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.
Today as one descends into the community from the high Castletownbere road, the beauty of Ballydonegan Bay and Allihies village on the Beara peninsula in West Cork remains stunning to the eye. Alive with tourists, music and life in the summertime, it slumbers gently during the wild winter months. The hills all around are dotted with the remains of mine sites, there is a busy Copper Mine Museum providing a focus point for information, study and relaxation in the linear village. One can walk the Allihies Copper Mine Trail, in the footsteps of the miners. The village’s past is bound up with the local mines and their impact, its future is to tell the miner’s story.
Mining began here in 1812 at Dooneen, established by John Puxley, the local landlord, followed in 1813 by the Mountain Mine and in 1818 by the Caminches Mine. Mines opened and closed, Dooneen in 1838, Caminches in the 1840s. Eventually mine shafts pockmarked the hills rising to the north of the village. By 1842, upwards of 1600 men and boys, some from Cornwall, worked underground and across the hilly landscape. The large Kealogue mine opened.
Working conditions were brutal, many died, and strikes were smashed in a ruthless manner. As the great Famine devastated West Cork (1845-1852), food was brought in by the Puxleys to keep the mines in operation. The emigration of some miners and their families began. The miners especially at the Kealogue mine were concerned by safety issues and went on strike in 1861.
Later in 1864, there was a confrontation with the local Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) when they marched on the Mountain Mine to demand better pay and conditions. Further strikes followed over low wages and resentment grew as the mine owners constructed extravagant additions to their Puxley Manor at nearby Dunboy Castle. Emigration continued as workforce was reduced, the mines were sold and finally closed in 1884. Sporadic attempts to reopen mines, including some exploration for base metals and uranium have taken place in the 1970s, but the old mines remain a silent testament to a difficult past.
Many miners and their families journeyed to the USA, using the infamous coffin ships, facing disease and exploitation upon arrival. They remained always transient, for ever journeying westwards to the copper mines of Butte, Montana and to Michigan, to Pennsylvania, and onwards to Leadville, high in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.
Prospector Abe Lee struck gold at California Gulch in Colorado about 1860. Will Stevens followed around 1875 and when he discovered the silver-bearing carbonate of lead in the old diggings at an altitude of 10,000 feet, the miners quickly renamed the old town. Leadville immediately became a magnet for the silver rush of the mobile mining workforce arriving in the New World.
Originally a mining camp, Leadville prospered in the bonanza and developed a notorious reputation for gambling, brothels and drinking saloons as vividly described by the local DailyChronicle newspaper. However, it was not that unlike nearby mining towns such as Cripple Creek, or indeed Deadwood, or Butte. By 1890, Leadville had a population of 25,000 and six churches. And by 1896, Leadville was so wealthy that in a display of ostentatious civic pride it was able to construct an Ice Palace, costing $20,000 and covering some 5 acres. In the same year, there began a nine-month strike by the Cloud City Miners’ Union (local of the Western Federation of Miners WFM). The miners were seeking a daily rate of just $3.00, yet they were defeated and at least six miners died in the conflict.
Hundreds of Irish miners joined the rush to the tiny town. Research by Assistant Professor, James Walsh at the University of Colorado in Denver has identified hundreds of graves at the Catholic and paupers’ graveyards at Evergreen Cemetery in the town. Many contain remains of young Irish miners and their families, some from West Cork.
James Walsh estimates from his research in the Catholic parish records that 1400 people are buried in unmarked graves in the paupers’ section and up to 70% of them have Irish names. Their average age is just 23 years and half of them were children under 12. There could be up to 2500 Irish immigrants buried in the wider cemetery. A significant number can be linked back to Allihies.
Their brief lives underground were filled with dangers, sickness and back breaking work for very little money. The journey from Allihies to Leadville in many ways represents a further “trail of tears” * for the mining population of the Beara peninsula who now lie in often unmarked graves among the woods of the town.
Experiences of underground miners were captured by photographer, Timothy O’Sullivan, a young veteran of the American Civil War whose work down in the pits has preserved for ever this hell-like subterranean prison of the mining life. His images of ghostly and gaunt men with far away expressions working deep underground are matched in the work of Tom McGuinness, miner and artist who painted remarkable images of the silent and lonely coalminers in the mining tunnels of the North East of England almost a century later.
For those who have never mined in the mineral veins of the earth, it is hard to imagine the oppressive heat, the dirt and filth and the sheer loneliness of men and boys who rarely saw the daylight of the magnificent Rocky Mountains. It was the new world of many Irish and some did not survive for long in the horrific and dangerous working conditions of this snowbound town.
Some Irish prospered. In 1880, Thomas Francis Walsh, from Tipperary discovered a vein of quartz bearing silver at Leadville and made a huge fortune. James Doyle, James Burns and John Harnan made a fortune at Cripple Creek. The “Silver Kings” of Cornstock were four Irishmen, John Mackay, James Fair, James Flood and William O’Brien. So as miners and their families worked for a few dollars a day, the “Kings” flaunted their riches, building gigantic mansions, erecting marble columns, and commissioning pure silver candelabras.
The silver rush continued into the 1890s when most local mines closed, the remaining miners headed to Denver and the Colorado coalmines of John D. Rockefeller where they and their descendants’ joined unions at the urging of Cork born Mother Jones, and the United Mine Workers Union under John Mitchell in the early 1900s. Others later took part in the bitter West Virginia/Colorado Coal Wars of 1913/14, which culminated in the Ludlow Massacre.
On a beautiful Saturday afternoon in September 2022, Alan Grourke, President of the Irish Network in Colorado introduced a series of speakers to a crowd which had gathered to witness the emotional unveiling of a memorial to the Irish miners and their families who lie buried alongside. The memorial depicts “Liam” the miner as he sits, facing back to Ireland some 7000 kms. to Allihies with his miners pick and an Irish harp.
James Walsh speaking to Denver 7, a local TV station said as he walked near the unmarked graves among the trees stated.
“This is what class looks like in America, they were forgotten……instead of honouring the monarchy, we are honouring the poorest of the poor and that’s a radical thing to do, it changes perspectives, it changes dynamics and by honouring nineteen century workers, we honour 21st century immigrant workers too.”
Irish Consul, Micheal Smith, representing the Irish government which contributed financially paid tribute to the organising committee for their dedication to erecting the memorial, while the Mayor of Leadville, Greg Labbe provided an account of the harsh lives of the miners. Historian Kathleen Fitzsimmons pointed to the rounded stones forming the memorial and the pathway as a symbol of the spiral and urged people to visit this “sacred space” and leave the world better for their children. The Irish Miners’ Memorial is expected to be completed in 2023.
A blessing of the memorial then took place by Native American Cassandra Atencio, member of the Southern Ute Tribe on whose native lands the graveyard and memorial lies. The blessing provided further historical and symmetrical symbolic connections between the indigenous people of North America and the Irish.
The Choctaw Nation contributed funds to the town of Midleton in Co Cork during the Famine in 1847, despite being forced on their own ‘Trail of Tears’ during the ethnic cleansings of 1831-1833. Several thousand tribal members died on those marches.
The Ute people always lived in harmony with their wild environment and took care of Mother Earth.
An Ute prayer for the planet.
May the Earth teach you stillness as the grasses are stilled with light
May the Earth teach you suffering as old stone suffer with memory
May the Earth teach you humility as blossoms are humble with beginning
May the Earth teach you caring as the mother who serves her young
May the Earth teach you courage as the tree which stands you all alone
May the Earth teach you limitation as the ant which crawls on the ground.
May the Earth teach you freedom as the eagle which sores in the sky
May the Earth teach you resignation as the leaves which die in the fall
May the Earth teach you regeneration as the seed which rises in the spring.
May the Earth teach you to forget yourself as the melted snow forgets its life
May the Earth teach you to remember kindness as dry field weep with rain.
An appropriate monument and a fitting blessing for all those who lie in soil of Leadville.
*During the harsh winter of 1602/3 following defeat of the Irish at the Battle of Kinsale, Beara Chieftain, Donal Cam O’Sullivan Beare had led a thousand people from his peninsula clan and home on a 500 kms. March north to Co. Leitrim to escape the English attacks…after a trail of tears……. just thirty-five reached safety among the O’Rourke clan in Leitrim!
There are many activities and ongoing events in the USA with connections to Mother Jones and the Irish emigrant diaspora.
Some wonderful news is that the Chicago Monuments Commission has issued a report and among the projects which it has decided to fund is the Chicago Statue/Sculpture Campaign which seeks to erect a monument to Mother Jones in a prominent location in Chicago. This additional $50,000 funding from the Commission gives the campaign a fantastic boost and it is hoped to announce the location of the monument very soon. Fundraising continues and the latest trade union contribution of $5000 from the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Crafts was also most welcome. The Committee’s cherished dream of a lasting and permanent monument to the Cork woman looks like being realised shortly.
The Mother Jones Heritage Project has also received news that its application for the erection of a road marker in southern Indiana to Mother Jones has been approved. It will be placed in Evansville, a city with a rich Labour and coal miners heritage where Mother Jones rallied striking textile workers in 1901 and later in 1916 when she addressed a crowd of some ten thousand at a Labor Day picnic. A former coal miner and local historian Steve Bottoms worked with the Indiana authorities and with fundraising to make this memorial to Mother Jones happen.
The Mother Jones Heritage exhibition, Dangerous Women, Mary Harris “Mother” Jones and Francis “Fannie” Sellins, at the St. Louis Public Library’s Carnegie Room continues until January 7, 2023. The exhibit was funded in part by an Emigrant Support Grant of the Irish Government through the Chicago Consulate. Fannie Sellins was born Fannie Mooney and this union activist also had deep Irish emigrant roots.
Finally the Mother Jones Heritage Project invites everyone to join them on Saturday September 3rd in Chicago as Mother Jones leads the Labor day Parade. So come out and honour Mother Jones. For details visit www.motherjonesmuseum.org
Meanwhile down in Leadville in Colorado the construction of a monument is underway to remember the many Irish immigrants, over 1300, many of them young miners and their families from Allihies in West Cork who lie buried in unmarked graves in the Evergreen Cemetery.
The local Colorado committee under Professor James Walsh expects to have Phase 1 of the memorial completed this year and there will be a celebratory event in Leadville on Saturday September 17th 2022 to mark this achievement. The full unveiling of the spectacular monument will be held in 2023 when the glass panels with the names of those who lie buried there will be on display. Fundraising is continuing and donations towards the completion of the monument are most welcome.
Traditionally the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival each year concludes at the plaque on John Redmond Street, where we toast Mother Jones and remember absent friends.
This year was especially poignant as we recalled John Jefferies, who died on February 10th 2020. John was a founding member of the Cork Mother Jones Committee.
The committee made a special presentation to Monica Ross, John’s sister, as a token of the esteem and affection he was held in by many associated with the festival. The inscription read “In recognition of John Jefferies, Friend of Mother Jones” from the Cork Mother Jones Committee 2022.
John spoke at the 2015 festival about a hero of his, Jack (Sean) Dowling, who was one of the leaders of the Limerick Soviet in April 1919.
Monica thanked everyone and, in tribute to her brother, read a poem, ‘Thoughts on a beach‘, which John had composed.
The thoughts of the large gathering also were with labour historians Liam Cahill and Manus O’Riordan, both of whom had participated in the 2019 Spirit of Mother Jones festival.
Thoughts on a beach
I walk on the beach and wonder
Who has passed this way before me?
What joyous child looked awestruck at the scene?
Or picked a periwinkle from a rock
Curious at the sight.
What brave explorer chanced upon this way?
And sat upon that rock
Resting for a while
Letting cares abate.
Did some ancient beast waddle from the sea
And linger where I stand?
Looking for its prey
Or frolicking in the waves.
We are all but travelers on our way
Leaving footprints in the sand
There a fleeting moment
‘Til tide marks have their say.
I was here today
And marvelled at the sight
Danced in the waves
Drew pictures in the sand.
I dreamed I was a sailor
Or the first to set foot here
Carefree and inquisitive
I left a sign right there –
A footprint on the shoreline
And now I am elsewhere.
The imprint it has faded
Much time has passed since then
My shadow in the ripples
My laughter in the wind.
I will be here always
As long as daylight breaks
Aeons will pass
Humanity will fade
But it cant take away
The fact that I was here
Someday, some time
And I’m still here today.
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.
Every wonder why Mother Jones wished to be buried near “her boys” at the town of Mount Olive, in Southern Illinois in the Union Miners Cemetery, which is located near Route 66 midway between Springfield and St. Louis?
Mother Jones had earlier written to the Miners of Mount Olive on November 12th 1923, seeking
“a resting place in the same clay that shelters the miners who gave up their lives in the hills of Virden, Illinois on the morning of October 12th 1898, for their heroic sacrifice for their fellow men”.
Extract from Mother Jones and the Union Miners Cemetery Mount Olive, Illinois by the Illinois Labor History Society.
Her request was granted.
The Battle of Virden claimed the lives of four Mount Olive miners and since 1899, October 12th has been celebrated as Miners Day in Illinois at the Union Miners Cemetery.
During the battle, seven miners were killed and forty were wounded. Five mine guards died and four were wounded. The youngest miner killed was Edward Long, just 19 years old from Mount Olive.
Many activists from the Progressive Miners of America are buried at Mount Olive. Recently the remains of labour singer Anne Feeney, were placed in the cemetery.
On Saturday May 1st 2021, the Irish Embassy in Washington and the Irish Consulate in Chicago unveiled two beautiful portraits of Mother Jones. Commissioned by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and painted by artist Lindsay Hand, they represent a fitting tribute to this great Cork born woman, trade union and labour activist. This was part of “If Walls Could Talk” initiative by the Irish Consulate.
Irish Ambassador to America, Daniel Mulhall unveiled the portrait at the embassy where it will hang proudly alongside the portrait of the late civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis.
Kevin Byrne, the Irish Consul General in Chicago conducted an interesting discussion with Lindsay Hand, the artist and a series of Illinois based trade union leaders who explained what Mother Jones means to them. The trade union leaders who participated in the discussion included Sheila Gainer, UniteHere union organiser, Pat Meade of the Illinois Nurses Association and Deborah Cosey-Lane of the Amalgamated Transit Union.
Anne Feeney, American folk singer, songwriter and trade union activist died on 3rd February 2021. Anne visited Cork in 2013 and in spite of serious health issues was determined to return and sing at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.
When she did return in 2014 Anne sang at the Cork Singers Club on the opening night and later in a concert with Si Kahn at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in 2014. Anne and Si’s rousing version of Solidarity Foreverliterally raised the roof of the Firkin Theatre on that evening of Thursday 31st July.
Her labour activism and love of Mother Jones was derived from William Patrick Feeney, her grandfather who was a union organiser. Anne’s unique “Business Card” states her occupation simply as Folksinger/Agitator. The card also contains the quote from Utah Phillips “Anne Feeney is the best labor singer in North America”
In tracks such as “We Fought Back“, “How Much for the Life of a Miner“, “How Long?“, “Whatever Happened to the Eight Hour Day?”, her songs about respect for workers and working class solidarity display an uncompromising edge. Anne always let people know which side she was on.
Direct and honest and her lyrics reflect this. She sang of Santiago Cruz, Fanny Sellins and Mother Jones, and sang with Pete Seeger, Si Kahn, Loretto Lynn and Billy Bragg and so many others at concerts and fundraisers all over the place.
The US Labour Heritage Foundation awarded her the Joe Hill Award in 2005.
Anne Feeney spent a lifetime of activism and her songs and albums reflected her total dedication to the fight against injustice. She always maintained that songs and music empower people to challenge and question oppression.
Anne loved Ireland, and she travelled all over the country during her Enchanted Way Tours. Her 2010 album Anne Feeney: Enchanted Way, demonstrated her versatility with some Irish classics like “Raglan Road” and “Hey, Ronnie Reagan!” Her website and blog demonstrate her never-ending activism and her practical support for the labour movement throughout America and elsewhere.
In the preamble to her 2008 Album, Dump the Bosses Off Your Back she stated,
“The working people of this country are an amazing lot. Against all odds, they will walk off their jobs and strike, enduring significant hardships sometimes for months and even years – and why? To protect future generations of workers – and to preserve elusive concepts like “dignity” and “respect”. The generosity of the American working class and their willingness to help others is downright awe-inspiring.”
Anne herself was truly inspiring and was supportive of our efforts to keep the memory of her hero Mother Jones alive and is fondly remembered by her friends on the Cork Mother Jones Committee.
To her daughter Amy Berlin and son Dan and her family and friends we express our sympathy and solidarity.
Marty Walsh, Mayor of Boston, has been nominated by U.S. President-elect Joe Biden as Secretary of Labour.
The news reports that Martin J. Walsh, Mayor of Chicago since 2014, whose parents were from Co Galway, has been nominated by President elect Joe Biden to be his Secretary of Labour has been welcomed by the Cork Mother Jones Committee. If Mayor Walsh is confirmed he would be the first union member to be Secretary of Labour in almost 50 years. He originally joined the Labourer’ Union local 223, eventually becoming president. Later he led the Boston Building Trade Council.
According to Jim Nolan spokesperson for the Committee.
“Back at the 2014 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival, the recently elected Mayor Walsh took the trouble to send a wonderful message of support for the festival. The letter was delivered and presented to the Cork Mother Jones Committee on behalf of Mayor Walsh by the late Professor James Green, of the University of Massachusetts, Boston, who spoke at the 2014 festival. We were absolutely delighted at the time that the Mayor of Boston had recognised the Spirit of Mother Jones festival in Shandon in such a manner and was so forthright in praising our efforts to obtain due recognition for Cork-born labour hero Mother Jones.”
In his letter dated July 25th 2014, Mayor Walsh thanked the Cork Mother Jones Committee “for honouring her powerful legacy” and went on to say “like Mother Jones we must abide wherever there is a fight against wrong”.
All at the festival were very appreciative of this letter which detailed the Mayor’s efforts over many years to support workers’ rights.
This is an extract from Mayor Walsh in his 2014 letter to the Cork Mother Jones Committee,
“I know that the simple notion of fair day’s pay for an honest day’s work is far from a simple thing to achieve. Securing justice takes a hard, complex and constant struggle, it takes collective action that is only accomplished through the kind of community building you are doing this weekend in Cork”
Marty Walsh – Lord Mayor of Boston
In response to the recent news, committee spokesman Jim Nolan issued the following statement:
Mother Jones herself could not have put it better and the Cork Mother Jones Committee proposes to send a letter of congratulations to Marty Walsh on his being nominated to this powerful Secretary of Labour position in the US Government. .”
It is with great sadness that we announce the death of John Jefferies, a founding member of the Cork Mother Jones Committee. John passed away at his residence in Cobh on February 10th 2020.
John was a member of our committee since 2011 and managed the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival website and Facebook pages. His knowledge of history, heritage, politics and people was quite extraordinary and his meticulous research and understanding of public and community history was unsurpassed.
Like Mother Jones, from whom he took much inspiration, John spoke for the underdogs in society and supported social justice and human rights issues.
At the 2015 festival he highlighted the important role of Cobh born, union organiser, Jack Dowling. In 2017 he published his book Death on the Pier …the Cobh Pier Head Shooting and the Story of the Moon Car.
John’s contribution to the work of this committee laid the foundations for many festivals. He focused on the history and story of ordinary working people and the trade union movement.
On behalf of the Cork Mother Jones Committee we wish to express our sympathy to his family and friends.