Labor History - Mother Jones  

Welcome to Part Deux of Labor History, you can also still read Part One.

In Lesson 1, I talked about how worker's rights and the history of the labor movement isn't being taught in schools. I also provided a brief history of the tragedy at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Also discussed were a couple of recent Congressional pieces like EFCA.

Today, we're going to talk about one of the most influential Trade Unionists ever, Mary "Mother" Jones and the rise of the Coal Miners' Union.

My friends, it is solidarity of labor we want. We do not want to find fault with each other, but to solidify our forces and say to each other: We must be together; our masters are joined together and we must do the same thing.

Mary "Mother" Jones

Years ago, I first heard about Mother Jones studying in Jr. High about child labor laws. I remember how some of the kids were pissed they couldn't have jobs and make their own money.

Mrs. Hale sat down with us and discussed Mother Jones and she did this in the context of how poor and immigrant children suffered from poor conditions as so many children do today all over the world. But Mrs. Hale spoke of it in very specific terms, almost as if she were channeling Mother...

We assembled a number of boys and girls one morning in Independence Park and from there we arranged to parade with banners to the courthouse. I put the little boys with their fingers off and hands crushed and maimed on a platform. I held up their mutilated hands and made the statement that Philadelphia's mansions were built on the broken bones, the quivering hearts and drooping heads of these children. That their little lives went out to make wealth for others. That neither state nor city officials paid any attention to these wrongs. That they did not care that these children were to be the future citizens of the nation.

The officials of the city hall were standing by the open windows. I held the little ones of the mills high up above the heads of the crowd and pointed to their puny arms and legs and hollow chests. They were light to lift. The officials quickly closed the windows, as they had closed their eyes and hearts.

The reporters quoted my statement. The universities discussed it. Preachers began talking. That was what I wanted: Public attention on the subject of child labor.

Few move me the way Mother does. She wasn't just any activist. She was a boots on the street, languishing in jail, strike supporting kind of strong female trade unionist that I aspire to be when I grow up (pst, I'm almost 40, I've got more than 40 more to live up to Mother's activism).

Mother became a public figure, doing things no women of the era were able to do...

..Most American women of that era led quiet, homebound lives devoted to their families. Women, especially elderly ones, were not supposed to have opinions; if they had them, they were not to voice them publicly -- and certainly not in the fiery tones of a street orator.

Yet by casting herself as the mother of downtrodden people everywhere, Mary Jones went where she pleased, spoke out on the great issues of her day, and did so with sharp irreverence (she referred to John D. Rockefeller as "Oily John" and Governor William Glasscock of West Virginia as "Crystal Peter"). Paradoxically, by embracing the very role of family matriarch that restricted most women, Mother Jones shattered the limits that confined her.

But this lesson isn't a dissertation. I'm not trying to make you experts in the labor movement. I' trying to do only one thing here, explain why the LEFT is linked o LABOR. It goes back to that first quote from Mother.

We must be together; our masters are joined together and we must do the same thing.

This need to join together to empower each other is best known as SOLIDARITY.

I learned in the early part of my career that labor must bear the cross for others' sins, must be the vicarious sufferer for the wrongs that others do”

Whatever your fight, don't be ladylike.

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.

I had intended to offer the option of Matewan for the next Labor history lesson, but I can't even begin to do it the justice that Progressive Historians has. Also here on DKos.

I've cross posted this on Dailykos.

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