Spirit of Mother Jones to shine at 2nd Festival

local performer Kate Magrew as Mother Jones local performer Kate Magrew as Mother Jones

The Cork Mother Jones Committee today announced details of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival at a packed press launch at the Maldron Hotel in the city’s historic Shandon area. In addition to the launch of our new festival programme and poster, the recipient of the Spirit of Mother Jones Award was announced as Margaret Aspinall, Chairperson of the Hillsborough Family Support Group.

Margaret Aspinall

Margaret Aspinall

The launch was chaired by committee member Michael Lally who welcomed the assembled press and guests including some local women who had come dressed in period costume. Among those was performer Kate Magrew who skilfully reprised some of Mother Jones fiery and inspiring speeches. John Jefferies gave a brief outline of the long life of Mother Jones, her origins on the Northside of Cork and her history of struggle and activism across North America. Cllr. Ted Tynan spoke about the official designation by Cork City Council of August 1st as Mother Jones Day to mark the anniversary of Mother Jones baptism in the North Cathedral in 1837. William Hammond gave a run-down of the musical acts that will be appearing at the festival and Ger O’Mahony made the formal announcement that the Spirit of Mother Jones Award 2013 would go to Margaret Aspinall.

Some of the costumed local ladies at the launch

Some of the costumed local ladies at the launch

A year ago the first ever Cork Mother Jones festival was held in the Shandon area of the historic Northside of Cork city and successfully rekindled the legacy of one of Cork’s iconic women, then all but unknown in her native city, but famous in the United States and elsewhere.

A year on and Mother Jones no longer needs to be introduced to Corkonians and today we are pleased to announce our second festival which we have entitled The Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2013 which will be held from Tuesday, 30th July to Thursday, 1st August which has appropriately been formally declared as Mother Jones Day thanks to Cork City Council and a motion from Cllr. Ted Tynan.

The location of the festival in Shandon is designed to enhance the tourism potential of this historic area and of Cork City in general as the birthplace of Mary Harris, who later achieved international recognition as the union organiser, Mother Jones. All but forgotten for over 80 years she has now become “one of our own” and the Spirit of Mother Jones will shine at our forthcoming second festival ensuring it will be bigger, better and bolder than the first.

The inaugural Mother Jones Photographic Exhibition in 2012 was immensely popular last year so we have brought it back again it will open at the Maldron Hotel at 5pm on July 30th and run right through to the close of the festival on the evening of August 1st.

The festival will once again showcase some great local and national music talent with a concert by Andy Irvine, an informal afternoon session with Jimmy Crowley and performances from Hank Wedel, the Cork Singers Club, Richard T. Cooke and others.

There will be first public showing of the film “116 Days – the Vita Cortex workers’ struggle” by Declan O’Connell a re-showing of Rosemary Feurer’s film on Mother Jones and Frameworks’ Films recent documentary on Cork’s hero Tadhg Barry.

Lectures and discussion will be led by Padraig Yeates on the Dublin Lockout of 1913 in its centenary year, Luke Dineen will talk about the forgotten 1909 Cork Lockout, Professor Simon Cordery will talk about Mother Jones and Ken Fleming of the International Transport Federation will talk about “Slavery on our Seas, the story of the poor conditions endured by seafarers on “Flags of Convenience” ships.

The culmination of this year’s festival will be the presentation of the Spirit of Mother Jones Award 2013 to Margaret Aspinall, Chairperson of the Hillsborough Family Support Group. As some of you will know Margaret’s 18 year old son James was one of the 96 people who died in the 1989 stadium disaster. In addition to the presentation of the award to Margaret she will also be our keynote speaker on the opening night of the festival at the Smurfit Theatre, Firkin Crane, Shandon on “Hillsborough, the torment of injustice”.

The 2013 festival will take place over 3 days from 30 July to 1st August and will consist of talks, lectures, concerts, films and music.

MJ-Committee-2013

Launch of Four Festivals

Launch of the Four Festivals of Shandon yesterday (May 29) at the Maldron Hotel.  L-R: Sandra Gil, John Jefferies, Linda O'Halloran, Michael Lally, James Nolan, Cllr. Pat Gosch, Cllr. Kieran McCarthy.  Photo: Martin Duggan.

Launch of the Four Festivals of Shandon yesterday (May 29) at the Maldron Hotel. L-R: Sandra Gil, John Jefferies, Linda O’Halloran, Michael Lally, James Nolan, Cllr. Pat Gosch, Cllr. Kieran McCarthy. Photo: Martin Duggan.

A unique event took place in the Shandon area of Cork city yesterday (29 May) with the joint launch of four separate festivals which will be held in the area under the auspices of “The Gathering” during the summer and early autumn.

Dubbed “the Four Festivals under the Four Liars”, the events will be launched simultaneously at the Maldron Hotel in Shandon this Wednesday (May 29th) at 1.00pm.   All local media are welcome.   The “four liars” is the local nickname for the four faces of the Shandon clock on the iconic St. Anne’s Church which is known for showing a slightly different time on each face.

The four festivals in question are as follows:

“Voices from Shandon” on Saturday, 15th June;  which will include the raising of 1,000 flags on St. Anne’s Church to the sound of 200 voices.

The 7th Shandon Street Festival on Saturday, 22nd June which will feature a large number of events aimed at all ages from face-painting  and magic shows to live music and story-telling.

The Spirit of Mother Jones Festival on Tuesday 30th July to Thursday 1st August will mark the life and legacy of Cork born social activist and trade union organiser Mary Harris, better known as “Mother Jones”. Cork City Council has officially designated August 1st as “Mother Jones Day”

Last, but not least, is  the 8th Dragon of Shandon festival on Thursday, 31st October to celebrate the ancient Irish festival of Samhain / Halloween and will feature Ireland’s largest dragon.

Spokesman Jim Nolan said that the launching of four festivals on the one day was a first and predicted that they would be a major boost to local businesses and to the standing of the area as the historic heart of the Northside.

Four Festivals, one poster

Four Festivals, one poster

Attending the launch

Attending the launch

Relaxing at the launch.  Photo: John Jefferies.

Relaxing at the launch. Photo: John Jefferies.

Festival Launch.  Photo: John Jefferies

Festival Launch. Photo: John Jefferies

Four Festivals Launch 019

Cork City declares August 1st as Mother Jones Day

mother_jones_white_house_1924aThe Cork Mother Jones Committee is delighted to announce the holding of the 2013 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in historic Shandon from Tuesday 30th July to Thursday 1st August 2013.

We wish to congratulate Cork City Council on recently declaring August 1st as Mother Jones Day

“We are really delighted by the unanimous decision of Cork City Council to designate August 1st as Mother Jones Day in our City. This brave Cork woman has been officially honoured in her native place by the City Council following a motion from Cllr. Ted Tynan, who is a member of the Cork Mother Jones committee” stated Jim Nolan, spokesperson for the committee.

This international “Shandon Summer School” event will see speakers from Ireland joined by participants from the United Kingdom and the United States, who will attend to discuss issues associated with social justice, labour and union history. These were issues close to the heart of Cork born Mary Harris known throughout the world as Mother Jones.

In 2012 Shandon was the location for the inaugural Mother Jones Festival which celebrated the 175 Anniversary of the birth of Mary Harris nearby. A beautiful plaque was unveiled at last year’s event and this will also be the focal point for the 2013 festival. The entire event was hugely successful, attracting large crowds, receiving significant media coverage throughout Ireland and America and placing the ancient Shandon Quarter in international focus.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee felt Shandon should continue to celebrate and honour Mother Jones by providing a platform to highlight and discuss labour history, trade union issues and social justice in the setting of the very birthplace of Mary Harris.

“What better way to remember the inspirational Mother Jones than by listening to  inspirational people and discussing the struggles of ordinary workers and people in an annual Summer School setting in this area?” stated Jim Nolan of the Committee.

 

“It would be a fitting tribute to a truly amazing Cork woman who fought for fair play and justice for workers and their families”

 

The Shandon festival/summer school will have a mixture of speakers, lectures discussions, films a parade of banners, music and songs associated with these struggles over three days.

On Tuesday evening, 30th July we are indeed honoured that the Chairperson of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, Margaret Aspinall will speak on the traumatic events which took place at the Hillsborough Stadium on the 15th April 1989, when 96 Liverpool supporters lost their lives. Margaret’s son James was among those who never came home from that game. The publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report on 12th September 2012 exposed the truth of what occurred at the Hillsborough Stadium that day in 1989. Margaret will give an account of the families long 23 year campaign to highlight the injustice and untruths which surrounded the real causes of this appalling disaster.

Wednesday afternoon 31st July will see Ken Fleming of SIPTU and an Inspector with the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) give a lecture on the appalling exploitation of some seafarers on vessels operating under Flags of Convenience. Over the past 4 years Ken has recouped over a million euro in unpaid wages for foreign seafarers in Irish ports, six vessels were detained and over 100 seafarers repatriated.

Later that evening Padraig Yeates, journalist, writer and author of the book “Lockout”, an account of the bitter workers strike in 1913, will give the Centenary lecture on the Dublin Lockout. The Lockout was a watershed in Irish political and labour history and began a chain of events which led eventually to the 1916 rebellion. Padraig Yeates is a renowned expert on this period in Irish history. His Centenary lecture will take place at 7pm on Wednesday 31st August at the Firkin Crane.

Luke Dineen will present his paper on the Cork Strike and Lockout of 1909 at the Firkin Crane also on Wednesday afternoon. This very significant but largely forgotten strike had a major influence on the later Dublin Lockout. Luke is a post graduate MA student at UCC and was awarded the John B. O’Brien Annual Prize in History.

On Thursday 1st August, Mother Jones Day, we are pleased to present Professor Simon Cordery of WesternIllinoisUniversity who will deliver the annual Mother Jones lecture. Simon has written extensively on the activities of Mother Jones and recently completed a book entitled Mother Jones “Raising Cain and Consciousness”.

“All the speakers will present in their different ways a common thread through history of  ordinary people and families fighting for basic rights whether in their work places or in their daily lives as epitomised by the spirit of  Mother Jones who spent most of her life defending the rights of workers and their families in the United States of America.” continued Jim Nolan.

 

The festival will see Andy Irvine return to Cork to perform a special concert in honour of Mother Jones at the Firkin Crane on Thursday 1st August. There is limited capacity and tickets will need to be pre purchased from Tickets.ie or members of the committee. Richard T Cooke will present a special Mother Jones Festival tribute concert also at the Firkin Crane on Wednesday evening 31st July.

Noted actor Jer O’Leary will perform a Jim Larkin monologue while the famous Cork Singers Club will render a series of songs associated with Mother Jones at the Maldron Hotel. Jimmy Crowley, legendary Cork singer, songwriter will present a workshop on entitled “Songs of a Beautiful City” at the Maldron Hotel. The event will culminate with the famous Butter Exchange Band performing a recital of music associated with Mother Jones at the plaque on John Redmond Street on August 1st.

All are welcome to attend this unique event which forms part of the “Gathering” events in CorkCity in 2013 and part of a wider series of festivals and events taking place in Shandon throughout this year.

For further information contact:

www.motherjonescork.com

Jim Nolan                    086 1651356

Michael Lally              086 8540896

Gerard O’Mahony       086 3196063.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee wish to gratefully acknowledge the financial assistance and support of the SIPTU Union and The Gathering for making this festival possible.         

 

Festival Programme

2013 Poster

Preliminary poster for 2013 Festival

Festival Programme 2013

Tuesday July 30th

3pm to 9pm         Mother Jones Exhibition                           Shandon Quarter Ex. Center

7pm                    Hillsborough: “The long fight for Justice”   Firkin Crane Centre

Speaker: Margaret Aspinall

Hillsborough Family Support

Group.

9.30pm                 The Cork Singers Club                                      Maldron Hotel.

Wednesday July 31st

9am to 9pm           Mother Jones Exhibition                                  Shandon Quarter Ex. Centre

2pm                     116 Days: The Vita Cortex Workers          Maldron Hotel

Struggle; a film by Declan O’Connell.

3.30.                       Slavery on our Seas                                   Firkin Crane Centre  (downstairs)

Speaker: Ken Fleming of the International Transport Federation

7.00                        The Dublin Lockout: The Centenary.      Firkin Crane Centre (upstairs)

                             Speaker: Padraig Yeates,     Writer, journalist and historian

.

8.30                        “Jim Larkin speaks” with Jer O’Leary      Firkin Crane Centre.

9.00                        The Mother Jones Commemoration

                               Concert with Richard T.Cooke and friends.      Firkin Crane Centre.

10.00                       Hank Wedel and Friends                           Maldron Hotel

Thursday 1st August,

 

 

Mother Jones Day.

 

 

 9.00                        Mother Jones Exhibition.                                   Shandon Quarter Centre

 

11.00                       “Mother Jones, the most dangerous woman in America        Maldron Hotel

(a film by Rosemary Fuerer)

11.45                      Remembering Mother Jones Festival 2012         Maldron Hotel

(a film by Framework Films)

3.00                        The 2013 Mother Jones Lecture                          Firkin Crane Centre (downstairs)

Speaker: Professor Simon Cordery.

Chair of History, Western Illinois University.

Author: Mother Jones, Raising Cain and

Consciousness

7.00                        Mother Jones Tribute.                                 Mother Jones Plaque

March past of Union Banners:

Butter Exchange Band Tribute to Mother

Jones.

Presentation of Mother Jones Award.

8.30                        Concert with Andy Irvine                                  Firkin Crane Centre

10.00                     Music, Two Time Polka,                                      Maldron Hotel.

The “Spirit of Mother Jones” Festival 2013

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is delighted to announce the holding of the 2013 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in Shandon from Tuesday 30th July to Thursday 1st August 2013.

This international “Shandon Summer School” event will see speakers from Ireland joined by participants from both the United Kingdom and the United States, who will attend to discuss issues associated with social justice, labour history and trade union struggles. These were issues close to the heart of Cork born Mary Harris known throughout the world as Mother Jones, after whom the event is named in honour.

In 2012 Shandon was the location for the inaugural Mother Jones Festival which celebrated the 175 Anniversary of the birth of Mary Harris nearby. The festival was hugely successful, receiving coverage throughout Ireland and America and placing the historic Shandon area in international focus.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee felt Shandon should continue to honour Mother Jones by highlighting and providing a platform for discussing labour history, trade union actions for fair working conditions and social issues in the setting of the birthplace of Mother Jones.

“What better way to remember the great Mother Jones that by listening to, learning of and discussing the struggles of ordinary workers and people in an annual Summer School format in this area?” stated Jim Nolan of the committee.

“It would be a fitting tribute to an extraordinary Cork woman”

The Shandon festival/summer school will have a mixture of speakers, lectures discussions, films and music and songs associated with these struggles over three days.

On Tuesday evening, 30th July the Chairperson of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, Margaret Aspinall will speak on the traumatic events which took place at the Hillsborough Stadium on the 15th April 1989, when 96 Liverpool supporters lost their lives. Margaret’s son James was among those who never came home from that game. Margaret will give an account of the families long 23 year campaign to highlight the injustice and untruths which surrounded the real causes of this appalling disaster.

Wednesday afternoon 31st July will see Ken Fleming of SIPTU and an Inspector with the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) give a lecture on the exploitation of seafarers on vessels operating under Flags of Convenience. Over the past 4 years Ken has recouped over a million euro in unpaid wages for foreign seafarers in Irish ports, six vessels were detained and over 100 seafarers repatriated.

Later that evening Padraig Yeates, journalist, writer and author of the book “Lockout”, an account of the bitter workers strike in 1913, will give the Centenary lecture on the Dublin Lockout. The Lockout was a watershed in Irish political and labour history and began a chain of events which led eventually to the 1916 rebellion. Padraig Yeates is a renowned expert on this period in Irish history. His Centenary lecture will take place at 7pm on Wednesday 31st August at the Firkin Crane.

On Thursday 1st August, Mother Jones Day, we are honoured to present Professor Simon Cordery of Western Illinois University who will deliver the annual Mother Jones lecture. Simon has written extensively on the activities of Mother Jones and recently completed a history and analysis of Mother Jones entitled Mother Jones “Raising Cain and Consciousness”.

“All the speakers will present in their different ways a common thread through history of ordinary people and families fighting for basic rights whether in their work places or in their daily lives as epitomised by the spirit of Mother Jones who spent most of her life defending the rights of workers and their families in the United States of America.” continued Jim Nolan.

The festival will see Andy Irvine return to Cork to perform a special concert in honour of Mother Jones at the Firkin on Thursday 1st August. There is limited capacity and tickets will need to be pre purchased.

Richard T Cooke is organizing a Mother Jones tribute concert also at the Firkin Crane on Wednesday 31st July.

Noted actor Jer O’Leary will perform a Jim Larkin monologue while the famous Cork Singers Club will perform a series of labour and trade union songs at the Maldron Hotel.

All are welcome to attend this unique event which forms part of the Gathering events in Cork City in 2013.

For further information contact:

Jim Nolan 0861651356
Michael Lally 0868540896
Gerard O’Mahony 0863196063.

Mother Jones, the Walking Wrath of God

 

Prof Elliott J Gorn

Professor Elliot J. Gorn addressing the Cork Mother Jones festival, Firkin crane centre, Cork, 1st August 2012.

 Mother Jones, the Walking Wrath of God

Contribution by Professor Elliot J. Gorn, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA and biographer of Mother Jones, speaking at the inaugural Mother Jones festival, Cork City, Ireland, 1st August 2012.

“There broke out a storm of applause which swelled into a tumult as a little woman came forward on the platform,” wrote the great labor novelist Upton Sinclair.  “She was wrinkled and old, dressed in black, looking like somebody’s grandmother; she was, in truth, the grandmother of hundreds of thousands of miners….”  Sinclair, famous for his classic 1906 novel The Jungle about life and labor in the stockyards, turned his attention now to the coal wars in Colorado:  “Hearing her speak,” he wrote of his old friend Mother Jones, “you discovered the secret of her influence over these polyglot hordes.  She had force, she had wit, above all she had the fire of indignation—she was the walking wrath of God….”

Mother Jones, Sinclair wrote, “would tell endless stories about her adventures, about strikes she had led and speeches she had made; about interviews with presidents and governors and captains of industry; about jails and convict camps….  All over the country she had roamed and wherever she went, the flame of protest had leaped up in the hearts of men; her story was a veritable Odyssey of revolt.”  Sinclair’s words were literally true; for twenty-five years, this elderly woman had no home.  As she explained to a Congressional committee when asked where she lived, “my address is like my shoes; it follows me wherever I go.”

So who was Mother Jones?  With organized labor’s declining fortunes in the twenty-first century, we don’t hear of her so often anymore.  Except for a progressive magazine named in her honor, and her famous battle-cry, “pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living,” she is a faded memory.  Yet she was one of the most famous women in America during the first decades of the twentieth century.

In her 60s, 70s, 80s, Mother Jones renounced friends, family and possessions to live on the road with her people, and out of that commitment grew working families’ powerful sense of identification with her.  Hearing that she had been arrested once again, a worker named T. J. Llewellen from Missouri wrote to the Secretary of Labor, “I have carried a gun three times in the industrial wars in this country, and by the eternal, if any harm comes to the old Mother, I’m not too old nor by the same token too cowardly to carry it again.”  Margaret R. Duvall warned of an aroused working class “more dreadful than this country has ever seen” should any harm come to Mother Jones.  And A. Van Tassel of Ohio begged President Woodrow Wilson to free the Miners’ Angel:  “This beautiful hero of the labor movement has committed no crime, but is being slowly murdered because she insisted on agitating and educating the workers to realize their true status in society.”

Mother Jones’ early life is enveloped in myth, some of it created by herself.  She exaggerated her age to enhance her venerability.  In her autobiography, published in 1925, she claimed May Day, 1930 as her birthday.  Actually, she was born Mary Harris, and baptized in Cork Ireland in August 1837.  She witnessed the Great Hunger, which forced her family to flee to North America.  Her teen years were spent in Toronto, where her father worked as a laborer on the railroads, and where she learned the skills of a seamstress, but she also studied to become a teacher.  As a young adult, she taught in a convent school in Monroe Michigan, worked briefly in Chicago, then migrated to Memphis, Tennessee, where she met and married an iron-moulder, a union man named George Jones.  They had four children, but in 1867, a yellow fever epidemic took all of their lives, save Mary’s.  She returned to Chicago, and for the next twenty years, labored in obscurity as a dressmaker.  She came to know many political activists and union leaders during these years.  Chicago was the most radical city in America, and on its streets, she discovered her gift of oratory.  Before the century ended, Mary Jones was marching with Coxey’s Army demanding a jobs program, and organizing anthracite miners in Pennsylvania.

Her most important act, however, was creating “Mother Jones.”  Mary Harris was a poor Irish famine immigrant, a young schoolteacher and dressmaker, who drifted away from her working class Toronto family to pursue a life in the United States.  Mary Jones was the wife of a working class man and mother of a young family until plague took them all, and left her a middle-aged widow, making ends meet sewing dresses in Chicago.  It was in that booming shock-city—where hundreds of thousands of people from overseas and from America’s hinterlands came to start fresh—that she re-created herself, became somebody new.  By the late 1890s, she was almost as dispossessed as an American could be—poor, working class, Irish, widowed, elderly (she turned sixty years old in 1897).  With precious little left to lose, she invented and inhabited the role of Mother Jones.

The new persona transformed her.  She never called herself Mary again; all of her letters were signed “Mother Jones,” and businessmen, union leaders, even presidents of the United States addressed her that way.  She wore antique black dresses, exaggerated her age, spoke of her impending mortality, and invoked a mother’s claim to moral virtue.  But she merged her saintly image with hellfire oratory and raw physical courage.  She defied police officers, private detectives, and national guardsmen; she flaunted judges’ injunctions, belittled governors, and assailed businessmen; she served several jail terms, declaring she could raise more hell inside prison than out.

Mother Jones organized workers’ wives into boisterous demonstrations, and she cajoled and browbeat union men to stay true to their organizations.  As Mother Jones, she spoke for the family of labor with deep moral authority.  Her speeches rejected the untrammeled rule of the marketplace and upheld instead an ideal of humane communities of working families.  She invoked wrenching images of blood stolen, bodies mangled, and youth exploited to dramatize the injustice of poverty in America.  Above all, she gave working people hope and told them that their collective aspirations were in the best traditions of American freedom.

These were hard times for American workers.  Coal was America’s fuel, and three quarters of a million men mined it.  They were paid roughly $400 a year, often in company scrip, which forced them to live in company towns and buy goods at the company store, while private armed guards routinely abrogated their civil liberties.  Half a million steel workers labored on twelve-hour shifts, six days a week.  Millions of women and children worked in mills and sweatshops for pennies, often with little choice but to work or starve.

Mother Jones was one of many radicals of her era, including socialist party leader Eugene V Debs, anarchist Emma Goldman, champion of black freedom W.E.B. Dubois, communitarian journalist Julius Wayland, Industrial Workers of the World organizer Big Bill Haywood.  All responded to the crushing weight of corporate power by mobilizing Americans with new ideas—with unions, syndicalist organizations, political parties—even to the point of open rebellion.  Mother Jones was at the center of these radical, often violent times.

She worked more for the United Mine Workers than any other organization, especially in the early days when it was the largest industrial union in America.  She organized anthracite miners in Pennsylvania and bituminous workers in the Middle West’s Central Competitive Field, but she broke with the UMW leadership as it turned more conservative early in the twentieth century.  In 1903 she organized a protest against child labor, the “March of the Mill Children,” from Philadelphia to President Theodore Roosevelt’s home on Long Island.  Between 1905 and 1912, she went out on the road organizing for the Socialist Party, and for the radical Western Federation of Miners.  She was the founding mother of the Industrial Workers of the World, and a signer of that group’s original charter.  She organized copper miners in Calumet, brewery workers in Milwaukee, and garment workers in Chicago.  She rejoined the Mine Workers as a paid organizer around 1912, just as it launched two massive efforts that turned violent in West Virginia and Colorado.  “Medieval West Virginia,” Mother Jones said of the Mountain State, “with its tent colonies on the bleak hills!  With its grim men and women!  When I get to the other side, I shall tell God almighty about West Virginia.”

She did not win all of her strikes, but she was the most prominent and successful organizer of the United Mine Workers, which in the early twentieth century was one of America’s largest and most successful unions.

But we miss her larger importance if we focus only on the nuts and bolts of daily organizing.  Mother Jones, above all captured the spirit of the labor movement, and the American left.  She had a gift for words.  When someone once introduced her as a great humanitarian, she snapped, ‘Get it right; I’m a hell raiser, not a humanitarian.”  Thrown into prison once again during the Colorado strike, she told reporters, “I can raise more hell in prison than out.”  When a man in prison told her that he was serving time for stealing a pair of shoes, she replied that he should have stolen a railroad, then he’d be a United States Senator.  Testifying before Congress and asked to state where she lived, she said that her address was like her shoes, traveling with her wherever she went.  Reminded of Jesus’s self-abnegation, Mother Jones declared, “Christ himself…would agitate against the plutocrats and hypocrites who tell the workers to go down on their knees an get right with God.  Christ, the carpenter’s son, would tell them to stand up on their feet and fight for righteousness and justice on the earth.”

And travel she did, thousands and thousands of miles by rail and car, in horse-drawn carriages and on foot, giving hundreds of speeches across America.  In the nineteen teens, she worked with Mexican revolutionaries in the southwest, political prisoners in California, and steel workers in the Midwest.  The 1920s found her back in the coal fields, but now in her mid-80s, her health increasingly broke down, and her great oratorical powers began to flag.  She continued making appearances, and she worked on her autobiography, which appeared in 1925. On May Day, 1930, she and hundreds of well-wishers celebrated her hundredth birthday (she was really 93).  Six months later, she passed away.

They buried Mother Jones in the Union Miners’ Cemetery in Mount Olive Illinois, alongside the “brave boys” who fell in labor’s cause.  Thousands came to hear Father John Maguire’s funeral oration, and tens of thousands more listened on WCFL, Chicago’s radio voice of labor:

Today, in gorgeous mahogany furnished and carefully guarded offices in distant capitals wealthy mine owners and capitalists are breathing sighs of relief.  Today, upon the plains of Illinois, the hillsides and valleys of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, in California, Colorado and British Columbia, strong men and toil worn women are weeping tears of bitter grief.  The reasons are the same….  Mother Jones is dead.

For working men and women, Mother Jones was one of their own.  She organized thousands of workers in a range of trades.  But perhaps her greatest achievement was being heard at all.  Who was more silenced in early twentieth century America than an elderly immigrant widow?  Yet she created a character, Mother Jones, lived that persona until the day she died.  And having found a voice as Mother Jones, she raised it like a prophet in the cause of America’s workers, and they responded to her call.