Mother Jones Remembered and Celebrated

In Cork city, the Cork Mother Jones Committee has rectified the failure of the city to remember Mother Jones and it proceeded to erect a monument near her birthplace in Shandon in 2012.

In 2013, Cork City Council following a motion from Cllr. Ted Tynan, declared August 1st as Mother Jones Day in the city.

The voluntary committee has organised the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival each year around August 1st on her birthday to honour the spirit of one of the greatest union leaders.

The informal international festival mixes talks and discussions with films, music, singing, poetry, talking and fun around the Shandon Historic Community in the north inner city of Cork.  Through Mother Jones, we wish to ensure that her spirit continues to play a part in society today, we also wish to honour other people who carry on the fight for social and labour justice and human rights through our annual Spirit of Mother Jones Award.

The Mother Jones Heritage Project in Chicago led by Professor Rosemary Feurer is working towards erecting a monument to celebrate Mother Jones in the City of Chicago. Rosemary has ceaselessly campaigned for many years to highlight the story of Mother Jones and has provided huge assistance to the Cork Committee for which we are extremely grateful.  She has attended and spoken at two festivals in the past decade. Rosemary administers the following website and Facebook pages which contain much information on Mother Jones

Road Marker to Mother Jones erected near Route 66, Illinois in 2018.

 Visit and MotherJonesLives on Facebook.

The town of Mount Olive, itself has recently opened a museum in her honour, her grave monument at the miners cemetery was renewed and a local voluntary committee intend to make the story of Mother Jones widely available to all. Union member, James Goltz has been active in publicising Mother Jones and has visited and spoken several times at the Cork festival.  In 2017 he presented clay from the grave of Mother Jones to the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr. Tony Fitzgerald.

James Goltz presents Soil from the grave of Mother Jones at Mount Olive to the Lord Mayor of Cork 2017 Cllr Tony Fitzgerald.

At the annual Durham Miners Gala in the north of England each July, a banner from the Daughters of Mother Jones has been carried in recent years by union activists Betty Cook and Anne Scargill. The Daughters of Mother Jones were active in the Pittston strike in South West Virginia in April 1989.

Betty and Anne with Mother Jones Banner 31.7.19 (Claire Stack)

The Mother Jones Foundation based in Springfield, Illinois is the longest established organisation working in the spirit of Mother Jones. It holds an annual dinner, lectures and music event each year along with visits to Mount Olive Cemetery. Details are on its Facebook page. 

Margaret Fulkerton of the Mother Jones Foundation 2014 Irish American Hall of Fame.

6.1 Some tributes to Mother Jones.

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn in her book, The Rebel Girl 1955 described Mother Jones

“The greatest woman agitator of our time was Mother Jones. Arrested, deported, held in custody by the militia, hunted and threatened by police and gunmen – she carried on fearlessly for sixty years.”

United Mine Workers Journal 1931.

“Neither courts, nor gunmen, nor prisons, nor militia could stop her. Her name will stand at the head among the great of Labor’s Hall of Fame.”

Clarence Darrow, America’s outstanding criminal lawyer. Introduction to the Autobiography of Mother Jones. June 6th, 1925.        

“Wherever the fight was the fiercest and danger the greatest, Mother Jones was present to aid and cheer. In both the day and the night, in the poor villages and at the lonely cabin on the mountainside, Mother Jones always appeared in time of need… Over and over she was sentenced by the courts; she never ran away”.

Clarence Darrow

While discussing the work of Nimrod Workman, a miner with Black Lung, a singer and a songwriter from Mingo County who worked in gun thug pre-union days, Michael Kline in the sleeve notes of Come All You Coal Miners stated.

‘The union came in with tough organisers like Mother Jones

(“The only way you can get your rights is with a high-powered rifle, and the man who does not have this equipment is not a good union man”)’

John P. Mitchell writing on July 31st, 1913.

“Mother Jones is a most extraordinary woman. She is capable of delivering and sometimes does deliver most learned and scholarly addresses; at other times she becomes revolutionary and profane and appeals only to the passion of her hearers”

John P. Mitchell

Ella Reeve “Mother” Bloor, labour activist, Socialist and Communist Party member from her autobiography“We Are Many”1940.

“In later years Mother Jones came under the wrong influences and was sometimes made use of to play a reactionary role. She always retained great prestige among the miners, who would do anything she asked. But just the same Mother Jones was an historical figure, a fine woman and a fine courageous fighter.”

Quoted by Dale Fetherling, in Mother Jones the Miners’ Angel from Federation News, December 13th 1930.

“If Mother Jones had stayed in Ireland, she probably would have been hanged… or else, she would have been President of the Irish Republic”

Dale Fetherling

Rosemary Feurer, Mother Jones Heritage project on the introduction to the Miners’ Angel DVD said:

“Jones preferred drama to violence, and understood that social movements are theatre. It was a brilliant insight. She helped innovate the tactic of filling jails in defiance of injunctions, and only wondered why more labor leaders weren’t ready to join her.”

Rosemary Feurer

A coal miner’s widow from Eskdale as quoted by Jim Green in the Devil is Here in these Hills from Miner’s Voice, a newspaper in Charleston.

“She wasn’t afraid of the devil and all of his angels”

Today the best way to describe her in living terms was stated by her biographer Elliott J. Gorn in introduction to his book Mother Jones .The Most Dangerous Woman in America.

“All who raise their voices against social injustice and resist the easy complacency of our times are the sons and daughters of Mother Jones.”                                                                 

Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the Living, her often remembered quote still resonates in many places across the world of labour. It is attributed to Mother Jones and appears in her autobiography at Chapter VI: War in West Virginia at page 40/41 in the original 1925 edition, Edited by Mary Field Parton, and published by Charles H. Kerr & Company, Chicago, Illinois.

March of the Mill Children (Claire Stack) Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.

While helping miners at Fairmont in West Virginia during the early 1900s, one day she attended a meeting in a church packed with miners. Unhappy with the location, she wanted to know what was going on and was advised that the miners had rented to church for her meeting. As she tells the story, she grabbed the rent from the priest who was counting it nearby and ordered the miners out into a nearby field near the church and the school. Telling them to have their meetings in the school as its their school, she further admonished them, all the while advocating her lifelong belief of the union as the kindergarten of their education;

“Your organisation is not a praying institution. Its an educational institution along industrial lines. Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living”.

6.2 Quotes from Mother Jones.

 “It is true I have given most of my time to the miners’ organization, but I don’t belong to any individual organization or creed; I belong to the workers wherever they are in slavery, regardless of what their trade or craft may be.”

“The labor movement will never be wrecked from outside, the wrecking force will be from within”

“Your conventions are getting too big and cost too much money. The money comes out of your pockets and when you need it, instead of giving it to hotels, the railroads, and the pool rooms, save that money and raise hell with the powers that are on our backs” (to the UMWA convention, Sept 17th 1919.)

Mother Jones on the cover of
the United Mine Worker Journal, March 1976.

“A lady is the last thing on earth I want to be. Capitalists sidetrack the women into clubs and make ladies of them.”

“The miners lost because they had only the constitution. The other side had bayonets. In the end bayonets always win.”

“No abiding place, but wherever a fight is on against wrong, I am always there. It is my pleasure to be in the fray.”

“Never can complete victory be won until the woman awakens to her condition, No government is great or ever can be greater than the woman.”

“I am an extraordinary happy woman, with just enough pain in my life to keep me true. If I yielded to luxury I might lose myself”, (interview in the Boston Herald 1904)

“Labour must be its own religion”

“My address is like my shoes. It travels with me. I abide where there is a fight against wrong.”

“I told the women I did not believe in women’s rights nor in men’s rights, but in human rights.”

“No matter what the fight, don’t be ladylike! God almighty made women and the Rockefeller gang of thieves made the ladies.”

“I asked a man in prison once how he happened to be there and he said he had stolen a pair of shoes. I told him if he had stolen a railroad he would be a United States Senator.”

“A portion of this blood-stained plunder (from the work of the mining “trap boys”) goes to the support of educational incubators called universities that hatch out just such ministerial fowls as the one referred to”

“The employment of children is doing more to fill prisons, insane asylums, almshouses, reformatories, slums, and gin shops than all the efforts of reformers are doing to improve society.”

Mother Jones at bureau (Full Colour)

6.3. How did Mother Jones wish to be remembered?

She told us in a video recording made a few month before her death.

“You know I am considered a Bolshevik, a Red and an IWW and a Radical.

And I admit to being all they’ve charged me. I’m anything that would change moneyed civilization to a higher and grander civilization for the ages to come.

 And I long to see the day when Labour will have the destination of the nation in her own hands and she will stand a united force and show the world what the workers can do.”

Mother Jones