Day 3 of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival & Summer School, Cork

The 8th annual Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and Summer School continues today (Friday, 2nd August) and until tomorrow night.  Below you will find today’s programme.

Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and Summer School events on Friday 2nd August.  

Friday 2nd August

11:00 a.m.  L     Luke Dineen 

                           “Craftsmen and the Irish revolution, 1920-23” .

Cathedral Visitor Centre

 

1:00 p.m.    M     Music at the Maldron.

                            Jimmy Crowley.

  

2:30 p.m.    L       Dr. John Barimo.

Social Justice, Inequality and Climate Change”. Cathedral Visitor Centre

 

3:30 p.m     F      Remembering the Cork Climate Change March 2019

                   L      Micah Neilson.    Fridays for Future Cork.

                   L      Alicia O’Sullivan.  Irish Ambassador for the Worlds Oceans. 

 

5:00 p.m     F      Fords – Memories of the Line.

A film documentary produced by the Ford Ex-workers Group and Frameworks Films.

Maldron Hotel.

 

7:30 p.m.   L      Michael Kingston, Tom McSweeney.

                         The Whiddy disaster

                          Statement by Madame Ginette Ravaleu, President of the

French-Irish Association of Relatives and Friends of the Betelgeuse                         

                           Firkin Crane Theatre.

 

9:30 p.m  M     John Nyhan and Mick Treacy present the songs of Pete Seeger (1919- 2014)

Maldron Hotel.

 

 

 

Day 2 of Spirit of Mother Jones Festival & Summer School

The 8th annual Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and Summer School continues today and until next Saturday night.  Below you will find today’s programme.

Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and Summer School on Thursday 1st August.

The Radical Irish Diaspora

11:00 a.m.       Lorraine Starsky

        “In the Footsteps of Mother Jones – The Life and Legacy of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn         1890- 1964”                

Cathedral Visitor Centre

1.00 p.m.         Music at the Maldron.

William Hammond

2.30 p.m.         Dr Kieran Groeger.

                        “The Extraordinary Life of John Swiney, the United Irishman from Shandon.”

Cathedral Visitor Centre

 

5.00 p.m          The Limerick Soviet

A collaborative documentary between the Limerick Council of Trade Unions and                  Frameworks Films. We celebrate the 100th Anniversary of The Limerick Soviet. Author Liam Cahill will introduce the documentary. An exhibition on the Limerick Soviet courtesy of Cork City Library will be on site.

Maldron Hotel, Shandon

7.30 p.m.         Anne Twomey Shandon Area History Group.

“Mary Elmes …………An Irish Heroine”   

                          Firkin Crane Theatre 

 

8:00 p m         Fili Na Reabhloide (Poets of the Revolution)

                        Myo Café, Popes Quay.

Readings  from your favourite poets of revolution and social change.

(Tel. 083 0425942)

9.30 p.m        Club Ceoil Ballyphehane Ballad Group.

Evening includes the Song for Mother Jones.    

Maldron Hotel

 

The 8th annual Spirit of Mother Jones Festival begins today

The 8th Annual Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and Summer School opens in the Shandon area on the northside of Cork city today.

Events at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival on Wednesday 31st July 2019.

 

10:30 a.m.  F   A film by Rosemary Feurer.

Mother Jones: America’s Most Dangerous Woman             

                        Cathedral Visitor Centre

11:00 a.m.   F  Frameworks Films

                        Mother Jones and Her Children.    Cathedral Visitor Centre

12: 30 a.m.     The March of the Mill Children pageant at Shandon Plaza.

(With the assistance of Cork Community Art Link.)

1:30 p.m.        Official festival opening by the Lord Mayor of Cork at Maldron Hotel, Shandon

3:00 p.m.   L   Séan Ó Tuathaigh 

“Outlanders – Stories of the Displaced”.  Cathedral Visitor Centre

7: 00 p.m.  L   Joe Creedon

                      “Ellen Cotter, the mother of Mary Harris, and Inchigeelagh in the early 1800s”

 

Firkin Crane Theatre

 

8:00 p.m   L   Professor Elliott Gorn. (Author of Mother Jones…..the Most Dangerous Woman in America)

The story of Mother Jones”   

                        Firkin Crane Theatre

9:30 p.m.  M   The Cork Singers’ Club

                        Maldron Hotel, Shandon.

 

 

Mother Jones: her background, life and legacy

Mother Jones………her background, her life and her legacy.

Firkin Crane Theatre, Shandon.

Wednesday 31st July 2019 at 7pm.

Mary “Mother” Jones

On Wednesday 31st July, Elliott J Gorn, US historian and author and Joe Creedon, historian from Inchigeelagh, will discuss the background, life and times of Mother Jones and what is known of her mother’s life in Inchigeelagh. This will represent the most comprehensive account of Mary Harris/Mother Jones yet seen in Cork.

In her autobiography published in 1925, Mother Jones writes just a few lines on her Cork roots.

“I was born in the City of Cork, Ireland in 1830. My people were poor. For generations they had fought for Ireland’s freedom. Many of my folks died in that struggle. My father Richard Harris came to America in 1835 and as soon as he became an American citizen he sent for his family.”

Elliott J. Gorn

Mother Jones was 88 years old when this autobiography was published. Her dates above are incorrect in that she was actually born around 31st July 1837 (baptised by Fr John O’Mahony on 1st August 1837 at the Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Anne). Also her father and brother left for Canada in 1847, not 1835.

However her failure in this autobiography to mention her mother Ellen Cotter is strange but then she spends just a few pages on her early life as Mary Harris, the remaining 200 pages concentrate on Mother Jones.

On February 9th 1834, Richard Harris and Ellen Cotter were married in the old church in Inchigeelagh, this was then located in the centre of Inchigeelagh Village towards the rear of the present day Creedons Hotel. The village was quite small at the time comprising about a dozen buildings in all.

Their first son Richard was born in 1835 and was baptised also in Inchigeelagh, however the family had moved to live in Cork City as Mary and her later siblings Catherine 1840, Ellen in 1845 and William in 1846 were all baptised in the Cathedral.

Rural Ireland was then a place of agrarian conflict and poverty in the early 1800s as the growing population was very dependent on tiny holdings and the potato as a food source. Throughout Munster, the Whiteboys led by Captain Rock were in constant conflict with the authorities and outrages, reprisals and retaliation were common.

In 1822, the Battle of Keimaneigh took place near Inchigeelagh and involved hundreds of Whiteboys. The subsequent fall out from this would have reverberated around the local rural area as State repression forced people into insurrection. Thousands crowded into the towns and cities adding to the widespread destitution.

Once the potato blight was found in potatoes in rural Cork in the summer of 1845, it signalled the beginning of the Great Famine, which devastated Ireland and impacted on millions of Irish lives and left a mark on the emotional psyche of the Irish people ever since. The Harris family were just one of hundreds of thousands of families who fled Ireland seeking a better life.

Young Mary Harris left Cork, and her subsequent story and how she overcame personal tragedy has become an inspiration to millions of immigrants. Yet she found the will and determination to fight the economic and political injustice which she had first experienced in Ireland and later in the USA.

Joe Creedon

Joe Creedon lives in Inchigeelagh in Uibh Laoire. He is deeply immersed in the history, heritage and folk memory of this beautiful part of Muskerry. His vivid accounts of the people of his village are told with a vibrancy and passion. Listening to Joe takes one directly to the ancient world of his ancestors and the countryside of his native place. His story becomes a living portrait of the era described. Joe will tell of Ellen Cotter and early 19th Century Inchigeelagh.

Elliott Gorn attended the very first Mother Jones Festival in Shandon in 2012 and described the life and impact of Mother Jones. Elliott made the original discovery in relation to the baptism of Mary Harris at the North Cathedral in 1837, which was published in his classic account of Mother Jones (Mother Jones – The Most Dangerous Woman in America, published 2001, Hill and Wang). This book remains a very comprehensive account of the life of Mary Harris and the union/labour activities of Mother Jones.

In his conclusion Elliott stated,

“She was expected to go silently through life, for she was a mere worker in a country that worshipped success, an immigrant in a nativist land, a woman in a male-dominated society, and an elderly person in a nation that cherished youth. Hers was a voice that American’s were not supposed to hear. That was her final legacy – out of nothing but courage, passion, and commitment, she created a unique voice, a prophetic voice, and raised it in the cause of renewing America’s democratic promise.”

Elliot Gorn’s book on Mother Jones

Elliott has just completed The Story of Emmett Till – Let the People See, published by Oxford University Press. He will speak about Emmett Till on Saturday 3rd August next at 3pm at the Firkin Crane Theatre.

Music and Poetry Events at the 2019 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival

Music at the Maldron takes place at 1pm on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at the Maldron Hotel. Organised by Richard T Cooke, author, musician and song writer, these Maldron sessions feature Richard along with the Shandon Shawlies, Joan Goggin and family and many others.

Wednesday 31st July at 9.30pm at the Maldron.

The Cork Singers’ Club.

John Nyhan and Richard T. Cooke

Singers and musicians Richard T Cooke and John Nyhan,

Established in 1993, the Cork Singers’ Club has uniquely featured in every Mother Jones festival since the opening night on 31st July 2012. Eagerly awaited each year, the Cork Singers’ Club will present an evening of songs. It has ensured that the tradition of singing remains alive in Cork, no instruments are allowed. For locals and visitors this is an opportunity to hear songs being sung in a pure manner in front of an attentive audience. Club members also gather each Sunday night at An Spailpín Fánach to hone their remarkable art. Go along!

 

 

 

 

Thursday 1st August at 1pm at the Maldron. 

William Hammond.

Linda and William

Linda Quinlan and William Hammond provided lunchtime Music at the Maldron Hotel

William Hammond “Ham” is the joint organiser (with Jim Walsh) of the Cork Folk Festival for almost four decades. The 40th Cork Folk Festival will take place later this year from 2nd to the 6th October.  This festival has ensured the the maintenance and preservation  of Folk singing, music and dance as a living and vital element of local culture and tradition in Cork City and surrounds. William is also an accomplished musician.

 

Thursday 1st August at 8pm at Myo Cafe

Fili Na Reabhloide (Poets of the Revolution) Readings from poets of social change. Phone 083 0425942 for further details.

Thursday 1st August at 9.30pm at the Maldron.

Club Ceoil Ballyphehane Ballad Group

Club Ceoil Ballyphehane Ballad Group

The group led by Stephen O Dea and Abbey Ní Loingsigh began playing together in 2015 and have featured at many events in the Ballyphehane area including the Multicultural Day at the People’s Park. Club Ceoil Ballyphehane is a non profit community organisation, voluntary run traditional music and set-dancing group open to all at affordable prices.

The final of the Song for Mother Jones Competition will also take place tonight.

Friday 2nd August at 1pm at the Maldron.

Jimmy Crowley.

Jimmy Crowley

Jimmy Crowley in full song at the Maldron

Jimmy’s songs have a special place at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and form one of the highlights of this festival. This concert should not be missed. Writing in the Evening Echo in 2018, Jimmy explains his concert  ‘I love the kind of people who attend that lunchtime concert that I give each year; I feel honoured to be part of the celebration of the local woman who went on to be, as the capitalists called her, “the most dangerous woman in America” ‘

 

Friday 2nd August at 9.30pm at the Maldron.

John Nyhan and Mick Treacy present the songs of Pete Seeger (See our recent tribute to Pete here: https://motherjonescork.com/2019/06/09/mother-jones-festival-remembers-pete-seeger-1919-2014/).

John Nyhan and Mick Treacy

John Nyhan (left) and Mick Treacy

 

Also appearing will be Pat Kelleher and his five string banjo. Born and reared in Dripsey, Co. Cork, he was weaned on primarily Irish folk music, but also international folk, bluegrass, rock and country.His musical influences are diverse and include The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem, The Dubliners especially Luke Kelly, Christy Moore, Bobby Clancy,  Pete Seeger, Ewan MacColl, Peggy Seeger, Gordon Lightfoot, Stan Rogers, Eric Bogle, Doc Watson, Woodie Guthrie and many others.

Pat Kelleher with the late, great Pete Seeger

Pat counts himself lucky have met and performed with some of his idols including Luke Kelly, Tommy Makem, Bobby Clancy, Pete Seeger  & The Kruger Brothers. His live performances are not to be missed and his ability to read the audience and generate a rapport is a natural art at this stage.Pat has toured in Ireland, UK, USA, Germany, Switzerland as well as performing Irish music on cruise ships in his more than thirty year career.

Along with his son Ricky Pat was lucky to get to meet Pete at his house in Beacon, New York on 21st July 2009 just after his 90th birthday through a mutual American friend from New York.

He was as gracious as I expected and we ended up singing some of Oró Sé Do Bheatha ‘Bhaile with him that he was learning from Irish folksinger Tommy Sands.”

Saturday 3rd August at 5.30pm at Maureen’s Bar, Mulgrave Road. 

Conal Creedon

Conal Creedon reads from his new novel Begotten Not Made

 

Saturday 3rd August at 7.30 at the Mother Jones plaque (John Redmond St.)

The Toast

Toasting Mother Jones at the Mother Jones plaque at Shandon, Cork City

Traditional toast to Mother Jones and songs with Rory McCarthy. Rory sings unaccompanied and his striking voice captures instant attention. His rendering of James Connolly, written by Patrick Galvin and the  Jarama Valley (Woodie Guthrie version) should not be missed.

Rory McCarthy singing outside the birth home of Michael O’Riordan in 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday 3rd August at 9pm at the Maldron.

Vocalic.

Vocalic

After a memorable performance at the Spirit of Mother Jones in 2018, what better way to finish up the 2019 festival? The Vocalic line up is as follows:

Deirdre Moriarty. A Kerry native, graduated from Waterford Institute of Technology with a Bachelor (Hons.) Degree in Music in 1999. She regularly performs with group ensembles and teaches vocal performance. She conducted two community choirs in Cork City – Cork Rokk Choir and, currently, the Marina Melodics. Deirdre loves to arrange music and performing with Vocalic.

Norah Connell. Began her musical journey at an early age. Involved in choirs and bands over the years, singing all genres. An accomplished performer having taken part in many competitions. Studied with renowned contralto Aine Nic Gabhann. Loves harmonising and adding different layers. Currently involved with an amazing choir called The Marina Melodics and of course the fabulous and upcoming group called Vocalic.

Alf Wade. A native of Cork, taught himself to play guitar at an early age. Enjoys a wide range of musical genres with a particular love for Folk, Blues and some American Country. Having played in several groups  as well as playing solo gigs over the years his time, musically, is now divided between the Marina Melodics Choir and Vocalic. Vocalic is developing its own style through its unique interpretation of many popular standards and classics ranging from the 50’s to the present day.

Sunday 4th August 8.30 pm at Maureen’s

In the Round with Stan Notte. Music and the Spoken Word. All welcome.

Note: All these events are free of charge but please be on time to guarantee entry.

 

 

 

Jimmy Crowley returns to the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival

Jimmy Crowley will again perform at the eighth Spirit of Mother Jones festival at the Maldron Hotel on Friday 2nd August at 1pm. In what has become a huge highlight of the festival Jimmy explained how much this gig means to him.

Jimmy Crowley (left) with fellow singer / songwriter and member of the Cork Mother Jones Committee Richard T. Cooke

Writing in the Evening Echo on August 11th 2018, Jimmy said of his 2018 Mother Jones gig,

 

“I somehow attain my almost perfect audience for this little gig; people there for the right reasons; they’re patient with me if I want to introduce some new material; not too demanding of the “old stuff” and I get, perhaps, the most gentle, genial gentleman in Cork to introduce me and MC the event – the irrepressible Richard Cooke. “

 

Jimmy Crowley has been performing and singing ballads in Cork for almost 50 years. He was born in Douglas in Cork, began writing songs in the early 70s and ran the folk club at Douglas GAA club for many years. His band Stokers Lodge was known throughout Ireland.

 

Jimmy likes to talk and sing songs of Cork characters such as hunters and drag hunting, of harriers and the Shandon foot beagles and sportsmen such as legendary road bowler Mick Barry from Waterfall, and the immortal hurler Christy Ring, of stupendous deeds of valour, local rivalries and personalities, great and little events, and the real everyday topics of conversation of the people.

 

 

His first album “The Boys of Fairhill” released in 1997, contained such classics as The Pool Song, Johnny Jump Up, Salonika, the Armoured Car and of course The Boys of Fairhill. This was followed by a second album “Camphouse Ballads” and “Some Things Never Change”. Later still “Uncorked” was released in 1998, while “The Coast of Malabar” appeared in 2000.

 

These songs live on now in the soul, the streets and the singers of Cork regardless of cultural and musical globalisation. Just imagine where else in the world would you get an uplifting song about Connie Doyle’s legendary Fair Hill harrier dog known as The Armoured Car?

 

Jimmy has played all over Ireland, Europe and America and is a familiar face on the streets of Cork. He is known as the Bard of Cork as his unique style of singing and his love of his native City, especially the local Shandon area is central to his musical imagination.

 

In 2014, Jimmy Crowley produced *Songs From The Beautiful City… The Cork Urban Ballads”.  Now generally considered to be his greatest work, Jimmy proclaims this collection as “the true history of the people of Cork City through their only resource of expression: the humble ballad.” So after many hard years of research, much ferreting out of local traditional ballads, elusive song writers and reclusive characters, collecting of lost and half remembered words which portray a lively, progressive and earthy narrative of our priceless history, our folklore and bealoideas, Jimmy delivered his masterpiece!

 

The book contains such classics as Marilyn Munroe (words by the late Paddy O’Driscoll, the much loved Bard of Ballinure), Cheer, Boys, Cheer (words by the late Helen O’Donovan for many years bean an tí with the Cork Singers Club) and The Old Skellig Lists (words by Teresa Mac Carthaigh, who also wrote and sings the hugely inspiring Ballad of Mother Jones). Jimmy has ensured not just the survival but the vitality of umpteen Cork ballads for future generations of singers.

 

In the preface to this book, Mick Moloney, of the New York University Department of Music stated;

 

“It’s hard to compare him to anyone else; but if there was just one singer I would place alongside Jimmy in the matter of flair, delivery and style it would be another County Cork native; the magnificent irrepressible Maggie Barry. It’s no surprise that Jimmy and I are both admirers of this trailblazing woman operating very much in a man’s world who sadly did not get the affirmation she deserved in her lifetime”                      

 

Visit www.jimmycrowley.com for details.

 

*Songs from The Beautiful City: The Cork Urban Ballads…..collected, edited and annotated by Jimmy Crowley. The Freestate Press 2014.

 

 

Mother Jones and the March of the Mill Children

March of the Mill Children

On a steaming hot day on 7th July 1903, a raggle-taggle group of adults and children left a small union hall in Kensington, Philadelphia. Led by an elderly woman in a Victorian style dress, a parade of children and adults set out on the road towards Torresdale Park on the edge of the city and into history.

It presented as a chaotic picture in the burning sun, with some children carrying flags, a little children’s fife and drum band playing, a number of adult stewards and some provision wagons, between 300 and 400 people in all. By the following morning, many had returned home before the march recommenced with 60/70 children setting out for the nearby town of Bristol.

The elderly woman was Mother Jones, her march was being used to highlight exploitative child labour practices in the textile mills as well as collecting money for their parents who were in the middle of a textile factory strike in Philadelphia. Mother Jones was determined to march with the children the 125 or so miles to Wall Street in New York. The youngest marcher was little Thomas McCarthy.

Mother Jones (centre) at the start of the March of the Mill Children, Philadelphia (Pic: US Library of Congress)

From this inauspicious beginning thus began one of the most famous and inspirational marches in history, the publicity created especially in the New York media highlighted in the public domain and wider consciousness how at least two million very young children were forced to forego education to work long hours in the mills, mines and factories across America. Carrying signs with slogans such as “We Only Ask For Justice”, “We Want To Go To School”, “We Want Time To Play”, “Prosperity is Here…Where is Ours?” the children proclaimed their wishes to all.

Over the next three weeks, beset by disputes, poor weather, bad conditions, poor food and even mosquito attacks, the young marchers pressed on, Otter Creek bridge, Morrisville, Trenton, Princeton University, Metuchen, Elizabeth, …….arrive, hold a large public meeting, find a place to sleep and onwards early the following morning. Somewhere along the way, Mother Jones decided she would call out to Oyster Bay, the summer residence of the President of the USA to meet with Theodore Roosevelt.

Saggamore Hill, summer home of US President Theodore Roosevelt at the time of the march

Crossing the Hudson River on 22nd July, some 30,000 people gathered to welcome the young marchers. Mother Jones became a sensation in New York……..all she wanted was “public attention on the subject of child labour”. She certainly got that as she travelled out to Oyster Bay, Long Island with three children and despite the President refusing to meet her or the children “the President has nothing to do with such matters”, the local New York media covered it extensively. Cartoons satirising the President running away from Mother Jones and the children flourished in the newspapers.

Mother Jones had indeed achieved “a tipping point”. Child labour was now on the public agenda, it was being talked about on the streets and among some politicians. A National Child Labour Committee was established to reform child labour. Many States took action to ban young children from working and although it took nearly another 40 years for the Federal Authorities to ban it completely, the efforts of Mother Jones in 1903 certainly aroused public interest.

On August 4th 1903, Mother Jones and her mill children went back to Philadelphia by train. Back in Kensington the textile strikers had to return to work for 60 hours per week, the children probably did too and became another lost generation. However child labour was now on the public agenda and Mother Jones with some quiet satisfaction was able to conclude “our march had done its work”

Plaque at Philadelphia City Hall marking the March of the Mill Children and the role of Mother Jones (Pic: Donald D. Groff via Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia)

This March initially appeared to achieve very little, as very powerful people and some union people could see little wrong with child labour. Yet in Mother Jones eyes …. child labour exploitation clearly exposed capitalism and its exploitation of labour at its most basic level…….the children had to work because the greedy powerful robber barons would not pay their parents a fair wage and families had no option but to send all members no matter what age out to work to survive. Her views became conventional wisdom.

Over time, the March of the Mill Children has grown in stature and fame as it triggered debate across a wide spectrum of public opinion. It became an important symbol in the struggle to abolish child slavery in the USA. While not yet gaining the national importance or recognition of the 1965 Selma Marches later did for civil rights, it remains today a powerful reminder of the injustice of child labour.

It resonates also today in the school children’s protests in relation to saving planet Earth from environmental destruction. Ironically the climate change children argue that there is little point in going to school if the planet is going to burn up as a result of human greed.

One cannot ignore either today that millions of young workers continue to work in dangerous conditions and face exploitation in the fashion industry in Asia, Africa and elsewhere. Young garment workers face appallingly low wages and sometimes work 12-14 hours per day to provide clothes and brand names as cheaply as possible for the affluent world. Worker’s right to organise are routinely ignored in many countries so the message of Mother Jones remains valid in much of the world today.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee with the assistance of the Cork Community Art Link project and the Foroige Group in Blarney Street will recreate the March of the Mill Children in a pageant beginning at 12.30 on Wednesday 31st July at the Shandon Plaza, alongside the Firkin Crane Theatre.

We believe this is the very first occasion outside of America where this famous March will be performed. It will take place in the very streets where Mary Harris walked when she was a young girl.     

 

Sources:

Mother Jones – The Most Dangerous Woman in America, Elliott J Gorn, Hill and Wang 2001. Chapter 5. The Children’s Crusade.

The Autobiography of Mother Jones, Mother Jones, Charles H Kerr Publishing Company 1925. Chapter X. The March of the Mill Children.

We Have Marched Together – The Working Children’s Crusade. Stephen Currie, Lerner Publications Company 1997.

On Our Way to Oyster Bay – Mother Jones And Her March for Children’s Rights. Written by Monica Kulling, Illustrated by Felicita Sala. CitizenKid 2016.

 

 

 

James Connolly’s encounter with Mother Jones in New York

Our thanks to US Labour activist Saul Schniderman and Si Kahn for supplying an interesting article written by Professor L.A.O’Donnell from 1987 on the role of Irish emigrants who were active in the US Labour movement. Entitled “Irish Yeast in the Trade Unions” it was published in Talkin’ Union No 16 in September 1987 and makes reference to Mother Jones and James Connolly as well as Jim Larkin and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.

The 1987 article as it appeared

The source for the description of the meeting with Mother Jones in 1908 in the Bronx is “Rebel Girl”, the autobiography of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.  Among the speakers at the 2019 summer school will be Lorraine Starkey who will discuss the life and work of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.

Irish Yeast in the Trade Unions

By L.A. O’Donnell

Irish immigrants escaping to the United States from famine and oppression in their native land came, not only to nourish their hunger, but also out of thirst for freedom and independence. Mostly poor, they filled the ranks of unskilled labor but quickly began organizing to protect their rights as workers and advance their wages and working conditions. From Terence Powderly of the Knights of Labor to George Meany of the AFL-CIO, Irish-Americans fought the good fight to secure their human rights and further the cause of social justice.

Powderly

Terence Powderly, leader of the Knights of Labor

Irish-Americans in the labor movement did not forget the cause of independence for their native land either. In 1920 they campaigned successfully for a resolution at the AFL convention demanding independence for Ireland. As recently as 1981, the Pennsylvania AFL-CO expressed “vigorous support for the cause of freedom in Northern Ireland” in a resolution adopted at its convention.

In Irish history, the movement for independence and the union movement were closely entwined. James Connolly and James Larkin were Ireland’s outstanding labor leaders as well as champions of Irish independence.  Connolly was executed for his important role in the Easter Week Revolt of 1916. Larkin founded the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, largest in present day Ireland. Connolly collaborated with him in his efforts to get the union firmly established.

Both men were born in Irish ghettos outside Ireland. Connolly in Edinburgh, from which he escaped at age fourteen by joining the British army for seven years, Larkin in Liverpool from which he escaped by going to sea. Both of them were gifted organizers who put their talents to work on both sides of the Atlantic.

James Connolly

James Connolly

Each of them spent considerable time in the United States attempting to raise money and campaigning for labor organizations and other causes. They found most trade unionists in America a good deal less radical than they themselves were. Connolly came over for a four month speaking tour in 1902 at the invitation of the Socialist Labor Party. He returned a year later for a seven year stay.

During his stay in America, Connolly brought his family over and scrounged a bare living at various jobs including one at Singer Sewing Machine in Elizabeth, New Jersey.  He was actively engaged in the Socialist Labor party until he tangled with its guiding genius, Daniel DeLeon, the “Socialist Pope”.  At one time he worked for the IWW organizing longshoremen on the New York docks.  His efforts were instrumental in the expulsion of DeLeon from the IWW. At the time he lived in the Bronx.

E. Gurley Flynn

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn addressing strikers at Patterson, New Jersey in 1913

In the Bronx, the Connolly’s were neighbours and close friends of the Flynn family whose best known daughter was Elizabeth Gurley Flynn – then still a teenager, but soon to become a famous rouser and organizer for the Wobblies. At an outdoor rally on a warm summer evening in 1908, Connolly, the Flynn girl and her husband listened to a fiery old Irishwoman scold her audience for failing to help the Western miners in their strike.

The speaker was Mary Harris “Mother Jones.”  Her tongue was so sharp, and she described the bloodshed and violence so vividly that Flynn – then pregnant – fainted. Connolly, luckily, caught her as she was about to fall. Mother Jones interrupted herself long enough to command “get that poor girl some water” and continued her scold. Jones was a United Mine Workers organizer and close friend to many labor leaders but particularly John Fitzpatrick, head of the Chicago Federation of Labor and Terence Powderley. Thereafter she took a maternal interest in James Connolly and Elizabeth Flynn, (a young trade union radical born in New York of Galway parents in 1890).

Mother Jones J. Fitzpatrick

Mother Jones with John Fitzpatrick, Chicago. From collection of George R. Rinhart

Returning to Dublin in 1910, Connolly became associated with James Larkin in establishing the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. In 1913 he was involved along with Larkin, in the great labor dispute of that year which reached its climax in the “Bloody Sunday Riot of August 31. The dispute dramatized the poverty, disease and overcrowding of slum dwellers in Dublin and convulsed the city entirely.  Connolly assumed leadership of the Transport Workers Union when Larkin left for America in October of 1914, ostensibly for a short fundraising trip, but one that actually kept him out of Ireland for nine years – the last four of which were in Sing Sing prison serving a sentence for “criminal anarchy” until pardoned by New York Governor Al Smith.

When James Larkin arrived in New York in 1914, haggard and exhausted from the 1913 upheaval he immediately called upon the Flynn’s, announcing simply, “James Connolly sent me.”  Thereafter, he was a frequent visitor to the Flynn household, delighting to drink tea with the family since he, like Connolly, was a teetotaller.  But Larkin did much more than drink tea in the United States. Until 1919, James Larkin actively engaged in the work of the IWW, especially in its efforts to oppose World War 1. His socialism and his hatred for Ireland’s subjugation combined to make him a passionate opponent of the war. He was a thundering, explosive and unpredictable public speaker who could bring a crowd to its feet at will.  He travelled all around the country demanding justice for the poor and an end to the war. For his efforts he was tried and imprisoned for “criminal anarchy.” Upon his return to Ireland in 1923 he discovered his union was in the hands of charismatic leaders who thwarted his attempt to resume leadership of it.  He died in 1947.

Lockout 1913

Scenes from Dublin’s “Bloody Sunday” during the 1913 Lockout.

In the course of the 1913 upheaval in Dublin, Larkin’s union organised a force to defend workers against police attacks. Though numbering only in the hundreds, it was called the Irish Citizen Army and Connolly’s experience in the British military was drawn upon to train it. Though small, the ICA played a significant role in the Easter Rising of 1916, making up much of the soldiery which occupied the General Post Office in Sackville Street (now O’Connell St).  At the time Patrick Pearse, although proclaimed President of the Provisional Government and Commander in Chief, deferred to Connolly’s superior military knowledge and experience and permitted him to direct the operation. Connolly proved a decisive tactician but was able to hold out only one week before surrendering to the overwhelmingly superior numbers of British forces. In the action Connolly had sustained a bullet wound in the ankle which then grew gangrenous.

Leaders of the insurrection numbering over one hundred were methodically tried and sentenced to death for treason by the British. Connolly was the fifteenth to be executed in Kilmainham Prison (14th actually) after having been received back into the Catholic faith, shriven, given communion and last rights. His wife, Lillie and daughter Nora visited with him on the eve of his execution and found him calm, without illusions and resigned to his fate – perhaps anticipating release from a life of poverty and frustration.  Seated on a box before the firing squad because of his wound, he met his death on Friday, May 12th 1916 and entered the pantheon of martyrs for Irish freedom.

Public opinion in Dublin and throughout Ireland had seriously mixed feelings about the uprising in view of the many Irish sons who had enlisted in the British army and the belief that the rising was conducted by a small number of radicals. When, however, English authorities began systematically executing its leaders – especially the wounded Connolly – the tide of opinion shifted dramatically, and momentum for independence became irresistible.  Sobered by the response, the British halted all executions after Connolly’s. But it was too late.

Note: The late L.A. O’Donnell was professor of economics at Villanova University, USA and author of  Irish Voice and Organized Labor.  He wrote many articles on labor and economic history, emphasizing the contribution of Irish immigrants. He died in 2011. 

Saul Schinderman published 17 editions of this magazine from 1981-1988. He continues to publish Fridays Labor Folklore regularly which details items of interest in the labour movement in the USA. Copies of Saul’s regular publication are available at;
We are also including an article by Professor Rosemary Feurer of the Mother Jones Heritage Project entitled  Get off your Knees”: James Connolly, Jim Larkin and Mother Jones in the fight for a Global Labor Movement. This paper was presented at the 2014 Spirit of Mother Jones summer school on Friday 1st August.

Mother Jones for 2019 Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parades

Mother Jones for the 2019 Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parades.

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Chicago – the Windy City

For the very first time, the Mother Jones Heritage Project committee has been invited to participate in the Chicago St Patrick’s Day parades.

The Illinois based committee has commissioned a new Mother Jones Banner especially for the parade and this banner will include a reference to her origins in Cork. Included also will be a 10 foot inflatable Mother Jones, while emigrant Brigid Duffy will march dressed appropriately as Mother Jones herself.

Mother Jones Patricks Day banner final

The new banner which will debut at this year’s Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade

The St Patrick’s Day parades in Chicago on Saturday 16th March and Sunday 17th are among the largest in the world with hundreds of thousands taking part. A million watch the event on Chicago TV while the Chicago River will turn green along with a number of prominent public buildings.

In welcoming this exciting development, Mr. James Nolan of the Cork Mother Jones Committee stated,

“This is a further example of the growing international recognition of Cork born Mary Harris/ Mother Jones’s contribution to the wider trade union and labour movements in the United States of America.

We are delighted that Chicago has decided to include Mother Jones for the first time and we hope it will become an annual feature of the parade. All Cork people in and around Chicago are asked to support and assist the Heritage Project group at the parade.

We congratulate the massive work being done on behalf of Mother Jones by this committee led by Rosemary Feurer, whose members regularly attend the Spirit of Mother Jones festival here in Cork.”

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Haymarket poster

According to Rosemary Feurer of the Heritage Project

“We are thrilled that Chicago St Patrick’s Day parade committee was enthusiastic about highlighting Mother Jones and we are excited about continuing to work with our friends in Cork, who helped to spark our own project.”

Mother Jones has several connections to Chicago, the Windy City. Following the loss of her four children and husband in the Memphis Yellow Fever epidemic of 1867, Mary Harris, a seamstress went to Chicago and opened a clothing shop on Washington Street. However on the night of 8th October 1871, much of the city was burned to the ground in the Great Chicago Fire along with Mary’s business premises. Mary was made destitute and had to start all over again.

Some 34 years later in 1905, as Mother Jones, she attended the inaugural planning meeting of the historically famous Industrial Workers of the World (IWW – The Wobblies) in Chicago, she was the only woman present at this meeting and was the very first signature on the subsequent IWW Manifesto.

Mary Harris was also very influenced by the Haymarket Square incidents in Chicago on 4th May 1886 and its aftermath which saw the execution of the Haymarket Four.

Haymarket Affair ILHS

Haymarket event

These events are commemorated each year in Chicago on 1st May and has led to the annual celebration of May Day as an international labour holiday.

As Mother Jones, she declared May 1st as her birthday, a symbolic act, attributed by her biographer Elliott Gorn as perhaps the day she was born into the labour movement.

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The Haymarket Monument, Chicago