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.
90 years ago on Monday 8th December 1930 at 10am, Mother Jones was buried at the Union Cemetery, Mount Olive, Illinois.
Earlier on Sunday afternoon Father John Maguire in his funeral oration at the funeral of Mother Jones.
“Today in gorgeous mahogany furnished and carefully guarded offices in distant capitals, wealthy mine owners and capitalists are breathing sighs of relief. Today among 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 reason for this contrasting relief and sorrow is the same. Mother Jones is dead!”
Father John Maguire
The photos above from the Illinois Labour History Society give an indication of the impressive burial ceremony .
They show the scene outside St. Gabriel’s Catholic Church in Washington. Among those included at the casket of Mother Jones is William Doak, US Secretary of Labour.
Other photos show the massed ranks of organised labour honouring Mother Jones at Mount Olive
Irish Ambassador visits Mother Jones Monument to learn of Cork born Mother Jones
The Irish Ambassador to the United States, Daniel Mulhall has paid a historic visit to the final resting place of Cork born Mother Jones (born Mary Harris in Cork, Ireland in 1837)
Daniel Mulhall, Ireland’s Ambassador to the United States, met with Rosemary Feurer, Northern Illinois University Professor and Director of the Mother Jones Heritage Project on May 4, 2018, at the historic Mother Jones Monument/Union Miners Cemetery in Mt. Olive, Illinois. His mission was to learn more about the history of this renowned figure and the special place where she is buried.
Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, 1837-1930, was born in Cork, Ireland and was once known as the “most dangerous woman in America” as she fought for labor rights.
The meeting was arranged by Ireland’s Consul General to the Midwest, Brian O’Brien, who was present at the Heritage Project’s dedication of a historical marker to Jones in December 2017, southbound I-55 Coalfield Rest area adjacent to historic Route 66. Ambassador Mulhall was in St. Louis, Missouri last week, when a break in his schedule allowed for a trip to this the monument, which is about an hour’s drive from St. Louis.
Ambassador Mulhall was impressed with the personal story of Mary Harris Jones, of her role in United States history. He remarked that he had been unfamiliar with her before, but found her a truly memorable. “It’s hard for us to contemplate the suffering” Mary Harris Jones endured as she experienced the Great Hunger, then further hardships as immigrants in the United States. It’s important to note that she did not give up, he suggested, and seemed to have an “indefatigable spirit.”
Ed Becker, President of Union Miners Cemetery board gifted Mulhall with the Miners’ Angel CD he produced of Mother Jones songs. Mulhall was truly enthused by the CD, recognizing some of the artists such as Andy Irvine, who performed at the 2012 inaugural Cork Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.
Also present at the meeting was Judy Simpson, board member of the Mother Jones Heritage Project, and Kate Klimut, project volunteer. Mike Katchmar, treasurer of the cemetery board, was also present at the meeting.
Ambassador Mulhall and Consul General O’Brien committed to helping the aims of the Heritage Project through the Embassy’s offices. He announced a grant to help fund the Project’s next historical marker on I-55 near Waggoner, Illinois. He also pledged to be present at the dedication of the marker and to promote knowledge of Mother Jones history in the United States through the United States Embassy.
Mayor Skertich arranged a visit to the small Mt. Olive Mother Jones Museum. There Mulhall took much interest in the boards currently on display that were from Cork’s Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.
The visit has been watched with great interest by Mother Jones enthusiasts in Ireland. James Nolan of the Cork Mother Jones Committee expressed delight at the visit of the Irish Ambassador to the USA, Mr. Daniel Mulhall to the grave of Mother Jones at the miners’ cemetery in Mount Olive, Illinois on 4th May 2018
“It just again demonstrates the growing acknowledgement by increasing numbers of people of the unique role of Cork woman Mother Jones as a trade union leader over many decades in the USA and her contribution to the rights of workers in America.
She was indeed an extraordinary woman in her day and it is really wonderful to see her life and achievements being acknowledged by the Irish Ambassador, Mr. Mulhall during his visit to her resting place at Mount Olive.”
Stated Mr. Nolan.
The Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and summer school will take place in the Shandon Historic Quarter from Wednesday, August 1st to Saturday, August 4th 2018.
A commemorative road marker in honour of Cork-born Mother Jones was unveiled near Mount Olive, Illinois on Monday (11 December) in the presence of the Honorary Irish Consul in Chicago, Mr. Brian O’Brien.
The marker itself will be seen by over a million people a year who come to take a break just off the world-famous Route 66. After the ceremony, Mr O’Brien visited the indoor exhibition area at the location. They the group travelled to Mount Olive where Mr. O’Brien placed a wreath at the grave of Mother Jones in the Miners Cemetery in Mount Olive.
The wreath contained the words of her motto “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living” in both Irish and English. There then followed a toast to Mother Jones at the grave which was celebrated using Red-Breast Whiskey. Congratulations to everyone involved in this amazing project.
Our thanks to Prof. Rosemary Feurer of the Mother Jones Musuem for forwarding photos and other material.
As reported from Mount Olive, Illinois by James Goltz
Unique history in the making in Mt. Olive Illinois,at the Union Miners’ Cemetery involving the legendary labour agitator, Mother Harris Jones (Mother Jones), Friends of Mother Jones and Ireland. Mother Jones is buried in the only union owned cemetery in the country, she is the only immigrant who has a so-named festival in her homeland who became a giant in our labour movement, and soon she will be the first to have bit of clay from above her grave transported to her birthplace, the Shandon district in Cork City, Ireland.
On June 11, Illinois labor activist James Goltz, along with the Perpetual Care Committee of the cemetery held a formal ceremony at her grave site where a bit of clay was removed above her grave. It was given to James Goltz to transport and formally present to the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival organisers in the Shandon Historic Quarter as part of their festival.In addition at the festival, Goltz will also read and present 3 proclamations heralding Mother Jones and the festival from the AFL-CO, the Illinois AFL-CIO and the United Mine Workers of America.
Unique link up between the friends of Mother Jones in Mount Olive, Illinois and the Cork Mother Jones Committee in Shandon.
The Cork Mother Jones Committee is pleased to announce that a U.S. trade union member, James Goltz, has been given permission to bring some clay from the grave of Mother Jones at Mount Olive in the Miners Cemetery in Illinois to the forthcoming Spirit of Mother Jones summer school and festival in Shandon where it will be presented to the Committee.
A formal ceremony is to take place on 11th July at the final resting place of Mother Jones (born Mary Harris in Shandon) in Mount Olive at which a small sample of clay will be removed from the grave, will be permanently sealed and will be given to Mr Goltz for transporting to Ireland.
“This is a unique and historic act linking Mother Jones and her birthplace on the north side of Cork to her grave at Mount Olive after some 87 years. (She passed away in 1930) We wish to congratulate the friends of Mother Jones in Illinois for their thoughtfulness with their symbolic act of generosity and solidarity”, declared James Nolan, spokesperson for the Cork Mother Jones Committee.
“We hope the sealed container can be placed permanently alongside the memorial plaque to Mother Jones in Shandon with the permission of the Cork City Council”
“The act is a further sign of the growing links and bonds which have been developing over the past six years between the friends of Mother Jones on both sides of the Atlantic, many of whom including James and his family have attended previous Spirit of Mother Jones festivals”
The festival and summer school takes place in the Shandon Historic Quarter from Tuesday 1st to Saturday 5th August next.
Please find below the details of the event in Mount Olive on July 11th and the contact details for James Goltz.
“A bit of earth will be removed above the grave of Mary Harris Jones, a.k.a Mother Jones, who lies within Union Miner’s Cemetery in Mt. Olive Illinois, on July 11, at 10:00am, in preparation for a journey to her birthplace in County Cork Ireland to the Shandon district within Cork City. The earth will be presented to the 6th annual Spirit of Mother Jones Festival there on August 1. The cemetery Perpetual Care Committee will be present to assist in performing the brief ceremony and task of gathering the earth with James Goltz, who refers to himself and other Mother Jones fans as, “a Friend of Mother Jones”. When asked why they were doing this, Goltz said, “We wish to send a piece of her essence home. The Spirit of Mother Jones moves us”. All interested parties are encouraged to attend this unique event.”
Mother Jones Monument rededicated June 20, 2015 Mount Olive, Illinois – the following report of the rededication at Mount Olive Miners Cemetery has been sent to the Cork Mother Jones Committee by Terry Reed , Field Services Director, of the Illinois Federation of Teachers www.ift-aft-org.
In the Union Miner’s cemetery lies the grave of Mary Harris “Mother” Jones. At the foot of a marble monument adorned with bronze statues of two miners and plaques commemorating fallen miners the simple head stone reads “Mother Jones”. On this Saturday in June hundreds of good union men and women gathered together with community folk around the gravesite and monument. They listened to the songs of working men and women sung by Bucky Halker and Chris Vallilo. They listened to speeches from local officials and committee members, Michael Carrigan, President of the Illinois AFL-CIO and other union officials, an Illinois State Senator, an Illinois Congressman and a USA Senator from Illinois. They watched as an actress, Margaret Orner, portrayed Mother Jones and breathed the words once spoken by the daughter of County Cork, Ireland. There was the obligatory prayer by a local clergy man that silenced the crowd as they bowed their heads. The grand finale had all in attendance circling the monument and grave joining hands while singing together the verses of the union anthem “Solidarity Forever”.
Everyone admired the craftsmanship and work of the union hands that brought the 80 year old monument back to its original splendour. The stone and mortar restored, the bronze shiny as new and the once crumbling foundation sturdy and strong. The gate at the entrance to the cemetery proudly displaying “The Resting Place of Real Union People” on its iron face plate looking as smart as it was when first erected. The many colored shirts displaying their union membership, Ironworkers, Steel workers, Electricians, Bricklayers and Stone Masons, Auto Workers, Laborers, Teachers, Government workers, Teamsters, Operating Engineers, Mine Workers, Painters all smiling and congratulating themselves. Proud of their coming together to insure that the monument and grave site will remain for at least another 80 years to be viewed and admired.
But even more than the marble and bronze and iron that make up the monument they came this day to draw sustenance from the spirit and life of Mother Jones. As speaker after speaker so eloquently reminded them this rededication accomplishes nothing if it doesn’t inspire each and every one to draw from the words and actions of the courageous person it honors. Mary Harris “Mother” Jones spoke truth to power. She utilized her speech and pen to attack injustice and backed it up with her actions. She stood fearless before the bosses of Industry, Governors of states, and Judges in their Courtrooms. Even the President of a nation was not above her ire. She faced the guns of her would be oppressors and the jails they tried to use to stop her. And all the time she walked among the working families she championed. Organizing, educating and agitating them to action. It is Mother Jones they came to honor. It is her life lessons they hope to carry on in their battles against austerity and the attacks on the working class and their unions.
On Sunday 5th October 2014 at mid day a gathering took place at the grave of Mother Jones at the Union Miners Cemetery at Mount Olive, Illinois. After some speeches and some songs from labour singer Len Wallace, the participants raised a toast in honour of Mother Jones. Irish Whiskey from Co Cork in the form of Jameson’s Redbreast was used and there followed a rousing rendition of “Solidarity Forever” after which many of the participants returned for the annual Mother Jones Foundation dinner at Springfield, Illinois later on Sunday night.
Attended by over 200 people, this annual dinner also heard a special message of greetings from the Cork Mother Jones committee.
According to Terry Reed, one of the event organisers;
“We hope this is the beginning of many more exchanges between our two groups as we are united in telling the world of the great lessons this grand champion of the working class spoke, took action and lived”
Terry also promised a film message from the Mother Jones Foundation for the 2015 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.
State of Illinois Senator Andy Manar attended the Mother Jones gathering at Mount Olive on Sunday 5th October. He announced at the event that the State of Illinois had approved a grant for $41,000 towards the restoration of the grave site and monument of Mother Jones at Mount Olive. Senator Manar had also sent a wonderful message of solidarity to the Spirit of Mother Jones festival earlier this year (click link to view)
Already some $70,000 has been raised through the efforts of the trade union movement and the Illinois AFL-CIO thus ensuring that the full restoration of the grave site becomes a reality.
During the recent Spirit of Mother Jones Festival Mr James Goltz from Bunker Hill, Illinois presented the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Mary Shields with a proclamation from the community of Mount Olive, Illinois seeking “to extend a symbolic hand of friendship to our brothers and sisters in the birthplace of one so great in stature as the legendary Mother Jones”
The proclamation of friendship, supported by the Mount Olive Council and signed by Mr John M. Skertich, Mayor of Mt. Olive calls on both Mt. Olive and Cork together to ” celebrate her spirit while crediting her role in the history of both countries and in the globe. This common duty of stewardship stands as an unbreakable bond between our two cities.”
The Mt. Olive proclamation of friendship signed by Mayor John M. Skertich
Mother Jones passed away at the Burgess home in Hyattsville, Maryland on 30th November 1930. Her funeral was held on December 8th at the Church of the Ascension, the Mount Olive Catholic Church. From there, her remains were taken and buried in the Union Miners Cemetery at Mount Olive near the graves of the victims of the 1898 Virden Massacre.
Mayor Skertich concludes the proclamation by inviting an agreement between Cork and Mount Olive to “promise to safeguard and promote both her resting place and birthplace, as we celebrate her life by jointly continuing to tell the life story of this great Irish woman to a wider audience.”
James Goltz with Cork’s Lord Mayor Councillor Mary Shields at Cork City Hall.
The Cork Mother Jones Committee is delighted to support the initiative taken by the city of Mount Olive. The Shandon Area Renewal Association has already agreed to promote, encourage and foster the links between the community of the birthplace of Mary Harris/Mother Jones and the community where she now lies at rest. A motion supporting the adoption of the Mount Olive proclamation will be presented to Cork City Council and it is the fervent wish of all involved that it be supported and formal fraternal links be established between the custodians of her native birthplace and her chosen resting place.