How do we restore our connections to Mother Earth? 

A Native American perspective on the Environment.

An interview with Mona Polacca.

This online interview with Mona Polacca took place at the launch of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2021 at UCC on the 14th October 2021..

The discussion was held as part of UCC Community Week in a collaboration between the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival with the UCC Department of Civic and Community  Engagement and the Center for Earth Ethics in New York City.

Our thanks to Dr John Barimo and Shannon Smith for their cooperation in making this interview available.

Why did Mother Jones wish to be buried at Mount Olive?

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.

Grave of Mother Jones, Mount Olive.

 
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.

Virden Monument. Mother Jones rear centre.

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.

To listen to the story of the Battle of Virden, the following is an interesting interview with local resident and historian John Alexander, an Illinois bookstore owner.
https://https://youtu.be/8qcBLQL2beg
www.buzzsprout.com/1856440/

Our thanks to JASE Media Services in Mount Olive for their kind permission to share this podcast.

The Battle of Blair Mountain Centennial 1921-2021

Blair Mountain Miner (source, Wikipedia)

West Virginia celebrates the 100th anniversary of the largest labour uprising in American history.

A celebration of the centenary of the Battle of Blair Mountain will take place in the State of West Virginia. The Blair 100 Committee has organised a huge series of wide ranging events beginning on 19th August and concentrated on the weekend from September 3rd to September 6th 2021. 

Please visit www.blair100.com for full details. 

On Thursday August 26th a virtual discussion “We Shall Rise” will be hosted by the Mother Jones Heritage Project with speakers such as Kim Kelly, Elliott Gorn and Ginny Ayers. All are welcome to join in. Register at www.motherjonesmuseum.org/events

Mother Jones Heritage Project: “We Shall Rise” Blair100 Conversation

Thursday August 19th will see a roundtable discussion on why the Battle of Blair Mountain remains significant for working people today will be organised by The Battle of Homestead Foundation. Those interested can register at the Eventbrite website link.

The weekend events include the UMWA retracing the “Miners March to Blair Mountain” beginning in Marmet on 3rd September. There are numerous exhibitions of photographs, including an art exhibition entitled “Pray for the Dead, and Fight Like Hell for the Living”. 


The Battle of Blair Mountain, West Virginia in August/September 1921.

The murder of the pro-union Chief of Police Sid Hatfield of Matewan, Mingo County, on August 1st 1921 by Baldwin Felts thugs on the steps of the Courthouse in Welch, West Virginia was the spark which ignited the workers uprising. This murder was in retaliation for the earlier street shoot-out on 19th May 1920 involving Sid, a former miner and other miners in Matewan in which seven Baldwin Felts guards including two of the Felts brothers were killed. The guards had been trying to evict local mining families.

(Photo: Mother Jones with Sid Hatfield)

Tension spilled over following the murder of Hatfield, long regarded as a local hero. When Mother Jones arrived, she gave an emotional speech in the state capitol in Charleston on 7th August which further inflamed passions. Mother Jones was very familiar with the working conditions of the miners, as she had spent many years organising the United Mineworkers Union in the State of West Virginia.    

Outraged miners gathered in large numbers demanding justice and organised themselves into an army. They decided to march to nearby Logan County where sheriff Don Chafin had imprisoned many union organisers. Some estimates place the number of armed miners at between 7,000-10,000. Many were World War 1 veterans. Among those active were Mother Jones’s “Irish boys”, the miners’ leaders Frank Keeney, Fred Mooney, Laurence Dwyer and Bill Blizzard. 

Fearing a bloodbath and worried that a trap was being set for the UMWA, Mother Jones spoke to this citizen army at Marmet on 24th August and implored them to return. However, following the murder of some miners by Chafin, most of their colleagues ignored her appeals and continued into the hills determined to go to Logan County.

The Battle of Blair Mountain commenced and raged for three days, pitting lightly armed miners against sheriff Chapin’s lawmen, strikebreakers, mine guards and coal operators agents. Dozens on both sides died, a million rounds of ammunition were fired, the miners were even bombed from a plane.

With the arrival of American troops, ordered in by President Harding, the miners withdrew. Hundreds of miners were later arrested and some charged with treason. They had fought bravely, but the miners union lay in ruins across the State. 

Road marker commemorating “The Battle of Blair Mountain”

This innovative and exciting centenary celebration being held across West Virginia clearly demonstrates that the courage, bravery and sacrifice of the miners and their families to stand up for their union and for justice has not been forgotten, and is as relevant today as one hundred years ago. We wish the organisers every success.

For details of the Battle of Blair Mountain Centennial full programme, visit www.blair100.com.      

For further information on the history of the Mine Wars in West Virginia, why not visit The West Virginia Mine Wars Museum (online).

If you would like to find out more about Mother Jones’ role during the Battle of Blair Mountain, please read Chapter 4.12 (“The Battle of Blair Mountain“) of “A Story of Mother Jones”.

Mother Jones Portraits Unveiled in Washington and Chicago.

On Saturday May 1st 2021, the Irish Embassy in Washington and the Irish Consulate in Chicago unveiled two beautiful portraits of Mother Jones. Commissioned by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and painted by artist Lindsay Hand, they represent a fitting tribute to this great Cork born woman, trade union and labour activist. This was part of “If Walls Could Talk” initiative by the Irish Consulate.

Irish Ambassador to America, Daniel Mulhall unveiled the portrait at the embassy where it will hang proudly alongside the portrait of the late civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis.

Kevin Byrne, the Irish Consul General in Chicago conducted an interesting discussion with Lindsay Hand, the artist and a series of Illinois based trade union leaders who explained what Mother Jones means to them. The trade union leaders who participated in the discussion included Sheila Gainer, UniteHere union organiser, Pat Meade of the Illinois Nurses Association and Deborah Cosey-Lane of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vu2bRaFN2Yg
https://www.motherjonesmuseum.org/post/lindsay-hand-s-art-brings-fannie-sellins-spirit-to-life

To read the media reports of the Mother Jones portraits, click below.

Portraits of Shandon-born woman unveiled in Washington and Chicago (echolive.ie)

Irish born activist Mother Jones remains ‘an inspiration’ (irishtimes.com)

Mother Jones by Lindsay Hand
Mother Jones by Lindsay Hand

The Celebration of Mother Jones’ “Birthday” on 1st May 1930

Mother Jones claimed to be 100 years old on that day, however she was fact born at the end of July 1837. Photograph is courtesy of Saul Schniderman, former President of the Library of Congress Guild, AFSCME 2910, and editor of Friday’s Labor Folklore. The photograph shows part of the large gathering of union leaders and friends along with her birthday cake baked by the Baker’s Union. This joyful occasion was one of the last times that Mother Jones appeared in public. We wish to thank Saul for making this wonderful photograph available.

Mother Jones Birthday : Photograph is courtesy of Saul Schniderman

Marty Walsh, Mayor of Boston, Secretary of Labour nominee

Marty Walsh, Mayor of Boston, has been nominated by U.S. President-elect Joe Biden as Secretary of Labour.

The news reports that Martin J. Walsh, Mayor of Chicago since 2014, whose parents were from Co Galway, has been nominated by President elect Joe Biden to be his Secretary of Labour has been welcomed by the Cork Mother Jones Committee. If  Mayor Walsh is confirmed he would be the first union member to be Secretary of Labour in almost 50 years. He originally joined the Labourer’ Union local 223, eventually becoming president. Later he led the Boston Building Trade Council.


According to Jim Nolan spokesperson for the Committee.


“Back at the 2014 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival, the recently elected Mayor Walsh took the trouble to send a wonderful message of support for the festival. The letter was delivered and presented to the Cork Mother Jones Committee on behalf of Mayor Walsh by the late Professor James Green, of the University of Massachusetts, Boston, who spoke at the 2014 festival. We were absolutely delighted at the time that the Mayor of Boston had recognised the Spirit of Mother Jones festival in Shandon in such a manner and was so forthright in praising our efforts to obtain due recognition for Cork-born labour hero Mother Jones.”

Jim Nolan


In his letter  dated July 25th 2014, Mayor Walsh thanked the Cork Mother Jones Committee “for honouring her powerful legacy” and went on to say “like Mother Jones we must abide wherever there is a fight against wrong”.


All at the festival were very appreciative of this letter which detailed the Mayor’s efforts over many years to support workers’ rights.


This is an extract from Mayor Walsh in his 2014 letter to the Cork Mother Jones Committee,

I know that the simple notion of fair day’s pay for an honest day’s work is far from a simple thing to achieve. Securing justice takes a hard, complex and constant struggle, it takes collective action that is only accomplished through the kind of community building you are doing this weekend in Cork” 

Marty Walsh – Lord Mayor of Boston


In response to the recent news, committee spokesman Jim Nolan issued the following statement:

Mother Jones herself could not have put it better and the Cork Mother Jones Committee proposes to send a letter of congratulations to Marty Walsh on his being nominated to this powerful Secretary of Labour position in the US Government. .”

Jim Nolan

Here is a link to our post about Mayor Walsh’s letter from 2014, which includes his full letter of support for the Festival: https://motherjonescork.com/2014/08/06/greetings-from-the-mayor-of-boston/

The funeral of Mother Jones

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

The story of Marjorie Mazia and Woody Guthrie.

Saul Schneiderman, (below alongside a Mother Jones marker), editor of Friday’s Labor Folklore has sent us the following link to the story of Marjorie Mazia and Woody Guthrie.

Marjorie and Woody were married in 1945 and had four children, Cathy Guthrie, Arlo Guthrie, Joady Guthrie and Nora Guthrie.

Woody was one of America’s greatest working class singers and wrote many union songs including Union Maid.

To receive many other stories from the history of the Labour Movement send an email and say “Subscribe me” to
fridaysfolklore@gmail.com.

https://conta.cc/2Z79HTh

Mother Jones Dedication -Film

The Cork Mother Jones Committee received the following film from Saul Schniderman, the person who discovered the site of Mother Jones’ death (1930) in Adelphi, Maryland. The Maryland Historic Trust has placed a marker there, on Powder Mill Road, before the Hillandale Baptist Church.

The film shows the dedication of the Mary Harris “Mother Jones” Elementary School on May 16, 2003. The film was made by Dave Zahren who worked for the Prince George’s County Board of Education, Television Resources division.

To view film Click here
(This YouTube clip will play after one minute.)

“This film celebrates the opening of Mary Harris “Mother Jones” Elementary School in Adelphi, MD, which opened in 2000. The film features footage from the dedication, including interviews from students, faculty, and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. The film also includes a video shared with the audience on the day of dedicating the school, which includes additional interviews and more background on the school.

The film also features archival footage of Mother Jones, including a rare recording of her voice where she says, “…And I long to see the day when Labor will have the destinies of the nation in her own hands, and she will stand a united force and show the world what the workers can do.”

This film was produced by Prince George’s County Public Schools Office of Television Resources, and donated to the Meany Labor Archive by Mother Jones historian Saul Schniderman, also featured in the film.”

The Mary Harris Elementary School now has almost a thousand students and these comprise children from many nationalities. Mother Jones would have been extremely proud of this educational establishment named in her honour.

Mother Jones visits Calumet, Michigan in August 1913

Mother Jones arrives at Calumet, Michigan in August 1913.

Mother Jones visits Calumet, Michigan in August 1913.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is very grateful to Jeremiah Mason, Archivist of the National Parks Service, Lake Superior Collection Management Centre at Keweenaw National Historical Park at Calumet in Michigan for providing the Cork Mother Jones Committee with a collection of five photographs of Mother Jones.

These show her arriving and taking part in a march in the town of Calumet in August 1913 to support an ongoing strike by the copper miners of the Western Federation of Miners (WFM).

Mother Jones greeted bylarge crowds as she arrives by car with local strike leaders

These photos from August 1913 show the sense of excitement, expectation and colour in the town at the arrival of 76 year old Mother Jones. She is surrounded by male union leaders and local dignitaries. The look of wonder in some of the workers standing close to Mother Jones gives the impression of the legendary status and reverence in which she is held by miners. Mother Jones herself appears very serious and quietly determined amidst the phalanx of union men. She addressed the workers later at a mass meeting in the town.

Mother Jones (in car) leads march of strikers through Calumet, Michigan, August 1913

The wider context of these rare photos (in addition to the earlier Michigan Technological University photos on this site) is even more important as 1913/14 was the period of the Coal Wars and of frenetic activity by Mother Jones, who was at the height of her fame. Earlier in 1913, she had been very active in the West Virginia miner strikes, which had turned violent.

Mother Jones arrives with union leaders

Mother Jones was arrested by the military, court-martialled and jailed. Detained from 12th February until 8th May 1913, she was as defiant as ever when released and continued working to support the miners, addressing a meeting at Carnegie Hall in New York on 27th May 1913.

Following this August visit to Calumet, she proceeded to Colorado to actively support the United Mine Workers of America in the year long strike. During this period she was deported by the militia from Trinidad, Colorado and imprisoned twice, for a two month period and later for 23 days in          Walsenburg in appalling conditions in a dark basement cell.

On release she made speeches in Boston, New York, Washington, Seattle and British Colombia and even found time to travel south to El Paso on the Mexican border to prevent the introduction of scab labour from Mexico. She testified in Washington before House Committee on Mines and Mining.

While she was in Washington, the massacre at Ludlow on April 20th 1914 took place.  Women and children were burned to death following the local militia setting fire to the miners tent colony established during the strike.

Over 70 people died during and after Ludlow and President Woodrow Wilson dispatched Federal troops to the region to prevent civil war breaking out. Mother Jones had called for the Federal Government to take over the mines. This was rejected by President Wilson, who subsequently made proposals to settle the strikes, she urged the miners to accept the proposals.

Mother Jones (seated in car) leads the parade in support of striking copper miners

Mother Jones, although by then almost 77 years old worked constantly to assist and provide support to “her boys”. She had attained legendary status among workers everywhere and was feared by the authorities and mine owners.

These photos show the huge impact of her arrival to help the union in “Copper Country”.

Our thanks to Jeremiah Mason and all at Calumet.

The photographs are courtesy of the National Parks Service, Lake Superior Collection Management Centre at Keweenaw National Historical Park in Calumet.