A Mother Jones Birthday party will take place on Sunday 30th April from 3 – 5 pm at the Irish American Heritage Centre in Chicago.
It will feature Liz Carroll, (fiddle), Brendan and Siobhan Mc Kinney (pipes and Flute), Kathy Cowan, vocalist and Mother Jones, Brigid Duffy. In attendance also will be Sarah Keating, Vice Consul of Ireland in Chicago.
Karen White of the National Education Association will speak to issues of the exploitation of children on this the 120th Anniversary of the march of the Mill Children led by Mother Jones in 1903.
Fundraising is proceeding for the erection of the new Mother Jones Monument in Chicago.
Meanwhile about 250 miles further south in the town of Mt. Olive, the burial place of Mother Jones an International Mother Jones Festival takes place also on Sunday 30th April. It will be held at the Union Miners Cemetery beginning at 12 noon and continuing afterwards at the Mother Jones Museum on Main Street.
Speakers and artists include the Consul-General of Ireland in Chicago, Kevin Byrne. Tim Drea, President of the Illinois AFL/CIO and Brother Jerome Lewnard of the Viatorian Order. Music will be provided by Wildflower Conspiracy along with a number of other bands. Loretta Williams will participate as Mother Jones and historian, Dale Hawkins will also take part.
Further details call 618-659-8759.
Congratulations to all involved and best wishes from Cork for the May Day American Birthday celebrations for Mother Jones.
Note: The American celebrations have traditionally taken place around May Day which was the day, Mother Jones gave as her birthday, however her real birth date was probably 31st July 1837 as she was baptised at the North Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Anne in Cork on the 1st August of that year.
Photo 1: Kevin Byrne Consul General of Ireland, Chicago with Tim Drea, President of the AFL-CIO in Illinois at Mount Olive Cemetery on the 30th May 2023.
Photo 2: Rosemary Feurer of the Mother Jones Museum, Chicago making a presentation of a limited edition artwork by Lindsay Hand, “Chicago March 1915” to Karen White, speaker at the May Day Chicago Celebration of Mother Jones.
Having selected the site for the Mother Jones Monument, the City of Chicago is now seeking the RFQs (Request for Qualifications) from artists who wish to submit designs for the monument. The next steps will be for the Advisory Committee to choose an artist and a design, with a goal of dedicating the memorial.
The idea to honour Mother Jones was promoted by the Mother Jones Heritage Project, and the great news is that Irish artists and sculptors can apply. So if you know friends, groups or people who might be interested and qualify, especially those here in Cork (the birthplace of Mary Harris) please do send the link underneath to them.
Closing date is 26th March 2023, all details in the attached link above.
The Chicago Monuments Project (CMP) Advisory Committee and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Projects has decided the statue memorialising Labor icon “Mother” Jones will be placed in Jane Byrne Plaza, in the shadow of Chicago’s historic Water Tower. Jane Byrne (Burke) was the first woman Mayor of Chicago.
Irish poet and playwright, Oscar Wilde, in an effort to court controversy back in 1882 unfairly described the historic water tower as “a castellated monstrosity with pepper-boxes stuck all over it”. Wilde died on the 30th November 1900, thirty years to the day before Mother Jones.
The artwork commission will be $250,000.
According to Rosemary Feurer of the Mother Jones Heritage Project in Chicago,
“Mother Jones organised oppressed and exploited people, including women and children, black and white, native born and immigrant. She fought to end child labor, and campaigned to improve the working conditions for millions of poor people all over America for many decades,”
James Nolan for the Cork Mother Jones Committee stated;
“This competition to find a suitable design for a monument to celebrate Cork born Mary Harris in Chicago represents a fantastic opportunity for Cork artists with a track record to apply to design what will be a landmark public memorial in a major American city.
We are really hoping some Cork artists will get involved in this design due to its huge connection to the rebel spirit of a woman born in our own city. She was the rebel daughter of Cork City, who survived so much tragedy and yet her indomitable spirit prevailed.
The Chicago City Authorities have just recently issued details of the initial requirements needed to participate in the process.”
On Wednesday, December 24th, Christmas Eve 1913, in Calumet, Michigan, seventy-three men, women, and children, mainly striking mine workers and their families, were crushed to death in a stampede in what became known as the Italian Hall Disaster.
At a crowded Christmas party organise for the children of copper miners, who had been on strike in the local mines since July 23rd of that year, someone shouted “fire” at the entrance to the hall. There was no fire!
Hundreds of people were in the second floor room at the Italian Hall enjoying the miners party. Toys were being distributed to the children by Santa. On hearing the shout from downstairs, there was a huge panic and a mass rush down a steep narrow stairs to the exit which caused multiple deaths, especially among the children.
The strike had earlier been called by the Western Federation of Miners (WFM) seeking union recognition and an improvement in wages and working conditions. Mother Jones had visited Calumet in early August to show her support for the workers, before she became embroiled in the Colorado Coal Wars.
The mine owners in Copper Country refused to talk to the union members and the long and bitter strike continued until March 1914 in spite of this tragedy. Later investigations failed to reveal exactly who had wrongly called out “fire” which started the panic. Mother Jones blamed an anti union “law and order crowd” in the Calumet region for the false fire call which led to the deaths and repeatedly mentioned this dreadful tragedy in later speeches.
The sad and harrowing scenes in the town of Calumet on Christmas Day and over the 1913 Christmas period as the bodies of over 60 children were brought back to their homes left a lasting mark on witnesses. Photos from the time show lines of wooden white caskets. The Red Jacket Town Hall became a morgue, while the massive funeral procession down snow covered Fifth Street to Lakeview Cemetery was heart-breaking. Following several speeches from the strike leaders, the deceased were laid to rest in two mass grave sites.
The disaster at the Italian Hall was memorialised by singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie when in 1940 he wrote the “1913 Massacre”, in which he blamed the copper mines bosses of the Copper Country for the deaths.
“The piano played a slow final tune, And the town was lit up by a cold Christmas moon, The parents they cried and the miners they moaned, “See what your greed for money has done””
Candles are lit each Christmas Eve at the local park in Calumet, let us remember them too!
Our thanks to Jeremiah Mason of the National Parks Service, Lake Superior Management Centre at Keweenaw National Historical Park at Calumet.
The May Day Party for Mother Jones will take place at the Irish American Heritage Centre at 4626 North Knox Avenue in Chicago from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm.
Among those participating are:
Kevin Byrne, Ireland’s Consul General to Chicago and the Midwest.
Sara Nelson President of the Association of Flight Attendants CWA, AFLCIO.
Don Villar, Secretary Treasurer Chicago Federation of Labour.
Also participating are singers and artists such as Paddy Homan, Kathy Cowan and the SAG-AFTRA singers while artist Lindsay Hand will sign posters.
All proceeds will go towards the Chicago Statue Campaign.
There are very few monuments which commemorate women in Chicago and as with most cities everywhere none of working class women.
Why not assist the Chicago campaign to ensure that a beautiful statue is erected to honour Cork born Mary Harris who as Mother Jones worked ceaselessly to help immigrants of many nationalities to organise for decent wages and safe working conditions by joining the American trade union movement!.
A broad based fundraising committee in the City has been active in fundraising to bring the dream of the Mother Jones statue to reality.
With the help of the American trade unions and many others, the committee is close to achieving this ambition. Let’s put this iconic Irish immigrant refugee and a founder of the American Labour Movement–the Mother of the working class–on a statue in the city she called home.
A commemorative bench honouring the memory of the family of Mother Jones will be unveiled on May Day 2022 at the Union Miners Cemetery in Mount Olive.
The grave of Mary Harris/Mother Jones lies in this unique cemetery, her memory forever immortalised in the large grave monument erected in 1936 to her memory.
During the forthcoming Mt. Olive International Mother Jones Festival 2022, the Union Miners Cemetery Perpetual Care Association along with the Illinois AFL-CIO and the UMWA Local 1613 will dedicate a memorial bench to her often forgotten husband George Jones and her children, Elizabeth, Mary, Catherine and Terence who died in Memphis during the Yellow Fever epidemic of September 1867.
To hear directly from the Mayor of Mt Olive John Skertich and Nelson Grman, a member of the Union Miners Cemetery Perpetual Care Committee, long-time union activist and promoter of Mother Jones please click on the following link.
Congratulations to all involved with bringing Mother Jones to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The Mother Jones inflatable was paraded through the streets of Chicago, on Saturday 12th March and received a great reception from the thousands lining the streets. Brigid Duffy also appeared as the Chicago Mother Jones.
The parade honoured Chicago’s essential workers. After a two year break due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the parade returned to Columbus Drive on Saturday, where the Chicago River was dyed green, a 60 year tradition. This event is believed to be the largest neighbourhood based St. Patrick’s Day parade outside of Dublin, drawing as many as 150,000 people.
The documentary Mother Jones And Her Children is now available to view at the link below.
This 2014 documentary tells the exciting story of Mary Harris/Mother Jones from her birth in Cork in 1837 to her death in 1930.
It features US Labour historians such as Rosemary Feurer, who administers the website www.motherjonesmuseum.org and who writes extensively on Mother Jones. Elliott Gorn, author of Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America appears also along with interviews with authors Simon Cordery and Marat Moore. Larry Spivack of the Illinois Labour History Society and John Alexander of the Virden Monument Committee and US trade union activists such as Mike Matjelki, Dave Rathke and Terry Reed take part. In addition, there is an interview with Uibh Laoghaire historian, Joe Creedon regarding the birth place of Ellen Cotter, the mother of Mary Harris, while members of the Cork Mother Jones Committee (CMJC) provide details about her baptism in Cork, and the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.
According to James Nolan of the CMJC
“This documentary is ideal for anyone who wishes to learn more about this amazing Cork woman, a woman who survived horrific personal tragedy and bravely supported the trade union movement and fought for social justice in America for over four decades.
Mary Harris’s efforts in the early 1900s to highlight the exploitation of children in the mines, mills and factories of Americaand her arguments that they should receive an education instead will still resonatewith school children across the world today.
This documentary should be included in the Irish educational curriculum.”
Mother Jones and Her Children remains available on CD. The link to the documentary also appears above the main website masthead.
It was produced by Frameworks Films and the Cork Mother Jones Committee.
The tenth Spirit of Mother Jones Festival concluded on Sunday night 28th November 2021 with the songs of the Cork Singers’ Club.
The 2021 festival programme required a miracle due to the deterioration in the Covid-19 situation in Ireland and yet the Cork Mother Jones committee and friends ensured the completion of 20 events over the four days and managed to broadcast most of them on Cork Community Television. The extent of the collaboration we received from numerous groups, organisations and individuals to create a festival demonstrates that there is no substitute for people working cooperatively.
Taking the example of the resilient spirit of Mother Jones as the road map, everyone just “ploughed on”, (while ensuring full compliance with the Covid-19 regulations to keep people safe), we achieved our aim to carry through with the ambitious programme of events.
Highlight for those lucky to be in attendance was the presentation of the Spirit of Mother Jones Award to the brave representatives of the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance (CSSA).
Following the televised broadcast of the thought provoking conversation between Catherine Coffey O’Brien and Maureen Considine of the Alliance, they were joined by Phil Kinsella and Sheila O’Boyle for the formal presentation of the 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones Award by James Nolan of the Cork Mother Jones Committee.
It was an emotional occasion!
One is however left to ponder at the ongoing silence of so many and to wonder how this country can even consider allowing planning applications for development/construction of apartments to take place on the OSI marked burial grounds of hundreds of children? In spite of our reputation for mourning and honouring our dead, why are marked burial grounds no longer deemed sacred from development and are the hundreds of children whom we as a nation failed in the past to protect not allowed to now rest in peace?
Earlier, adoption rights campaigner Mari Steel who had herself been adopted from Bessborough in the early 60s discussed her journey to locate her own mother Josie.
A number of Q&A sessions with each of the speakers at the Maldron Hotel followed the Cork Community TV transmissions and the subsequent discussions, arguments and queries were reminders of the sparkle and sparks associated with many of the Spirit of Mother Jones meetings over the past decade. We appreciated the kind comments of Cllr John Sheehan deputising for the Lord Mayor who as he formally opened the festival stated that “he eagerly looked forward to the challenging programme of events at the festival each year as it was essential in any functioning democracy that people ask the hard questions”.
From the tragedy of Tadhg Barry, who spent his entire adult life working in the engine room of the revolution in Cork to the eventful and long life of Muriel MacSwiney, an unlikely revolutionary, the debates and sharing of information went on. The late and much loved Dr Sean Pettit could be seen once again displaying his legendary oratorical skills describing the Cork City of Mary Harris and much more. His final public performance displayed his creative approach to his lectures and his love of Cork City highlighted how he provided the stimulus for generations of local Cork historians.
We did not forget Mother Jones either and many of the documentaries at the festival sought to frame the American background and landscape in which Mother Jones operated in the early 20th Century. We appreciate the assistance of our friends, in America, UK and Greece. Her memory was enhanced in Cork through the efforts of singers such as John Murphy, Cait Ni Cheallachair, William Hammond, Karan Casey, Richard T Cooke and Mags Creedon who performed songs and stories relating to the life of Mother Jones. John and Gearoid Nyhan accompanied by Mick Treacy performed “Let the Mountains Roll”. Our thanks to the Cork Folk Festival and Cork Singers’ Club for their invaluable assistance. Cork’s own Mother Jones, Joan Goggin and her family Eadaoin and Aoife supporting the event all the way.
As the tenth festival recedes into the memory, so many people and organisations should be thanked. Without Eddie Noonan and the crew of Frameworks Films and Cork Community Television, the festival could not have happened in these never ending Covid days. We really appreciate the practical support our main sponsors such as Cork City Council, Cathedral Credit Union, the ASTI, SIPTU and the INTO as well as the assistance of the Shandon Maldron Hotel and WhazOn Cork which have continued to assist us even as we cannot have normal social gatherings and discussions which were always the heart, soul and magic of the Spirit of Mothers Jones festivals.
Our thanks go to all the participants this year who give of their time on a voluntary basis to contribute to the events, to designers Abbie O’Shea and Shannon Smyth, website administrator Ferdia O’Mahony and to Ciaran Cronin and Aidan Fitzpatrick of A to Z printers. For 2021 we wish to especially thank the Centre for Community and Civic Engagement in University College Cork for promoting and assisting the formal launch of the festival back in October on the beautiful grounds of UCC.
Our collaboration with the Centre For Earth Ethics in New York with respect to the Mona Pollaca interview was innovative. Finally we are thankful to the journalists at the Evening Echo, Irish Examiner, Irish Times, Southern Star and 96FM for providing local and national coverage of the events as many normal community publicity channels were closed due to Covid-19.
As a committee we now look forward to working on the next Spirit of Mother Jones festival in 2022.
If anyone has ideas for topics, for speakers or for entertainment for this 2022 festival, please drop a brief email to email@example.com and we will consider all suggestions.
Some of the extensive press coverage of the 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival follows:
2:00 pm. The highlights of the past ten years of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festivals.
7:00 pm. Tadhg Barry Remembered. A documentary by Cork Council of Trade Unions and Frameworks Films.
8:00 pm. Interview with Dr. Donal Ó Drisceoil, author of Utter Disloyalist: Tadhg Barry and the Irish Revolution.
The official launch of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2021 took place at the Maldron Hotel, Shandon last night. The Lord Mayor of Cork represented by Cllr. John Sheehan declared the festival open and stated that he was delighted that the festival had proceeded this year as each event set out to challenge one’s views of history and social issues. Speaker, Anne Twomey attended and participated in a brief Q&A session afterwards in relation to questions about Muriel MacSwiney.