Saturday, November 26, 2011

Mother Jones

This is a good story.  I wish you could hear Utah Phillips tell it.  Well, technically you can.  I have the audio version.  So, let me know if you want me to burn you a copy.  I'm sure you could google it too. He has another good story about Norwegian immigrants in the northwest (Spokane Free Speech Fight)- the track is called 'Direct Action' on the Fellow Workers CD...  Anyway,  here is the Mother Jones story.


Mother Jones (as told by Utah Phillips).

I was traveling through Illinois when I was invited to stop and sing at a
memorial, there in the little town of Mount Olive. Now, who of note in
American history is buried in the cemetary at Mount Olive, Illinois? I'll give
you a hint: it was a woman, it was the Union Miners' Cemetary. D'you have it
yet? Mary Harris. Mary Harris Jones. Mother Jones.

It's hard for the mind to encompass a life that embraced the presidencies
between Andrew Jackson and Herbert Hoover; why, when Mother Jones was a little
girl there were people still alive who remembered the Revolutionary War. And
she died on the eve of the New Deal. Her millinery shop burned down in the
Chicago fire, and she had heard Abraham Lincoln speak - in person.

Mostly though, Mother Jones was the miners' friend. Down in Kentucky,
Tennessee, West Virginia. Well, the men'd be organizing the underground
workers, the miners; Mother Jones had already organized their wives and led
them over the snow-covered game trails down into the hollows, where, armed with
mops and brooms, they drove the scabs out of the coal pits.

Now, Mother Jones wasn't an organizer; she was an agitator. Which meant often
enough she was hated as much by the organizers as by the bosses. One time
Mother Jones was out in Colorado at the great Ludlow strike. Now that was a
strike to enforce the eight-hour day, which the state of Colorado had made a
law; but they couldn't enforce it, cause Rockefeller owned the militia. Now,
the governor promised not to send the militia into the coal fields, but he
lied, and he did. Mother Jones was in the union hall down there at Ludlow and
word came that the militia had entered the coal fields. Well, she leapt up and
she screamed, "Let's go get the sons of bitches!" and she stormed out. She
didn't look to see if anybody was following her.

Nobody was following her. She just flounced up the road alone and confronted
the militia. And that was the year that president Theodore Roosevelt called
Mother Jones "the most dangerous woman in America." And she was eighty-three
years old. That's some kind of dangerous.

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