Padraig Yeates

Padraig Yeates is an acknowledged authority on the history of the 1913 Dublin Lockout, a major industrial dispute which pitted Dublin’s employers led by William Martin Murphy against more than 20,000 workers, led by Big Jim Larkin, who were sacked for their membership of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union (ITG&WU).

According to Yeates:-

1913 can be seen as the beginning of the struggle for Irish independence in the twentieth century, or the swansong of the British labour movement in what became the Irish Free State. It reflected the militant syndicalist movement in Britain and across the industrialised world, exposing the growing divisions within nationalist Ireland in the process. 

It was a naked class conflict, pitting Irish workers against Irish capitalists with both sides receiving support from their counterparts in Britain. But above all it was a dispute about the nature of Irish society. The victory of the employers in alliance with the established churches, and especially the Catholic Church, provided a foretaste of the conservative consensus that would prevail after independence.

police baton workers

Police baton-charge on striking workers in Sackville (O’Connell) Street, Dublin, August 1913

Padraig will be delivering a keynote lecture on the Lockout at the Spirit of Mother Jones at the Firkin Crane theatre, Shandon, Cork at 7.00pm on Wednesday, 31st July 2013.  All are welcome and there is no admittance charge.

William Martin "Murder" Murphy, notorious employer's leader

William Martin “Murder” Murphy, notorious employer’s leader

Big Jim Larkin, ITGWU leader and nemesis of the employers of Dublin

Big Jim Larkin, ITGWU leader and nemesis of the employers of Dublin

Women and children with food parcels sent by British trade unionists

Women and children with food parcels sent by British trade unionists