I have always advised men to read. All my life I have told them to study the works of those great authors who have been interested in making this world a happier place for those who do its drudgery. When there were no strikes, I held educational meetings and after the meet ings I would sell the book, "Merrie England,' which told in simple fashion of the workers' struggle for a more abundant life.
"Boys," I would say, "listen to me. Instead of going to the pool and gambling rooms, go up to the mountain and read this book. Sit under the trees, listen to the birds and take a lesson from those little feathered creatures who do not exploit one another, nor betray one another, nor put their own little ones to work digging worms before their time. You will hear them sjng while they work. The best you can do is swear and smoke."
I was gone from the eastern coal fields for eight years. Meanwhile I was busy, waging the old struggle in various fields. I went West and took part in the strike of the machinists - the Southern Pacific Railroad, the corporation that swung California by its golden tail, that controlled its legislature, its farmers, its preachers, its workers.
Then I went to Alabama. In 1904 and '05 there were great strikes in and around Birmingham. The workers of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad were on strike. Jay Gould owned the railroad and thought he owned the workers along with the ties and locomotives and rolling stock. The miners struck in sympathy. These widespread strikes were part of the American Railway Union strike, led by Eugene Debs, a railway worker.
One day the governor called Douglas Wilson, chairman of the strike committee, to his office. He said, "You call this strike off immediately. If you don't do it, I shall."
"Governor," said Douglas, "I can't call off strike until the men get the concessions that they struck for."
"Then I will call out the militia," said he.
" Then what in hell do you think we will be doing While you are getting the militia ready?"
The governor knew then he had a fight on, for Douglas was a heroic fighter; a fine, open character whom the governor himself respected. The militia were called out. There was a long drawn out fight. I was forbidden to leave town without permit, forbidden to hold meetings. Nevertheless I slipped through the ranks of the soldiers without their knowing who I was-just an old woman going to a missionary meeting knit mittens for the heathen of Africa!
I went down to Rockton, a mining camp, with William Malley and held a meeting. Coming back on the train the conductor recognized me.
"Mother Jones," he said, "did you hold a meeting in Rockton?"
"I certainly did," said I.
He reported me to the general manager and there was hell to pay but I kept right on with my agitation. The strike dragged on. Debs was put in jail. The leaders were prosecuted. A last the strike was called off. I was in Birmingham.
Debs was on his way north after being released from jail and the local union arranged a public meeting for him. We rented the opera house and advertised the meeting widely. He was to speak Sunday evening. Sunday afternoon the committee were served with an injunction, prohibiting the meeting. The owner of the opera house was also notified that h would not be allowed to open the doors of his building.
The chairman of the committee on the meeting didn't have much fighting blood in him, but I told several of the boys to say nothing to him but go over to Bessemer and Pratt, nearby mining towns, and bring a bunch of miners back with them to meet Debs when he got off the train.
At the Union hall a large number of people had gathered to see what was going to happen.
When it was train time, I moved that everyone there go down to the depot to meet Debs.
"I think just the committee on reception should go," said the chairman, who was strong for form.
"I move that we all form a committee on reception," said I, and everybody hollered, "Yes! Yes!"
When we got down to the station there were several thousand miners there from Bessemer and Pratt.
The train pulled in and Debs got off. Those miners did not wait for the gates to open but jumped over the railing. They put him on their shoulders and marched out of the station with the crowd in line. They marched through the streets, past the railway offices, the mayor's office, the office of the chief of police. "Debs is here! Debs is here!" they shouted.
The chief of police had a change of heart. He sent word to me that the opera house was open and we could hold our meeting. The house was jammed, the aisles, the window sills, every nook and corner. The churches were empty that night, and that night the crowd heard a real sermon by a preacher whose message was one of human brotherhood.
When the railroad workers' strike ended went down to Cottondale to get a job in the cotton mills. I wanted to see for myself if the grewsome stories of little children working the mills were true.
I applied for a job but the manager told me he had nothing for me unless I had a family that would work also. I told the manager I was going to move my family to Cottondale but I had come on ahead to see what chances there were of getting work.
"Have you children"
"Yes, there are six of us."
"Fine," he said. He was so enthusiastic that he went with me to find a house to rent.
"Here's a house that will do plenty," said he. The house he brought me to was a sort of two-story plank shanty. The windows were broken and the door sagged open. Its latch was broken. It had one room down stairs and a finished loft upstairs. Through the cracks in the roof the rain had come in and rotted the flooring. Downstairs there was a big old open fireplace in front of which were holes big enough to drop a brick through.
The manager was delighted with the house. ''The wind and the cold will come through these holes," I said.
He laughed. "Oh, it will be summer soon and you will need all the air you can get."
"I don't know that this house is big enough for six of us."
"Not big enough?" he stared at me. "What you all want, a hotel?"
I took the house, promising to send for my family by the end of the month when they could get things wound up on the farm. I was given work in the factory, and there I saw the children, little children working, the most heart-rending spectacle in all life. Sometimes it seemed to me I could not look at those silent little figures; that I must go north, to the grim coal fields, to the Rocky Mountain camps, where the labor fight is at least fought by grown men.
Little girls and boys, barefooted, walked up and down between the endless rows of spindles, reaching thin little hands into the machinery to repair snapped threads. They crawled under machinery to oil it. They replaced spindles all day long, all day long; night through, night through. Tiny babies of six years old with faces of sixty did an eight-hour shift for ten cents a day. If they fell asleep, cold water was dashed in their faces; and the voice of the manager yelled above the ceaseless racket and whir of the machines.
Toddling chaps of four years old were brought to the mills to "help" the older sister or brother' of ten years but their labor was not paid.
The machines, built in the north, were low for the hands of little children.
At five-thirty in the morning, long lines of little grey children came out of the early dawn into the factory, into the maddening noise, into the lint filled rooms. Outside the birds sang and the blue sky shone. At the lunch half-hour, children would fall to sleep over their lunch of cornbread and fat pork. They would lie on the bare floor and sleep. Sleep was their recreation, their release, as play is to the free children. The boss would come along and shake them awake. After the lunch period, the hour-in grind, the ceaseless running up and down between the whirring spindles. Babies, tiny children!
Often the little ones were afraid to go home alone in the night. Then they would sleep till sunrise on the floor. That was when the mills were running a bit slack and the all-night worked shorter hours. I often went home with the little ones after the day's work was done or the night shift went off duty. They were too tired to eat. With their clothes on, they dropped on the bed . . . to sleep, to sleep … the one happiness these children know.
But they had Sundays, for the mill ownners and the mill folks themselves were pious. To Sunday School went the babies of the there to hear how God had inspired the mill owner to come down and build the mill, so as to give His little ones work that they might develop into industrious, patriotic citizens and earn money to give to the missionaries to convert the poor unfortunate heathen Ohinese.
"My six children" not arriving, the manager got suspicious of me so I left Cottondale and went to Tuscaloosa where I got work in a rope factory. This factory was run also by child labor. Here, too, were the children running up and down between spindles. The lint was heavy in the room. The machinery needed constant cleaning. The tiny, slender bodies of the little children crawled in and about under dangerous machinery, oiling and cleaning. Often their hands were crushed. A finger was snapped off.
A father of two little girls worked a loom next to the one assigned to me
"How old are the little girls?" I asked him.
"One is six years and ten days," he said, pointing to a little girl, stoop shouldered and thin chested who was threading warp, "and that one," he pointed to a pair of thin legs like twigs, sticking out from under a rack of spindles, "that one is seven and three months."
"How long do they work?"
"From six in the evening till six come morning."
"How much do they get?"
"Ten cents a night."
"I get forty."
In the morning I went off shift with the children. They stumbled out of the heated atmosphere of the mill, shaking with cold as they came outside. They passed on their way the long grey line of little children with dinner pails coming in for the day's shift.
They die of pneumonia, these little ones, - bronchitis and consumption. But the birth rate like the dividends is large and another hand is ready to tie the snapped threads who a child worker dies.
I went from Tuscaloosa to Selma, Alabama, and got a job in a mill. I boarded with a woman who had a dear little girl of eleven years working in the same mill with me.
On Sunday a group of mill children were going out to the woods. They came for Maggie. She was still sleeping and her mother went the tiny bedroom to call her.
"Get up, Maggie, the children are here for you to.go to the woods."
"Oh, mother," she said, "just let me sleep that's lots more fun. I'm so tired. I just want to sleep forever."
So her mother let her sleep.
The next day she went as usual to the mill. That evening at four o'clock they brought her home and laid her tiny body on the kitschen table. She was asleep -forever. Her hair had caught in the machinery and torn her scalp off.
At night after the day shift came off work, they came to look at their little companion. A solemn line of little folks with old, old faces, with thin round shoulders, passed before the corpse, crying. They were just little children but death to them was a familiar figure.
"Oh, Maggie," they said, "We wish you'd come back. We're so sorry you got hurted!"
I did not join them in their wish. Maggie was so tired and she just wanted to sleep forever.
I did not stay long in one place. As soon as one showed interest in or sympathy for the children, she was suspected, and laid off. Then, too, the jobs went to grown-ups that could bring children. I left Alabama for South Carolina, working in many mills.
In one mill, I got a day-shift job. On my way to work I met a woman coming home from night work. She had a tiny bundle of a baby in her arms.
"How old is the baby?"
"Three days. I just went back this morning. The boss was good and saved my place."
"When did you leave?"
"The boss was good; he let me off early the night the baby was born."
"What do you do with the baby while you work?"
"Oh, the boss is good and he lets me have a little box with a pillow in it beside the loom. The baby sleeps there and when it cries, I nurse it."
So this baby, like hundreds of others, listened to the whiz and whir of machinery before it came into the world. From its first weeks, it heard the incessant racket raining down upon its ears, like iron rain. It crawled upon the linty floor. It toddled between forests of spindles. In a few brief years it took its place in the line. It renounced childhood and childish things and became a man of six, a wage earner, a snuff sniffer, a personage upon whose young-old shoulders fortunes were built.
And who is responsible for this appalling child slavery? Everyone. Alabama passed a child labor law, endeavoring to some extent to protect its children. And northern capitalists from Massachusetts and Rhode Island defeated the law. Whenever a southern state 'attempts reform, the mill owners, who are for the most part northerners, threaten to close the nulls. They reach legislatures, they send lobbies to work against child labor reform, and money, northern money for the most part, secures the nullification of reform, laws through control of the courts.
The child labor reports of the period in which I made this study put the number of children under fourteen years of age working in mills as fully 25 per cent of the workers; working for a pittance, for eight, nine, ten hours a day, a night .
And mill owners declared dividends ranging from 50 per cent to 90.
"Child labor is docile," they say. "It does not strike. There are no labor troubles." Mill owners point to the lace curtains in the windows of the children's homes. To the luxuries they enjoy. "So much better than they had when as poor whites they worked on the farms!"
Cheap lace curtains are to offset the labor of children! Behind those luxuries we cannot see the little souls deadened by early labor; we cannot see the lusterless eyes in the dark circle looking out upon us. The tawdry lace curtains hang between us and the future of the child, who grows up in ignorance, body and mind and soul dwarfed, diseased.
I declare that their little lives are woven into the cotton goods they weave; that in the thread with which we sew our babies' clothes, the pure white confirmation dresses of our girls, our wedding gowns and dancing frocks, in that thread are twisted the tears and heart-ache of little children.
From the south, burdened with the terrible things I had seen, I came to New York and held several meetings to make known conditions as I had found them. I met the opposition of the press and of capital. For a long time after my southern experience, I could scarcely eat. Not alone my clothes, but my food, too, at times seemed bought with the price of the toil of children.
The funds for foreign missions, for home missions, for welfare and charity workers for social settlement workers come in part, at least, from the dividends on the cotton mills And the little mill child is crucified between the two thieves of its childhood; capital and ignorance.
"Of such is the kingdom of Heaven," said the great teacher. Well, if Heaven is full of undersized, round shouldered, hollow-eyed, listless, sleepy little angel children, I want to go~ to the other place with the bad little boys and girls.
In one mill town where I worked, I became acquainted with a mother and her three little children, all of whom worked in the mill with me. The father had died of tuberculosis and the family had run up a debt of thirty dollars for his funeral. Year in and year out they toiled to pay back to the company store the indebtedness. Penny by penny they wore down the amount. After food and rent were deducted from the scanty wages, nothing remained. They were in thralldom to the mill.
I determined to rescue them. I arranged with the station agent of the through train to have his train stop for a second on a certain night. I hired a wagon from a farmer. and bought a can of grease to grease the axles to stop their creaking. In the darkness of night, the little family and I drove to the station. We felt like escaping negro slaves and expected any moment that bloodhounds would be on our trail. The children shivered and whimpered.
Down the dark tracks came the through train. Its bright eye terrified the children. It slowed down. I lifted the two littlest children onto the platform. The mother and the oldest climbed on. Away we sped, away from the everlasting debt, away to a new town where they could start anew without the millstone about their necks.
When Pat Dolan was president of the Pittsburgh miners' union, and there never was a better president than Pat, he got permission from the general managers of the mines for me to go through the district and solicit subscriptions for The Appeal to Reason. The managers must have thought the paper some kind of religious sheet and that I was a missionary of some sort.
Anyway, during those months, I came into intimate contact with the miners and their families. I went through every mine from Pittsburgh to Brownsville. Mining at its best is wretched work, and the life and surroundings of the miner are hard and ugly. His work is down in the black depths of the earth. He works alone in a drift. There can be little friendly companionship as there is in the factory; as there is among men who built bridges and houses, working together in group. The work is dirty. Coal dust grinds itself into the skin, never to be removed. The miner must' stoop as he works in the drift. He becomes bent like a gnome.
His work is utterly fatiguing. Muscles and bones ache. His lungs breathe coal dust and the strange, damp air of places that are never filled with sunlight. His house is a poor make- shift and there is little to encourage him to make it attractive. The company owns ground it stands on, and the miner feels the precariousness of his hold. Around his house is mud and slush. Great mounds of culm, black and sullen, surround him. His children are perpetually grimy from play on the culm mounds.. The wife struggles with dirt, with inadequate water supply, with small wages, with over-crowded shacks.
The miner's wife, who in the majority of cases, worked from childhood in the silk mills, is overburdened with child bearing. She. ages young. She knows much illness. Many a time I have been in' a home where the poor wife was sick in bed, the children crawling over her, quarreling and playing in the room, often the only warm room in the house.
I would tidy up the best I could, hush little ones, get them ready for school in morning, those that didn't go to the breakers or to the mills, pack the lunch in the dinner bucket, bathe the poor wife and brush her hair. I saw the daily heroism of those wives.
I got to, know the life of the breaker boys. The coal was hoisted to a cupola where it was ground. It then came rattling down in chutes, beside which, ladder-wise, sat little breaker boys whose job it was to pick out the slate from the coal as the black rivers flowed by. Ladders and ladders of little boys sat in the gloom of ,the breakers, the dust from the coal swirling continuously up in their faces. To see the slate they must bend over their task. Their shoulders were round. Their chests narrow.
A breaker boss watched the boys. He had a long stick to strike the knuckles of any lad seen neglecting his work. The fingers of the little boys bled, bled on to the coal. Their nails were out to the quick.
A labor certificate was easy to get. All one had to do was to swear to a notary for twenty-five cents that the child was the required age.
The breakerboys were not Little Lord Fauntleroys. Small chaps smoked and chewed and swore. They did men's work and they had men's ways, men's vices and men's pleasures. They fought and spit tobacco and told stories out on the culm piles of a Sunday. They joined the breaker boys' union and beat up scabs. They refused to let their little brothers and sisters go to school if the children of scabs went.
In many mines I met the trapper boys. Little chaps who open the door for the mule when it comes in for the coal and who close the door after the mule has gone out. Runners and helpers about the mine. Lads who will become miners; who will never know anything of this beautiful world, of the great wide sea, of the clean prairies, of the snow capped mountains of the vast West. Lads born in the coal, reared and buried in the coal. And his one hope, his one protection -- the union.
I met a little trapper boy one day. He was so small that his dinner bucket dragged on the ground.
"How old are you, lad!" I asked him.
"Twelve," he growled as he spat tobacco on the ground.
"Say son," I said, "I'm Mother Jones. You know me, don't you! I know you told the mine foreman you were twelve, but what did you tell the union!"
He looked at me with keen, sage eyes. Life had taught him suspicion and caution.
"Oh, the union’s different. I'm ten come Christmas."
"'Why don't you go to school!"
"Gee," he said-though it was really something stronger – "I ain't lost no leg!" He looked proudly at his little legs.
I knew what he meant: that lads went to school when they were incapacitated by accidents.
And you scarcely blamed the children for preferring mills and mines. The schools were wretched, poorly taught, the lessons dull.
Through the ceaseless efforts of the unions, through continual agitation, we have done away with the most outstanding evils of child labor in the mines. Pennsylvania has passed better and better laws. More and more children are going to school. Better schools have come to the mining districts. We have yet a long way to go. Fourteen years of age is still too young to begin the life of the breaker boy. There is still too little joy and beauty in the miner's life but one who like myself has watched the long, long struggle knows that the end is not yet.
The year 1906 I was active in the defense Moyer, Haywood and Pettibone. I addresed meetings in their behalf and raised money defray the expense of their trials.
Late on Saturday night, February 17th, 1906, after banks, business houses and courts had closed, the President of the Western Federation of Miners, Charles H. Moyer, was secretly arrested. William D. Haywood, the secretary of the union, and George A. Pettibone, a business agent, were arrested a short time later. All three men were kidnapped and carried into the state of Idaho where they were charged with the murder of Governor Steunenberg.
No legal steps to arrest these men, who were going about their business openly, were taken. The men designated by the governor of Idaho to take the requisitions to the Governor 0 Colorado had many days in which the labor men could have been legally arrested. But the police waited until Saturday night when the accused could not get in touch with banks for bail, when the courts were not open to hear habeas corpus proceedings, so that the prilsoners could not have recourse to the usual legal d efense and protection granted to the worst felon.
The men were taken secretly to the county jail and were not allowed to get in touch with relatives, friends or attorneys. Early Sunday morning, before five o'clock, the prisoners were driven to a siding near the Union Depot, placed in a special train, and whirled rapidly out of the state. No stops were made and the train had the right-of-way over every other train from Denver to Boise, Idaho.
The men were heavily guarded by armed men, commissioned by the Governor of Idaho, and by Adjutant General Wells, of the Colorado National Guard.
When the men arrived in Boise, they were taken to the penitentiary and placed incommunicado. Not for days did their families and friends know of their whereabouts.
Back of the arrest of the labor leaders was the labor struggle itself. Much of the labor war in Idaho had centered about the Coeur d'Alene district, a strip of country about twenty-five miles long and five wide in which were rich lead mines. The miners worked twelve hours a day in the mills and smelters and mines. in the midst of sickening, deadly fumes of arsenic. Arsenic poisons. It paralyzes arms and legs. It causes the teeth to fall out, the hair to fall off. Weird looking men worked in the mines: gaunt, their faces sunken in, their eyelashes and eyebrows off, a green aspect to their skin.
Then came the union, the Western Federation of Miners. Tlie mine owners opposed the formation of unions with all the might of money and privilege and state. The miners fought back as savagely as they were fought. The strike was truly war with murders and assassinations, with dynamite and prisons. The mine owners brought in gunmen. The president of the Union urged the miners to arm, defend themselves, their wives and daugters. It was Hell!
In 1899 Bunker Hill Co. mine was blown up. The Governor called the troops which only made matters worse. The first troops were negroes. Men were arrested and thrown in jail without trial. One thousand men were herded in a bullpen.
One night a bomb, attached to his gate, kilIed Governor Steunenberg. Rewards of thousands. of dollars were offered for the arrest of the murderers. That attracted the detectives. The Pinkerton Agency got busy. Eight years after the death of the governor, the labor leaders. were arrested and charged with the crime of murder.
In those eight years the Western Federation of Miners had won the battle in the Coer d 'Alene district. An eight-hour day had been won. The miners had established their own stores. They had built libraries and hospitals. They had established funds for widows and. orphans. Libraries took the place of saloons and hope the place of despair.
The mine owners paid spies to join the union, poor wretches who sold themselves to the slave owners for a pittance.
A poor tool of the corporations, of the detectives, a thing in the shape of a man, named Orchard, told of belonging to an inner circle of the Western Federation of Miners whose object it was to dynamite and assassinate. It was this inner circle to which the officers of the union belonged, and it was this circle, said he, that was responsible for the death, eight years before, of Governor Steunenberg.
The trial was held in Boise, Idaho. President Roosevelt called the men "undesirable citizens" before they had been given a chance to defend themselves. In the end they were acquitted and those who sought to destroy them because of their labor in behalf of toiling humanity had to seek other methods of destroying the Western Federation of Miners.
In 1910 I was summoned as a witness before Congress on the Mexican question. Mexico at that time was in revolution against the brutal oppression of the tyrant, Diaz.
Congressman Wilson asked me where I lived. "I live in the United States," said I, "but I do not know exactly where. My address is wherever there is a fight against oppression. Sometimes I am in Washington, then in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Texas, Minnesota, Colorado My address is like my shoes: it travels with me."
"No abiding place?" said the chairman.
"I abide where there is a fight against wrong.'
"Were you in Douglas, Arizona, at the time of the arrest and kidnapping of Manuel Sarabia?"
"There was a strike going On the Phe1ps Dodge copper mines, and so I was there."
"I suggest," said congressman Wilson, "that you sit down, Mother, you will be more comfortable."
"I am accustomed to stand when talking and am uncomfortable when sitting down. It is too easy."
That brought a laugh from the committee.
"I was holding a street meeting in Douglas one Sunday night for the smelter workers. A great crowd turned out, the whole town. After the meeting a worker came running up to me and said, 'Oh Mother, there has been something horrible going on at the jail. While you were speaking, a man was taken there in an auto. He kept screaming about his liberty being taken from him but the cops choked him off.'
"I guess it's just some fellow with a jag on," said I. I gave it no further thought.
"I went to my hotel and sat with a dozen or so of those poor, unfortunate wretches in the smelters, discussing the meeting, when the editor of 'El Industrio' burst into the room very excited. He said, 'Oh Mother, they have kidnapped Sarabia, our young revolutionist.'
"Kidnapping seemed to be in the air just about that time. The Idaho affair was on. He was flushed and almost incoherent. I said, 'Sit down a moment and get cool, then tell me your story.'
"He told me while I was addressing the crowd and the back streets were empty, an automobile had driven out of the jail, had driven to the office of the paper on which Sarabia worked and he had been kidnapped; that his cries for help had been smothered, and that he was held incommunicado in the jail.
"I said to him, 'Get all the facts you can Get them as correct as you can and immediately telegraph to the governor. Telegraph to Washington. Don't stop a moment because if you do they will murder him.'
"We telegraphed the governor and Washington that night.
"The next day I met the editor of 'El Industrio' -- the paper which has since been suppressed -- and he told me the horrible details. Sarabia had incurred the hatred of Diaz and the forty thieves that exploited the Mexican peons because he had called Diaz a dictator. For this he had served a year in Mexican jails. He came to the United States and continued to wage the fight for Mexico's liberation. Diaz's hate followed him across the border and finally he had been kidnapped and taken across the Mexican border at the request of the tyrant.
"I said, 'That's got to stop. The idea of any blood-thirsty pirate on a throne reaching across these lines and stamping under his feet the constitution of our United States, which our forefathers fought and bled for! If this is allowed to go on, Mexican pirates can come over the border and kidnap any one who opposes tyranny.'
"We got up a protest meeting that night We had a hard time getting the meeting announced, for the papers all belonged to the Southern Pacific Railway or to the Copper Queen mine, and their sympathies were of course with the pirates. But we managed to circulate the news of the meeting through the town. I spoke.
"I am not very choice, you know, when the constitution of my country is violated and the liberties of the people are tramped on. I do not go into the classics. I am not praying. I told the audience that the kidnapping of Manuel Sarabia by Mexican police with the connivance of American authorities was an incident in the struggle for liberty. I put it strong.
"I went up to Phoenix to see the governor, whom I believe to belong to the type that Patrick Henry, Jefferson and Lincoln belong to We have few of that type today. The general run of governors care more for the flesh-pots of Egypt than they do for the dinner pails of the workers. I paid my respects to the governor. The governor had ordered Captain Wheeler of the Rangers to go into Mexico and bring back young Sarabia. This was done.
Congressman Clark asked, "Was he a soldier"
"Captain Wheeler is captain of the Rangers and a pretty fine fellow to be captain. Usually I think that men who head blood-thirsty armies dressed up in uniforms for the killing, are not very fine men but Captain Wheeler is an exception.
"I left Arizona for the steel range in Minnesota where the steel workers were fighting the steel robbers.
Congressman Wilson said, "Mother Jones do you know how long it was from the time Sarabia was kidnapped in Douglas, Arizona until he was returned!"
Mr. Clark inquired, "Mother Jones, who sent Captain Wheeler there: the governor or the President of the United States?"
"That I did not inquire into, so long as they brought him back."
A congressman asked me if I had been interested in the Mexican Revolution before I became interested in Sarabia.
"I have that," said I. "In 1908 I learned that there were several men in the jail in Los Angeles -- Mexicans who had exposed the ru1e of Diaz and the plunderers of their land. They had come to Los Angeles to carry on the fight against oppression and on some trumped-up charges had been arrested by American officers more interested in carrying out the will of the oil and land interests than in securing the rights of the people. They were patriots, like Kosciuszko, Carl Schurz, Kossuth and Garibaldi and George Washington -- these Mexican in jail, fighting against a bloodier tyrant than King George against whom we revolted.
"I was not in very good health at that time but I went out and raised $4,000 that these Mexican patriots might have attorneys and stenographers and witnesses in Tombstone, Arizona, where they were to be tried before Judge Doan. They would need every defense they could get, I knew, for Judge Doan was not a very human man, and was more friendly to the copper interests than to the interests of mankind. They were tried and sentenced to serve eighteen days in the jail at Yuma but I am sure that our efforts in their behalf saved them from being turned over to the clutches of the tyrant who would have had them murdered.
"I heard that another Mexican patriot, Sylva, was apparently dying in the penitentiary in Leavenworth. I went to see him. I was angry that an American jail should imprison a man whose sole crime was his opposition to the expl6itation of his people by foreign capital, that had taken over the oil and minerals and the land of Mexico. That had made the peon a slave to international finance.
"I went to see President Taft about the matter. 'Mother,' he said, 'if you will bring me the evidence in the case, I will read it over.'
"I did this, recommending to the President that he pardon the patriots that languished in our jails.
"’Mother Jones,' said the President, 'I am very much afraid if I put the pardoning power in your hands, there would not be anyone left in the penitentiaries.'
"’Mr. President,' said I, 'if this nation devoted half the money and energy it devotes to penitentiaries to giving men an opportunity in life, there would be fewer men to pardon out of jails.'
"As a patriotic American I never lost interest in the Mexican revolution. I believe that this country is the cradle of liberty. I believe that movements to suppress wrongs can be carried out under the protection of our flag. The Irish Fenians carried on their fight for Irish liberty here in America. Money was raised here to send to Parnell, the Irish patriot. We have given aid and comfort and a home to Russian patriots, protesting the acts of a bloody czar.
"Gentlemen, in the name of our own Revolutionary heroes, in the name of the heroes unborn, in the name of those whose statues stand silently there in Statuary Hall, I beg that this body of representatives will protect these Mexican men from the tyranny and oppression of that bloody tyrant, Diaz."
"Have you ever been in Mexico, Mother?" the chairman asked me.
"In 1901 I went with the Pan-American delegates to Mexico City, the Mexican government paying all my expenses. Then in 1911 I went again with Frank Hayes and Joseph Cannon. Madera had just been elected president after the overthrow of Diaz. I had a long audience with Francesco De la Barra, president ad interem, and with the chief justice; and also with Madera in his own home. I was most favorably impressed with Madera whose heart seemed filled with the desire to relieve the suffering in his country.
"'Mother,' he said, 'when I go into office, you will come down and organize the workers and help them get back their land.'
"Then Madera was assassinated and Mexico went on in turmoil. Obregon got in in 1921. Under Madera, Antonio Villareal, one of the men who had been in the Los Angeles jail, was made ambassador to Spain. When he returned, fortunes had changed and he was arrested and released on a $30,000 bond. He came to New York to see me.
"'You take the Pennsylvania railroad at four o'clock tomorrow evening and go to Washington and I will be on the same train. I will take the matter up with the government and I have no doubt that it will give you a square deal. You will not be dealing with these local pie counter holders but with the national government, the greatest government in the world.'
"The next morning we went to the Department of Justice.
" 'Won't we need a lawyer, Mother?' said Villareal.
"’I will be the lawyer,' said I.
"I discussed his case with the attorney of the department and a full pardon was handed him. He was astonished. Later a friend of his came to me and said, 'Mother, I have a beautiful piece of land in Mexico. It produces the finest flowers and fruits. On it is the most beautiful lake. I will give it to you for what you have done for the Mexican revoluntionists.'
"I thanked him and said, 'I cannot accept compensation for doing a humane act for my fellow man. I want no strings tied to me. I want to be free to play my part in the fight for a happier civilization whether that fight is in America, Mexico, Africa or Russia.'"
The miners in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, went on strike for more wages. Their pay was pitifully low. In answer to the cry for bread, the Irish -- that is the Pennsylvania -- constabulary were sent into the district.
One day a group of angry women were standing in front of the mine, hooting at the scabs that were taking the bread from their children's mouths. The sheriff came and arrested all the women "for disturbing the peace." Of course, he should have arrested the scabs, for they were the ones who really disturbed it.
I told them to take their babies and tiny children along with them when their case came up in court. They did this and while the judge was sentencing them to pay thirty dollars or serve thirty days in jail, the babies set up a terrible wail so that you could hardly hear the old judge. He scowled and asked the women if they had some one to leave the children with.
I whispered to the women to tell the judge that miners' wives didn't keep nurse girls; that God gave the children to their mothers and He held them responsible for their care.
Two mounted police were called to take the women to the jail, some ten miles away. They were put on an interurban car with two police men to keep them from running away. The car stopped and took on some scabs. As soon the car started the women began cleaning up the scabs. The two policemen were too nervous to do anything. The scabs, who were pretty much scratched up, begged the motorman stop and let them off but the motorman said it was against the law to stop except at the station. That gave the women a little more time to trim the fellows. When they got to the station, those scabs looked as if they had been sleeping in the tiger cat's cage at the zoo.
When they got to Greensburg, the women sang as the car went through the town. A great crowd followed the car, singing with them. As the women, carrying their babies, got off the car before the jail the crowd cheered and cheered them. The police officers handed the prisoners over to the sheriff and both of them looked relieved.
The sheriff said to me, "Mother, I wou1d rather you brought me a hundred men than those women. Women are fierce!"
"I didn't bring them to you, sheriff," said I, " 'twas the mining company's judge sent them to you for a present."
The sheriff took them upstairs, put them all in a room and let me stay with them for a long while. I told the women:
"You sing the whole night long. You can spell one another if you get tired and hoarse. Sleep all day and sing all night and don't stop for anyone. Say you're singing to the babies. I will bring the little ones milk and fruit. Just you all sing and sing."
The sheriff's wife was an irritable little cat She used to go up and try to stop them because she couldn't sleep. Then the sheriff sent for me and asked me to stop them.
"I can't stop them," said I. "They are singing to their little ones. You telephone to the judge to order them loose."
Complaints came in by the dozens: from hotels and lodging houses and private homes.
"Those women howl like cats," said a hotel keeper to me.
"That's no way to speak of women who are singing patriotic songs and lullabies to their little ones," said I.
Finally after five days in which everyone in town had been kept awake, the judge ordered their release. He was a narrow-minded, irritable, savage-looking old animal and hated to do it but no one could muzzle those women!
One morning when I was west, working for the Southern Pacific machinists, I read in the paper that the Paint Creek Coal Company, would not settle with their men and had driven them out into the mountains. I knew that Paint Creek country. I had helped the miners organize that district in 1904 and now the battle had to be fought all over again.
I cancelled all my speaking dates in California, tied up all my possessions in a black shawl-I like traveling light-and went immediately to West Virginia. I arrived in Charleston in the morning, went to a hotel, washed up and got my breakfast early in order to catch the one local train a day that goes into Paint Creek.
The train wound in and out among the mountains, dotted here and there with the desolate little cabins of miners. From the brakemen and the conductor of the train I picked up the story of the strike. It had started on the other side of the Kanawha hills in a frightful district called "Russia," -- Cabin Creek. Here the miners had been peons for years, kept in slavery by the guns of the coal company, and by the system of paying in scrip so that a miner never had any money should he wish to leave the district. He was cheated of his wages when his coal was weighed, cheated in the company store where he was forced to purchase his food, charged an exorbitant rent for his kennel in which he lived and bred, docked for school tax and burial tax and physician and for "protection," which meant the gunmen who shot him back into the mines if he rebelled or so much as murmured against his outrageous exploitation. No one was allowed in the Cabin Creek district without explaining his reason for being there to the gunmen who patrolled the roads, all of which belonged to the coal company. The miners finally struck -- it was a strike of desperation.
The strike of Cabin Creek spread to Paint Creek, where the operators decided to throw their fate in with the operators of Cabin Creek Immediately all civil and constitutional rights were suspended. The miners were told to quit their houses, and told at the point of a gun. They established a tent colony in Holly Grove and Mossey. But they were not safe here from the assaults of the gunmen, recruited in the big cities from the bums and criminals
To protect their women and children, who were being shot with poisoned bullets, whose houses were entered and rough-housed, the miners armed themselves as did the early sett lers against the attacks of wild Indians.
"Mother, it will be sure death for you to go into the Creeks," the brakeman told me. "Not an organizer dares go in there now. They have machine guns on the highway, and those gunmen don't care whom they kill."
The train stopped at Paint Creek Junction and I got off. There were a lot of gunmen, armed to the teeth, lolling about. Everything was still and no one would know of the bloody war that was raging in those silent hills, except for the sight of those guns and the strange, terrified look on everyone's face.
I stood for a moment looking up at the ever-lasting hills when suddenly a little boy ran screaming up to me, crying, "Oh Mother Jones! Mother Jones! Did you come to stay with us!" He was crying and rubbing his eyes with his dirty little fist.
"Yes, my lad, I've come to stay," said I.
A guard was listening.
"You have!" says he.
"I have!" says I.
The little fellow threw his arms around my knees and held me tight.
"Oh Mother, Mother," said he, "they drove my papa away and we don't know where he is, and they threw my mama and all the kids out of the house and they beat my mama and they beat me."
He started to cry again and I led him away up the creek. All the way he sobbed out his sorrows, sorrows no little child should ever know; told of brutalities no child should ever witness.
"See, Mother, I'm all sore where the gunmen hit me," and he pulled down his cotton shirt and showed me his shoulders which were black and blue.
"The gunmen did that?"
"Yes, and my mama's worse'n that!" Suddenly he began screaming," The gunmen! The gunmen! Mother, when I'm a man I'm going to kill twenty gunmen for hurting my mama! I'm going to kill them dead -- all dead !"
I went up to the miners' camp in Holly Grove where all through the winter, through snow and ice and blizzard, men and women and little children had shuddered in canvas tents that America might be a better country to live in. I listened to their stories. I talked to Mrs. Sevilla whose unborn child had been kicked dead by gunmen while her husband was out looking for work. I talked with widows, whose husbands had been shot by the gunmen; with children whose frightened faces talked more effectively than their baby tongues. I learned how the scabs had been recruited in the cities, locked in boxcars, and delivered to the mines like so much pork.
"I think the strike is lost, Mother," said an old miner whose son had been killed.
"Lost! Not until your souls are lost!" said I.
I traveled up and down the Creek, holding meetings, rousing the tired spirits of the miners. I got three thousand armed miners to march over the hills secretly to Charleston, where we read a declaration of war to Governor Glasscock who, scared as a rabbit, met us on the steps of the state house. We gave him just twenty-four hours to get rid of the gunmen, promising him that hell would break loose if he didn't. He did. He sent the state militia in, who at least were responsible to society and not to the operators alone.
One night in July, a young man, Frank Keeney, came to me. "Mother," he said, "I have been up to Charleston trying to get some one to go up to Cabin Creek, and I can't get anyone to go. The national officers say they don 't want to get killed. Boswell told me you were over here in the Paint Creek and that perhaps you might come over into the Cabin Creek district."
"I'll come up ," said I. "I've been thinking of invading that place for some time."
I knew all about Cabin Creek -- old Russia. Labor organizer after organizer had been beaten into insensibility, thrown into the creek, tossed into some desolate ravine. The creek ran with the blood of brave men, of workers who had tried to escape their bondage.
"Where can we hold our meetings!" I asked. "I don't know, Mother. The company owns every bit of dust for twenty square miles about. And the guards arrest you for trespassing.
"Is there an incorporated village anywhere near!"
"Eksdale," said he, "is free."
"Bill a meeting for me there Tuesday night. Get the railway men to circulate the bills."
Monday night, a fellow by the name of Ben Morris, a national board member came to me and said, "Mother, I understand you are going up to Cabin Creek tomorrow. Do you think that is wise?"
"It's not wise," said I, "but necessary."
"Well, if you go, I'll go," said he.
"No, I think it is better for me to go alone. You represent the National office. I don't. I'm not responsible to anyone. If anything happens and you are there, the operators might sue the Union for damages. I go as a private citizen. All they can do to me is to put me in jail. I'm used to that."
He left me and went directly to the governor and told him to send a company of the militia up to Cabin Creek as I was going up there. Then he got the sheriff to give him a body guard and he sneaked up behind me. At any rate I did not see him or the militia on the train nor did I see them when I got off.
In Eksdale a sympathetic merchant let me stay in his house until the meeting began.
When I got off the train, two or three miners met me.
"Mother," they said, "did you know there is a detective along with you. He's behind you now . . . the fellow with the red necktie.
I looked around. I went up to him.
"Isn't your name Corcoran?" said I.
"Why, yes," said he, surprised.
"Aren't you the Corcoran who followed me up New River in the strike of 1902? You were working for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad and the coal company then."
"Why, yes," said he, "but you know people change!"
"Not sewer rats," said I. "A sewer rat never changes!"
That night we held a meeting. When I got up to speak I saw the militia that the national organizer had had the governor send. The board member was there. He had made arrangements with the local chairman to introduce him. He began speaking to the men about being good and patient and trusting to the justice of their cause.
I rose. "Stop that silly trash," said I. I motioned him to a chair, The men hollered, "sit down! sit down!"
He sat. Then I spoke.
"You men have come over the mountains," said I, "twelve, sixteen miles. Your clothes are thin. Your shoes are out at the toes. Your wives and little ones are cold and hungry! You have been robbed and enslaved for years! And n ow Billy Sunday comes to you and tells you to be good and patient and trust to justice! What silly trash to tell to men whose goodness and patience has cried out to a deaf world."
I could see the tears in the eyes of those poor fellows. They looked up into my face as much as to say, "My God, Mother, have you brought us a ray of hope?"
Some one screamed, "Organize us, Mother!"
Then they all began shouting . . "Organize us! Organize us!"
"March over to that dark church on the corner and I will give you the obligation," said I.
The men started marching. In the dark the spies could not identify them.
"You can't organize those men," said the board member, "because you haven't the ritual."
"The ritual, hell," said I. "I'll make one up!"
"They have to pay fifteen dollars for a charter," said he.
"I will get them their charter," said I." Why these poor wretches haven't fifteen cents for a sandwich. All you care about is your salary regardless of the destiny of these men."
On the steps of the darkened church, I organized those men. They raised their hand and took the obligation to the Union.
"Go home from this meeting," said I. "Say nothing about being a union man. Put on your overalls in the morning, take your dinner buckets and go to work in the mines, and get the other men out"
They went to work. Every man who had attended the meeting was discharged. That caused the strike, a long, bitter, cruel strike. Bullpens came. Flags came. The militia came. More hungry, more cold, more starving, more ragged than Washington's army that fought against tyranny were the miners of the Kanawha Mountains. And just as grim. Just as heroic. Men died in those hills that others might be free.
One day a group of men came down to Elksdale from Red Warrior Camp to ask me to come up there and speak to them. Thirty-six men came down in their shirt sleeves. They brought a mule and a buggy for me to drive in with a little miner's lad for a driver. I was to drive in the creek bed as that was the only public road and I could be arrested for trespass if I took any other. The men took the shorter and easier way along the C. and O. tracks which paralleled the creek a little way above it.
Suddenly as we were bumping along I heard a wild scream. I looked up at the tracks along which the miners were walking. I saw the men running, screaming as they went. I heard the whistle of bullets. I jumped out of the buggy and started to run up to the track. One of the boys screamed, "God! God! Mother, don't come. They'll kill …"
"Stand still," I called. "Stand where you are. I'm coming!"
When I climbed up onto the tracks I saw the boys huddled together, and around a little bend of the tracks, a machine gun and a group of gunmen.
"Oh Mother, don't come," they cried. "'let them kill us; not you!"
"I'm coming and no one is going to get killed," said I.
I walked up to the gunmen and put my hand over the muzzle of the gun. Then I just looked at those gunmen, very quiet, and said nothing. I nodded my head for the miners to pass.
"Take your hands off that gun, you hellcat !" yelled a fellow called Mayfield, crouching like a tiger to spring at me.
I kept my hand on the muzzle of the gun. "Sir," said I, "my class goes into the mines. They bring out the metal that makes this gun. This is my gun! My class melts the minerals in furnaces and roll the steel. They dig the coal that feeds furnaces. My class is not fighting you, not you. They are fighting with bare fists and empty stomachs the men who rob them and deprive their children of childhood. It is the hard-earned pay of the working class that your pay comes from. They aren't fighting you."
Several of the gunmen dropped their eyes but one fellow, this Mayfield, said, "I don't care a damn! I'm going to kill every one of them and you, too!"
I looked him full in the face. "Young man, said I, "I want to tell you that if you shoot one bullet out of this gun at those men, if you touch one of my white hairs, that creek will run with blood, and yours will be the first to crimson it. I do not want to hear the screams of these men nor to see the tears, nor feel the heartache of wives and little children. These boys have no guns! Let them pass!"
"So our blood is going to crimson the creek is it!" snarled this Mayfield.
I pointed to the high hills. "Up there in the mountain I have five hundred miners. They are marching armed to the meeting I am going to address. If you start the shooting, they will finish the game."
Mayfield's lips quivered like a tiger's deprived of its flesh.
"Advance!" he said to the miners. They came forward. I kept my hand on the gun. The miners were searched. There were no guns On them. They were allowed to pass.
I went down the side of the hill to my buggy.
The mule was chewing grass and the little lad was making a willow whistle. I drove on. That night I held my meeting.
But there weren't any five hundred armed men in the mountains. Just a few jack rabbits, perhaps, but I had scared that gang of cold blooded, hired murderers and Red Warrior camp was organized.
The miners asked me to come up to Wineberg, a camp in the Creek district. Every road belonged to the coal company. Only the bed of the creek was a public road. At that time of the year-early spring-the water in the creek was high.
I started for Wineberg accompanied by a newspaperman, named West, of the Baltimore Sun. We walked along the railroad track.
Again I met the gunmen with their revolvers and machine guns. Mayfield was there, too.
"You can't walk here!" he growled "Private property!"
"You don't mean to say you are going to make that old lady walk that creek in that ice cold water, do you?" said the reporter.
"It's too damn good for her! She won't walk it!" he laughed.
"Won't I?" said I. I took off my shoes, rolled u p my skirt and walked the creek.
At Wineberg the miners, standing in the creek and on its edges, met me. With our feet in water we held a meeting. Holding their shoes in their hands, their trousers rolled up, the men took the obligation to the union.
I was very tired. A miner stepped up to me and asked me to come to his cabin and have a dish of tea.
"Your house is on private property," yelled a gunman. "She cannot go."
"I pay rent," he protested.
"Private property, just the same. I'll arrest her for trespassing if she steps out of the creek."
The struggle went on with increasing bitterness. The militia disarmed both gunmen and miners but they were of course, on the side of the grand dukes of the region. They forbade all meetings. They suspended every civil right. They became despotic. They arrested scores of miners, tried them in military court, without jury, sentenced them to ten, fifteen years in the Moundsville prison.
I decided to call the attention of the national government to conditions in West Virginia. I borrowed one hundred dollars and went out and billed meetings in Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, and from these cities I came to Washington, D. C. I had already written to Congressman W. B. Wilson, to get up a protest meeting.
The meeting was held in the armory and it was packed: senators, congressmen, secretaries, citizens. It is usual to have star orators at such meetings, who use parlor phrases. Congress man Wilson told the audience that he hoped they would not get out of patience with me, for I might use some language which Washington was not accustomed to hear.
I told the audience what things were happening in West Virginia, proceedings that were un-American. I told them about the suspension of civil liberty by the military. Of the wholesale arrests and military sentences.
"This is the seat of a great republican form of government. If such crimes against the citizens of the state of West Virginia go unrebuked by the government, I suggest that we take down the flag that stands for constitutional government, and run up a banner, saying, 'This is the flag of the money oligarchy of America!'
The next day by twelve 0 'clock all the military prisoners but two were called down to the prison office and signed their own release.
From Washington I went to West Virginia to carry on my work. The day before I arrived, an operator named Quinn Morton, the sheriff of Kanawha County, Bonner Hill, deputies and guards drove an armored train with gatling guns through Holly Grove, the tent colony of the miners, while they were sleeping. Into the quiet tents of the workers the guns were fired, killing and wounding the sleepers. A man by the name of Epstaw rose and picked up a couple of children and told them to run for their lives. His feet were shot off. Women were wounded. Children screamed with terror. No one was arrested.
Three days later, a mine guard, Fred Bobbett, was killed in an altercation. Fifty strike and their organizers were immediately arrested, and without warrant.
I went to Boomer where the organization is composed of foreigners, and I went to Long Acre, getting each local union to elect a delegate who should appeal to the governor to put a stop to the military despotism.
I met all these delegates in a church and told them how they were to address a governor. We took the train for Charleston. I thought it better for the delegates to interview the governor without me, so after cautioning them to keep cool, I went over to the hotel where they were to meet me after their interview.
As I was going along the street, a big elephant, called Dan Cunningham, grabbed me by the arm and said, "I want you!" He took me to the Roughner Hotel, and sent for a warrant for my arrest. Later I was put on the C. and 0. train and taken down to Pratt and handed over to the military. They were not looking for me so they had no bullpen ready. So a Dr. Hans ford and his wife took care of me and some organizers who were arrested with me. The next day I was put in solitary in a room, guarded by soldiers who paced day and night in front of my door. I could see no one. I will give the military of West Virginia credit for one thing: they are far less brutal and cold blooded than the military of Colorado.
After many weeks we were taken before the judge advocate. The court had sent two lawyers to my bullpen to defend me but I had refused to let them defend me in that military court. I refused to recognize the jurisdiction of the court, to recognize the suspension of the civil courts. My arrest and trial were unconstitutional. I told the judge advocate that this was my position. I refused to enter a plea.
I was tried for murder. Along with the others I was sentenced to serve twenty years in the state penitentiary. I was not sent to prison immediately but held for five weeks in the military camp. I did not know what they were going to do with me. My guards were nice young men, respectful and courteous with the exception of a fellow called Lafferty, and another sewer rat whose name I have not taxed my mind with.
Then from California came aid. The great, lion-hearted editor of the San Francisco Bulletin, Fremont Older, sent his wife across the continent to Washington. She had a talk with Senator Kearns. From Washington she came to see me. She got all the facts in regard to the situation from the beginning of the strike to my unconstitutional arrest and imprisonment. She wrote the story for Collier's Magazine,
She reported conditions to Senator Kearns, immediately demanded a thorough congressional inquiry.
Some one dropped a Cincinnati Post through my prison window. It contained a story of Wall Street's efforts to hush up the inquiry. If Wall Street gets away with this," I thought ''and the strike is broken, it means industrial bondage for long years to come in the West Virginia mines."
I decided to send a telegram, via my underground railway, to Senator Kearns. There was a hole in the floor of my prison-cabin. A rug covered the hole. I lifted the rug and rang two beer bottles against one another. A soldier who was my friend came crawling under the house to see "what was up." He had slipped me things before, and I had given him what little I had to give -- an apple, a magazine. So I gave him the telegram and told him to take it three miles up the road to another office. He said he would. "It's fine stuff, Mother," he said.
That night when he was off duty he trudge three miles up the road with the telegram. H sent it.
The next day in Washington, the matter of congressional inquiry in the West Virginia mines came up for discussion in the Senate.
Senator Goff from Clarksburg, who had stock in the coal mines of West Virginia, got up on the floor and said that West Virginia was a place of peace until the agitators came in. "And the grandmother of agitators in this country," he went on, "is that old Mother Jones! I learn from the governor that she is not in prison at all but is only detained in a very pleasant boarding house!"
Senator Kearns rose. "I have a telegram from this old women of eighty-four in this very pleasant boarding house," said he. "I will read it."
To the astonishment of the senators and the press he then read my telegram. They had supposed the old woman's voice was in prison with her body.
"From out the military prison walls of Pratt, West Virginia, where I have walked over my eighty-fourth milestone in history, I send you the groans and tears and heartaches of men, women and children as I have heard them in this state. From out these prison walls, I plead with you for the honor of the nation, to push that investigation, and the children yet unborn will rise and call you blessed."
Then the senate took action. A senatorial commission was appointed to investigate conditions.
One hour after this decision, Captain Sherwood of the militia, a real man in every sense of the word aside from the uniform, said to me, "Mother, the governor telephoned me to bring you to Charleston at once, You have only twenty-five minutes before the train comes."
"What does the governor want?" said I.
"He didn't say."
When I got to the governor's office, I had to wait some time because the governor and the mine owners were locked behind doors holding a secret conference as to how they should meet the senatorial investigation.
Governor Hatfield bad succeeded Governor Glasscock, and he told me, when he finally admitted me, that he bad been trying to settle tie strike ever since he bad been elected.
"I could have settled it in twenty-four hours," said I.
He shook his head mournfully.
"I would make the operators listen to the grievances of their workers. I would take the $650,000 spent for the militia during this strike and spend it on schools and playgrounds and libraries that West Virginia might have a more highly developed citizenry, physically and intellectually. You would then have fewer little children in the mines and factories; fewer later in jails and penitentiaries; fewer men and women submitting to conditions that are brutalizing and unAmerican."
The next day he attended the convention of the miners that was in session in Charleston. I saw him there and I said to him, "Governor, I am going out of town tomorrow."
"Where are you going?"
"I'm going to consult a brain specialist. My brain got out of balance while I was in the bull-pen."
"Didn’t you know I was a doctor?" said he.
"Your pills won't do me any good " I said. Shortly after the miner's convention, Governor Hatfield set aside all the military sentences, freeing all of the prisoners but eight. The operators recognized the union and many abuses were corrected.
The working men had much to thank Senator Kearns for. He was a great man, standing for justice and the square deal. Yet, to the shame of the workers of Indiana, when he came up for re-election they elected a man named Watson, a deadly foe of progress. I felt his defeat keenly, felt the ingratitude of the workers. It was through his influence that prison doors had opened, that unspeakable conditions were brought to light. I have felt that the disappointment of his defeat brought on his illness and ended the brave, heroic life of one of labor's few friends.
One day when I was in Washington, a man came to see me who said General Elliott had sent him to me. General Elliott was the military man who had charge of the prisoners sentenced to the penitentiary in the court martial during the strike. Never would I forget that scene on the station platform of Pratt when the men were being taken to Moundsville; the wives screaming frantically; the little children not allowed to kiss or caress their fathers. Neither the screams nor the sobs touched the stone heart of General Elliott.
And now General Elliott had sent a friend to me to ask me to give him a letter endorsing him for Congress.
"And did General Elliott send you?"
"Then tell the general that nothing would give me more pleasure than to give you a letter, but it would be a letter to go to hell and not to Congress!"
In the fall of 1912 I went to Eksdale, West Virginia. A strike had been going on in that section of the coal country for some time. A weary lull had come in the strike and I decided to do something to rouse the strikers and the public.
I called six trusty American men to me, told them to go up along the creeks on either side of which mining camps are located, and to notify all the miners that I wanted them in Charleston at one o'clock Tuesday afternoon; they must not bring any clubs or guns with them.
Tuesday afternoon, at a prearranged place, I met the boys in Charieston. The camps had turned out in full. I told the lads to follow me, and they did, through the streets of Charleston with a banner that said, "Nero fiddled while Rome burned." "Nero" was the governor who fiddled with the moneyed interests while the state was going to ruin. Another banner was addressed to a certain gunman whom the workers particularly hated because of his excessive brutality. It said, "If G--------- is not out of town by six o'clock he will be hanging to a telegraph pole!"
The reason that he did not hang was because he was out of town before six.
We gathered on the state house grounds. I went into the governor's office and requested him politely to come out, as there were a lot Virginia's first families giving a lawn party outside, and they wanted him to talk to them. I could see that he wanted to come out but he was timid.
"Mother," he said, "I can't come with you but I am not as bad as you may think."
"Come," I said, pulling him by his coattail. Hie shook his head. He looked like a scared child and I felt sorry for him; a man without the courage of his emotions; a good, weak man who could not measure up to a position that took great strength of mind, a character of granite.
From a platform on the statehouse steps I read a document that we had drawn up, requesting the governor to do away with the murderous Baldwin Felts guards and gunmen. We asked him to reestablish America and American traditions in West Virginia. I called a committee to take the document into the statehouse and place it reverently on the governor's table. I then spoke to the crowd and in conclusion said, "Go home now. Keep away from the saloons. Save your money. You're going to need it."
"What will we need it for, Mother?" some one shouted.
"For guns," said I. "Go home and read the immortal Washington's words to the colonists. He told those who were struggling for liberty against those who would not heed or hear "to buy guns."
They left the meeting peacefully and bought every gun in the hardware stores of Charleston. They took down the old hammerlocks from their cabin walls. Like the Minute Men of New England, they marched up the creeks to their homes with the grimness of the soldiers of the revolution.
The next morning alarms were ringing. The United States senate called attention to the civil war that was taking place but 350 miles from the capital. The sleepy eye of the national government looked upon West Virginia. A senatorial investigation was immediately ordered to inquire into the blight that was eating out the heart of the coal industry. Once again the public was given a chance to hear the stifled cry of the miners in their eternal struggle.