Mother Jones….. US National Mining Hall of Fame Inductee 248.

Mother Jones…..National Mining Hall of Fame Inductee 248.

Mary “Mother Jones” photographed in 1901

On September 14, 2019 Mother Jones was inducted into the National Mining Hall of Fame in Leadville, Colorado.

According to its website….

“The National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum is a monument to the memory of the men and women who pioneered the discovery, development, and processing of our nation’s natural resources. Our mission is to “tell the story of mining, its people, its importance to the American public, and to society’s sustainability.”  Known as the “Smithsonian of the Rockies” and the “Premier Showcase of American Mining” the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum houses 25,000 square feet of interactive and informative exhibits sharing the evolving narrative of mining and its relationship to our everyday lives.”

Mother Jones is Inductee 248.

The National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum at Leadville, Colorado, USA

Her induction citation read as follows;

Mary Harris “Mother” Jones is one of the most famous labor activists in the cause of economic justice. Her battle cry, “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living,” truly said it all.  Her powerful speeches and knack for theatrics encouraged many to form unions and strike for fair wages and safe working conditions. Known as the “Miner’s Angel” for her advocacy on their behalf, Mother Jones’s activism set the stage for the labor and safety laws we all benefit from today. A champion of the working class, she organized numerous miners’ strikes against low pay, 12-hour days, 7-day work weeks, extreme mortality rates, and child labor, and railed against the servitude of company stores and company housing.  When she began organizing for the United Mine Workers Union in the 1890s, it had 10,000 members; within a few years, 300,000 men had joined.  Hearing Jones speak, you discovered the secret of her influence – she had force, she had wit, and above all she had the fire of indignation. Mother Jones’s impassioned work is recognized in the National Women’s Hall of Fame, U.S. Department of Labor’s Hall of Honors, and the Irish American Hall of Fame. 

The historian and sociologist James Loewen (Author of Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything your High School History Textbook Got Wrong) criticised the National Mining Hall of Fame a few years ago for inducting mostly white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant men, who were disproportionately engineers, executives and wealthy mine owners. Where were the miners, Loewen asked, where the immigrants and workers of colour, the labour organisers, the women.  Why was there no commemoration to the thousands who died in the mines?

Mother Jones biographer Prof Elliot Gorn at last year’s Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in Cork, Ireland

Elliott Gorn, author of Mother Jones – The Most Dangerous Woman in America, who spoke at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in Cork in 2019 stated

 

The Mining Hall of Fame has become a bit more inclusive in recent years, a little more attuned to worker exploitation, safety and environmental issues.  Hopefully, the inclusion of Mother Jones signals that the Hall of Fame will continue to pay more attention to the issues she long agitated about.”

Mother Jones inducted into Irish American Hall of Fame

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.

Irish American Hall of Fame award

Irish American Hall of Fame award

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,

Gerard O’Mahony,
Coordinator, the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival,
Cork Mother Jones Committee.