There are many activities and ongoing events in the USA with connections to Mother Jones and the Irish emigrant diaspora.
Some wonderful news is that the Chicago Monuments Commission has issued a report and among the projects which it has decided to fund is the Chicago Statue/Sculpture Campaign which seeks to erect a monument to Mother Jones in a prominent location in Chicago. This additional $50,000 funding from the Commission gives the campaign a fantastic boost and it is hoped to announce the location of the monument very soon. Fundraising continues and the latest trade union contribution of $5000 from the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Crafts was also most welcome. The Committee’s cherished dream of a lasting and permanent monument to the Cork woman looks like being realised shortly.
The Mother Jones Heritage Project has also received news that its application for the erection of a road marker in southern Indiana to Mother Jones has been approved. It will be placed in Evansville, a city with a rich Labour and coal miners heritage where Mother Jones rallied striking textile workers in 1901 and later in 1916 when she addressed a crowd of some ten thousand at a Labor Day picnic. A former coal miner and local historian Steve Bottoms worked with the Indiana authorities and with fundraising to make this memorial to Mother Jones happen.
The Mother Jones Heritage exhibition, Dangerous Women, Mary Harris “Mother” Jones and Francis “Fannie” Sellins, at the St. Louis Public Library’s Carnegie Room continues until January 7, 2023. The exhibit was funded in part by an Emigrant Support Grant of the Irish Government through the Chicago Consulate. Fannie Sellins was born Fannie Mooney and this union activist also had deep Irish emigrant roots.
Finally the Mother Jones Heritage Project invites everyone to join them on Saturday September 3rd in Chicago as Mother Jones leads the Labor day Parade. So come out and honour Mother Jones. For details visit www.motherjonesmuseum.org
Meanwhile down in Leadville in Colorado the construction of a monument is underway to remember the many Irish immigrants, over 1300, many of them young miners and their families from Allihies in West Cork who lie buried in unmarked graves in the Evergreen Cemetery.
The local Colorado committee under Professor James Walsh expects to have Phase 1 of the memorial completed this year and there will be a celebratory event in Leadville on Saturday September 17th 2022 to mark this achievement. The full unveiling of the spectacular monument will be held in 2023 when the glass panels with the names of those who lie buried there will be on display. Fundraising is continuing and donations towards the completion of the monument are most welcome.
On Thursday 28th July at 4pm, the unusual story of Tom Hickey, the Dubliner and friend of Mother Jones who tried to convert Texas to socialism, will be told by Professor Peter Buckingham at the Maldron Hotel Shandon. All are welcome.
Tom Hickey came to the United States from Ireland in 1892, became a machinist, and soon joined the Knights of Labor and the Socialist Labor Party. His party boss, Daniel De Leon, recognized the potential in this Irishman and even made him an “enforcer” against those who questioned the boss’s authority. The enforcer, though, eventually found himself forced out and moved west to start a new life. Ultimately, Hickey landed in Texas and saw an opportunity to use syndicalism as an organizing tool to build a state socialist party.
He did just that. Within a few years, Hickey transformed the faction-ridden Socialist Party of America in Texas into a force strong enough to threaten the Republican Party at the ballot box. He gained a large following thanks to a unique mixture of evangelical rhetoric and militant industrial unionism. He enlisted the help of many party comrades, including Mother Jones.
Biographer Peter H. Buckingham points out that Hickey failed to deliver his people into the Promised Land. Violence, poll taxes, voter suppression, and other forces made voting for socialist candidates problematic; the Democratic Party soon co-opted the more appealing elements of socialism into watered-down, reformist planks for the Texan voter. By the time Hickey died of throat cancer in the mid-1920s, his moment in the spotlight had passed.
“Red Tom” Hickey is an important contribution to Irish, Texas and American history, capturing a time that Buckingham argues was the second sustained crisis in American history: a democratic society wrestling with the effects of industrial capitalism.
After presenting an overview of the life and times of Thomas Aloysius Joseph Hickey, Buckingham will examine the special bond that developed between Mother Jones and Red Tom. When no one else would dare to cross Party Secretary, Mahlon Barnes, she revealed his sexism and greed as only Mother could, thereby saving Hickey from scandal and expulsion.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
PETER H. BUCKINGHAM is Professor of History Emeritus at Linfield University in McMinnville, Oregon, USA, and the author of several books, including Rebel against Injustice: The Life of Frank P. O’Hare and America Sees Red: Anti-Communism in America, 1870s to 1980s. He resides in McMinnville.
The Rebel Newspaper.
University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UT San Antonio Libraries Special Collections.
The Rebel masthead
The great appear great to us only because we are on our knees
The May Day Party for Mother Jones will take place at the Irish American Heritage Centre at 4626 North Knox Avenue in Chicago from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm.
Among those participating are:
Kevin Byrne, Ireland’s Consul General to Chicago and the Midwest.
Sara Nelson President of the Association of Flight Attendants CWA, AFLCIO.
Don Villar, Secretary Treasurer Chicago Federation of Labour.
Also participating are singers and artists such as Paddy Homan, Kathy Cowan and the SAG-AFTRA singers while artist Lindsay Hand will sign posters.
All proceeds will go towards the Chicago Statue Campaign.
There are very few monuments which commemorate women in Chicago and as with most cities everywhere none of working class women.
Why not assist the Chicago campaign to ensure that a beautiful statue is erected to honour Cork born Mary Harris who as Mother Jones worked ceaselessly to help immigrants of many nationalities to organise for decent wages and safe working conditions by joining the American trade union movement!.
A broad based fundraising committee in the City has been active in fundraising to bring the dream of the Mother Jones statue to reality.
With the help of the American trade unions and many others, the committee is close to achieving this ambition. Let’s put this iconic Irish immigrant refugee and a founder of the American Labour Movement–the Mother of the working class–on a statue in the city she called home.
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.
Congratulations to all involved with bringing Mother Jones to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The Mother Jones inflatable was paraded through the streets of Chicago, on Saturday 12th March and received a great reception from the thousands lining the streets. Brigid Duffy also appeared as the Chicago Mother Jones.
The parade honoured Chicago’s essential workers. After a two year break due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the parade returned to Columbus Drive on Saturday, where the Chicago River was dyed green, a 60 year tradition. This event is believed to be the largest neighbourhood based St. Patrick’s Day parade outside of Dublin, drawing as many as 150,000 people.
The documentary Mother Jones And Her Children is now available to view at the link below.
This 2014 documentary tells the exciting story of Mary Harris/Mother Jones from her birth in Cork in 1837 to her death in 1930.
It features US Labour historians such as Rosemary Feurer, who administers the website www.motherjonesmuseum.org and who writes extensively on Mother Jones. Elliott Gorn, author of Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America appears also along with interviews with authors Simon Cordery and Marat Moore. Larry Spivack of the Illinois Labour History Society and John Alexander of the Virden Monument Committee and US trade union activists such as Mike Matjelki, Dave Rathke and Terry Reed take part. In addition, there is an interview with Uibh Laoghaire historian, Joe Creedon regarding the birth place of Ellen Cotter, the mother of Mary Harris, while members of the Cork Mother Jones Committee (CMJC) provide details about her baptism in Cork, and the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.
According to James Nolan of the CMJC
“This documentary is ideal for anyone who wishes to learn more about this amazing Cork woman, a woman who survived horrific personal tragedy and bravely supported the trade union movement and fought for social justice in America for over four decades.
Mary Harris’s efforts in the early 1900s to highlight the exploitation of children in the mines, mills and factories of Americaand her arguments that they should receive an education instead will still resonatewith school children across the world today.
This documentary should be included in the Irish educational curriculum.”
Mother Jones and Her Children remains available on CD. The link to the documentary also appears above the main website masthead.
It was produced by Frameworks Films and the Cork Mother Jones Committee.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.