I went into Arizona in 1913 for the Western Federation of Miners. The miners throughout the copper region were on strike. Great fortunes were being made in the war and the miners demanded their share of it. Ed Grough, a very able organizer, was with me in the field.
The strike of the miners in Arizona was one of the most remarkable strikes in the history of the American labor movement. Its peaceful character, its successful outcome, were due to that most remarkable character, Governor Hunt.
The answer of the copper kings, who for thirty years had held the copper country as despots hold their thrones, their answer to the miners' demands was to close the mines completely. The operators then left town. They built a tent colony for the faithful scabs who cared for their masters more than for their class.
Then the governor acted, acted in favor of peace. He authorized the sheriff of the copper region to deputize forty striking miners to watch the mine owners' property, to see that no violence was done to any man. He said that bullpens if built would be for gunmen as well as for any striker who advised violence. He refused to let scabs be brought in under the protection of state troops and hired thugs, as was done in Colorado.
One night during the strike I was addressing a large audience composed of citizens as well as miners.
"I am glad," said I, "to see so many union men and women tonight. In fact I know that every man and woman here is a loyal member of the union. I refer to the United States, the union of all the states. I ask then, if in union there is strength for our nation, would there not be for labor! What one state could not get alone, what one miner against a powerful corporation could not achieve, can be achieved by the union. What is a good enough principle for an American citizen ought to be good enough for the working man to follow."
The strike lasted four months, in which time there was complete lack of disorder. Though the striking miners had to go miles up the hills for their firewood, they did not touch a stick of the lumber that lay in piles about the mines, and was the property of the mine owners.
Although the bosses had gone away, leaving their houses practically open, taking nothing, when they returned they found things just as they were left.
A fire broke out in one of the mills due to defective wiring. The strikers formed a bucket brigade and put out the fire. Two were injured The copper-controlled newspapers accused the miners of setting the mill on fire and in the course of their story omitted the fact that strikers saved it. As no violence could be attributed to the strikers, the financial interests went out to "get" Governor Hunt. In spite of their vigorous campaign of lies and fraud, Governor Hunt was chosen in the primaries and in the subsequent election.
But the election was challenged. He was counted out and a present of the governorship handed to the tool of the copper interests, Campbell.
Meanwhile the miners won their strike. They received large increases in wages and a standing grievance committee was recognized which was to act as intermediary between the operators and the miners.
This strike demonstrated the fact that where the great vested interests do not control the state government, the voice of labor makes itself heard. But it is hard for labor to speak above the roar of guns.
I came to know Governor Hunt, a most human and just man. One day I saw the governor stop his machine and ask a poor man with his bundle of blankets over his back, where he was going. The man was a "blanket-stiff," a wandering worker. His clothes were dusty. His shoes in slithers. He told the governor where he was going.
"Jump in," said the governor, opening the door of his machine.
The man shook his head, looking at his dusty clothes and shoes.
The governor understood. "Oh, jump in," he laughed. "I don't mind outside dirt. It's the dirt in people's hearts that counts!"
Governor Hunt never forgot that although he was governor, he was just like other folks.
With Governor Campbell in office, the bosses took heart. The miners in settling their strike with the copper kings had agreed to give up their charter in the Western Federation of Labor in return for a standing grievance committee. Thus they sold their birthright for a mess of pottage. They were without the backing of a powerful national organization. Grievances were disregarded and the men were without the machinery for forcing their consideration. Many of the promises made by the bosses were not executed.
The cost of living during the war went rocket high. Copper stock made men rich over night. But the miner, paying high prices for his food, for his living, was unpatriotic if he called attention to his grievances. He became an "emissary of the Kaiser" if he whispered his injuries. While boys died at the front and the copper miners groaned at the rear, tile copper kings grew richer than the kings against whom the nation fought.
Finally the burning injustice in the hearts of the copper miners leaped into flame. On June 27, 1917, a strike was called in the Copper Queen, one of the richest mines in the world.
"The I. W. W.!" yelled the copper kings whose pockets were bulging. They themselves had driven out the A. F. of L., the conservative organization.
Mining stopped. Stocks suffered a drop. Wall Street yelled "German money!" No one would listen to the story of the theft of the miners' time without pay under the pressure of war; of his claim that he could not live on his wages-no one.
Guns, revolvers, machine guns came to Bisbee as they did to the front in France. Shoot them back into the mines, said the bosses.
Then on July 12th, 1,086 strikers and their sympathizers were herded at the point of guns into cattle cars in which cattle had recently been and which had not yet been cleaned out; they were herded into these box cars, especially made ready, and taken into the desert. Here they were left without food or water -- men, women, children. Heads of families were there. Men who had bought Liberty Bonds that the reign of democracy might be ushered in. Lawyers who had taken a striker's case in court. Store keepers who sold groceries to strikers' wives out on the desert, without food or water left to die.
"I. W. W. " shrieked the press on the front page. On the back page it gave the rise in copper stocks.
Wrapped in the folds of the flag, these kidnapers of the workers were immune. Besides, they were Bisbee’s prominent citizens.
The President sent a commission. Copper was needed for the war. Faithful workers were needed. The commission investigated conditions, investigated the frightful deportations of American citizens. It made a report wholly in favor of labor and the contentions of the workers. It called the deportations from Bisbee outrageous.
But the papers of Arizona would not print the commission’s report although accepted by President Wilson.
The workers had become educated. Elections came. Again Governor Hunt was elected. The legislature had passed the infamous slave bill, "The Work or Fight Law." By this law a man who struck was automatically sent into the front line trenches. One of the first things Governor. Hunt did was to veto this bill which he characterized as a "very obnoxious form of tyranny."
Out of labor's struggle in Arizona came better conditions for the workers, who must everywhere, at all times, under advantage and disadvantage work out their own salvation.
I was in Washington, D. C., at the time of the great coal strike against the Rockefeller holdings in southern Colorado. Ten years previous a strike against long endured exploitation and tyranny had been brutally suppressed with guns and by starvation. But the bitterness and despair of the workers smouldered and smouldered long after the fires of open rebellion had been extinguished. Finally after a decade of endurance the live coals in the hearts of miners leaped into a roaring fire of revolt.
One day I read in the newspaper that Governor Ammons of Colorado said that Mother; Jones was not to be allowed to go into the southern field where the strike was raging.
That night I took a train and went directly to Denver. I got a room in the hotel where I usually stayed. I then went up to Union head-quarters of the miners, after which I went to the station and bought my ticket and sleeper to Trinidad in the southern field.
When I returned to the hotel, a man who had registered when I did, came up to me and said, "Are you going to Trinidad, Mother Jones!"
"Of course," said I,
"Mother, I want to tell you that the governor has detectives at the hotel and railway station watching you."
"Detectives don't bother me," I told him.
"There are two detectives in the lobby, one up in the gallery, and two or three at the station watching the gates to see who boards the trains south."
I thanked him for his information. That night I went an hour or so before the coaches were brought into the station way down into the railway yards where the coaches stood ready to be coupled to the train. I went to the section house. There was an old section hand there.
He held up his lantern to see me. "Oh, Mother Jones," he said, "and is it you that's walking the ties?"
"It's myself," said I, "but I'm not walking. I have a sleeper ticket for the south and I want to know if the trains are made up yet. I want to go aboard."
"Sit here," he said, "I'll go see. I don't know." I knew he understood without any explaining why I was there.
"I wish you would tell the porter to come back with you," said I.
He went out his light bobbing at his side. Pretty Soon he returned with the porter.
"What you want, Mother?" says he.
"I want to know if the berths are made up yet?" "Do you want to get on now, Mother?" "Yes."
"Then yours is made up." I showed him my tickets and he led me across the tracks.
"Mother," he said, "I know you now but later I might find it convenienter not to have the acquaintance."
"I understand," said I. "Now here's two dollars to give to the conductor. Tell him to let Mother Jones off before we get to the Santa Fe crossing. That will be early in the morning."
"I sure will," said he.
I got on board the sleeper in the yards and was asleep when the coaches pulled into the Denver station for passengers south. I was still asleep when the train pulled out of the depot.
Early in the morning the porter awakened me. "Mother," he said, the conductor is going to stop the train for you. Be ready to hop."
When the train slowed down before we got to the crossing, the conductor came to help me off.
"Are you doing business, Mother!" said he. "I am indeed," said I. "And did you stop the train just for me!"
"I certainly did!"
He waved to me as the train pulled away. "Goodbye, Mother." It was very early and I walked into the little town of Trinidad and got breakfast. Down at
the station a company of military were watching to see if I came into town. But no Mother Jones got off at the depot, and the company marched back to headquarters, which was just across the street from the hotel where I was staying.
I was in Trinidad three hours before they knew I was there. They telephoned the governor. They telephoned General Chase in charge of the militia. "Mother Jones is in Trinidad!" they said.
"Impossible!" said the governor. "Impossible!" said the general.
"Nevertheless, she is here!"
"We have had her well watched, the hotels and the depots," they said.
"Nevertheless, she is here!"
My arrest was ordered.
A delegation of miners came to me. "Boys," I said, "they are going to arrest me but don't make any trouble. Just let them do it."
"Mother," said they, "we aren't going to let them arrest you!"
"Yes, you will. Let them carry on their game."
While we were sitting there talking, I heard footsteps tramping up the stairs.
"Here they come," said I and we sat quietly waiting.
The door opened. It was a company of militia.
"Did you come after me, boys!" said I. They looked embarrassed.
"Pack your valise and come," said the captain.
They marched me down stairs and put me in an automobile that was waiting at the door.
The miners had followed. One of them had tears rolling down his cheeks.
"Mother," he cried, "I wish I could go for you!"
We drove to the prison first, passing cavalry and infantry and gunmen, sent by the state to subdue the miners. Orders were given to drive me to the Sisters' Hospital, a portion of which had been turned into a military prison. They put me in a small room with white plastered walls, with a cot, a chair and a table, and for nine weeks I stayed in that one room, seeing no human beings but the silent military. One stood on either side of the cell door, two stood across the hall, one at the entrance to the hall, two at the elevator entrance on my floor, two on the ground floor elevator entrance.
Outside my window a guard walked up and down, up and down day and night, day and night, his bayonet flashing in the sun.
"Lads," said I to the two silent chaps at the door, "the great Standard Oil is certainly afraid of an old woman!"
My meals were sent to me by the sisters.
They were not, of course, luxurious. In all those nine weeks I saw no one, received not a letter, a paper, a postal card. I saw only landscape and the bayonet flashing in the sun.
Finally, Mr. Hawkins, the attorney for the miners, was allowed to visit me. Then on Sunday, Colonel Davis came to me and said the governor wanted to see me in Denver.
The colonel and a subordinate came for me that night at nine 0 'clock. As we went down the hall, I noticed there was not a soldier in sight. There was none in the elevator. There was none in the entrance way. Everything was strangely silent. No one was about. A closed automobile waited us. We three got in.
"Drive the back way " said the colonel to the chauffeur.
We drove through dark, lonely streets. The curtains of the machine were down. It was black outside and inside. It was the one time in my life that I th6ught my end had come; that I was to say farewell to the earth, but I made up my mind that I would put up a good fight before passing out of life!
When we reached the Santa Fe crossing I was put aboard the train. I felt great relief, for the strike had only begun and I had much to do. I went to bed and slept till we arrived in Denver. Here I was met by a monster, called General Chase, whose veins run with ice water. He started to take me to Brown Palace Hotel. I asked him if he would permit me to go to a less aristocratic hotel, to the one I usually stopped at. He consented, telling me he would escort me to the governor at nine o'clock.
I was taken before the governor that morning. The governor said to me, "I am going to turn you free but you must not go back to the strike zone."
"Governor," I said, "I am going back."
"I think you ought to take my advice," be said, "and do what I think you ought to do."
"Governor," said I," if Washington took instructions from such as you, we would be under King George's descendants yet! If Lincoln took instructions from you, Grant would never have gone to Gettysburg. I think I had better not take your orders."
I stayed on a week in Denver. Then I got a ticket and sleeper for Trinidad. Across tbe aisle from me was Reno, Rockefeller's detective. Very early in the morning, soldiers awakened me.
"Get up," they said, "and get off at the next stop"
I got up, of course, and with the soldiers I got off at Walsenburg, fifty miles from Trinidad. The engineer and the fireman left their train when they saw the soldiers putting me off.
"What are you going to do with that old woman?" they said. "We won't run the train till we know!"
The soldiers did not reply.
"Boys," I said, "go back on your engine. Some day it will be all right."
Tears came trickling down their cheeks, and when they wiped them away, there were long, black streaks on their faces.
I was put in the cellar under the courthouse. It was a cold, terrible place, without heat, damp and dark. I slept in my clothes by day, and at night I fought great sewer rats with a beer bottle. "If I were out of this dungeon," thought I, "I would be fighting the human sewer rats anyway!"
For twenty-six days I was held a military prisoner in that black hole. I would not give in. I would not leave the state. At any time, if I would do so, I could have my freedom. General Chase and his bandits thought that by keeping me in that cold cellar, I would catch the flue or pneumonia, and that would settle for them what to do with "old Mother Jones."
Colonel Berdiker, in charge of me, said, "Mother, I have never been placed in a position as painful as this. Won't you go to Denver and leave the strike field?"
"No, Colonel, I will not," said I.
The hours dragged underground. Day was perpetual twilight and night was deep night. I watched people's feet from my cellar window; miners' feet in old shoes; soldiers' feet, well shod in government leather; the shoes of women with the heels run down; the dilapidated shoes of children; barefooted boys. The children would scrooch down and wave to me but the soldiers shooed them off.
One morning when my hard bread and sloppy coffee were brought to me, Colonel Berdiker said to me, "Mother, don't eat that stuff!" After that he sent my breakfast to me -- good,. plain food. He was a man with a heart, who perhaps imagined his own mother imprisoned in a cellar with the sewer rats' union.
The colonel came to me one day and told me that my lawyers had obtained a habeas corpus for me and that I was to be released; that the military would give me a ticket to any place I desired.
"Colonel," said I, "I can accept nothing from men whose business it is to shoot down my class whenever they strike for decent wages. I prefer to walk."
"All right, Mother," said he, "Goodbye!"
The operators were bringing in Mexicans to work as scabs in the mines. In this operation they were protected by the military all the way from the Mexican borders. They were brought in to the strike territory without knowing the conditions, promised enormous wages and easy work. They were packed in cattle cars, in charge of company gunmen, and if when arriving, they attempted to leave, they were shot Hundreds of these poor fellows had been lured into the mines with promises of free land. When they got off the trains, they were driven like cattle into the mines by gunmen.
This was the method that broke the strike ten years previously. And now it was the scabs of a decade before who were striking -- the docile, contract labor of Europe.
I was sent down to El Paso to give the facts of the Colorado strike to the Mexicans who were herded together for the mines in that city. I held meetings, I addressed Mexican gatherings, I got the story over the border. I did everything in my power to prevent strike breakers going into the Rockefeller mines.
In January, 1914,. I returned to Colorado.
When I got off the train at Trinidad, the militia met me and ordered me back on the train. Nevertheless, I got off. They marched me to the telegrapher's office, then they changed their minds, and took me to the hotel where they had their headquarters. I told them I wanted to get my breakfast. They escorted me to the dining room.
"Who is paying for my breakfast?" said I.
"The state," said they.
"Then as the guest of the state of Colorado I'll order a good breakfast." And I did-all the way from bacon to pie.
The train for Denver pulled in. The military put me aboard it. When we reached Walsenburg; a delegation of miners met the train, singing a miner's song. They sang at the top their lungs till the silent, old mountains see to prick up their ears. They swarmed into the train.
"God bless you, Mother!"
"God bless you, my boys!"
"Mother, is your coat warm enough? It's; freezing cold in the hills!"
"I'm all right, my lad." The chap had no overcoat -- a cheap cotton suit, and a bit of woolen rag around his neck.
Outside in the station stood the militia. One of them was a fiend. He went about swinging his gun, hitting the miners, and trying to prod them into a fight, hurling vile oaths at them. But the boys kept cool and I could hear them singing above the 'shriek of the whistle as the train pulled out of the depot and wound away through the hills.
From January on until the final brutal out-rage, --the burning of the tent colony in Ludlow -- my ears wearied with the stories of brutality and suffering. My eyes ached with the misery I witnessed. My brain sickened with the knowledge of man's inhumanity to man.
It was, "Oh, Mother, my daughter has been assaulted by the soldiers-such a little girl!"
"Oh, Mother, did you hear how the soldiers entered Mrs. Hall's house, how they terrified the little children, wrecked the home, and did worse-terrible things-and just because Mr. Hall, the undertaker, had buried two miners whom the militia had killed!" "And, Oh Mother, did you hear how they are arresting miners for vagrancy, for loafing, and making them work in company ditches without pay, making them haul coal and clear snow up to the mines for nothing!" "Mother, Mother, listen! A Polish fellow arrived as a strike breaker. He didn't know there was a strike. He was a big, strapping fellow. They gave him a star and a gun and told him to shoot strikers!"
"Oh, Mother, they've brought in a shipment of guns and machine guns-what's to happen to us!"
A frantic mother clutched me. "Mother Jones," she screamed, "Mother Jones, my little boy's all swollen up with the kicking and beating he got from a soldier because he said, 'Howdy, John D. feller!' 'Twas just a kid teasing, and now he's lying like dead !"
"Mother, 'tis an outrage for an adjutant general of the state to shake his fist and holler in the face of a grey-haired widow for singing a union song in her own kitchen while she washes the dishes!"
"It is all an outrage," said I. 'Tis an outrage indeed that Rockefller should own the coal that God put in the earth for all the people. 'Tis an outrage that gunmen and soldiers are here protecting mines against workmen who ask bit more than a crust, a bit more than bondage! 'Tis an ocean of outrage !"
"Mother, did you hear of poor, old Colner? e was going to the postoffice and was arrested by the milita. They marched him down hill, making him carry a shovel and a pick his back. They told him he was to die and must dig his own grave. He stumbled and fell on the road. They kicked him and he staggered up. He begged to be allowed to go home kiss his wife and children goodbye.
"We'll do the kissing," laughed the soldiers At the place they picked out for his grave, they measured him, and then they ordered to dig-two feet deeper, they told him. Old Colner began digging while the soldiers stood around laughing and cursing and playing craps for his tin watch. Then Colner fell fainting into the grave. The soldiers left him there till he recovered by himself. There he was alone and he staggered back to camp, Mother, and he isn't quite right in the head!"
I sat through long nights with sobbing widows, watching the candles about the corpse of the husband burn down to their sockets.
"Get out and fight," I told those women. "Fight like hell till you go to Heaven t" That was the only way I knew to comfort them.
I nursed men back to sanity who were driven to despair. I solicited clothes for the ragged children, for the desperate mothers. I laid out the dead, the martyrs of the strike. I kept the men away from the saloons, whose licenses as well as those of the brothels, were held by the Rockefeller interests.
The miners armed, armed as it is permitted every American citizen to do in defense of his home, his family; as he is permitted to do against invasion. The smoke of armed battle rose from the arroyos and ravines of the Rocky Mountains.
No one listened. No one cared. The tickers in the offices of 26 Broadway sounded louder than the sobs of women and children. Men in the steam heated luxury of Broadway offices could not feel the stinging cold of Colorado hill-sides where families lived in tents.
Then came Ludlow and the nation heard. Little children roasted alive make a front page story. Dying by inches of starvation and exposure does not.
On the 19th of April, 1914, machine guns, used on the strikers in the Paint Creek strike, were placed in position above the tent colony of Ludlow. Major Pat Hamrock and Lieutenant K. E. Linderfelt were in charge of the militia, the majority of whom were, company gun-men sworn in as soldiers.
Early in the morning soldiers approached the colony with a demand from headquarters that Louis Tikas, leader of the Greeks, surrender two Italians. Tikas demanded a warrant for their arrest. They had none. Tikas refused to surrender them. The soldiers returned to quarters. A signal bomb was fired. Then another. Immediately the machine guns began spraying the flimsy tent colony, the only home the wretched families of the miners had, riddling it with bullets. Like iron rain, bullets' upon men, women and children.
The women and children fled to the hills. Others tarried. The men defended their home with their guns. All day long the firing continued. Men fell dead, their faces to the ground. Women dropped. The little Snyder boy was shot through the head, trying to save his kitten. A child carrying water to his dying mother was killed.
By five o'clock in the afternoon, the miners had no more food, nor water, nor ammunition. They had to retreat with their wives and little ones into the hills. Louis Tikas was riddled with shots while he tried to lead women and children to safety. They perished with him.
Night came. A raw wind blew down the canyons where men, women and children shivered and wept. Then a blaze lighted the sky. The soldiers, drunk with blood and with the liquor they had looted from the saloon, set fire to the tents of Ludlow with oil-soaked torches. The tents, all the poor furnishings, the clothes and bedding of the miners' families burned. Coils of barbed wire were stuffed into the well, the miners' only water supply.
After it was over, the wretched people crept back to bury their dead. In a dugout under a burned tent, the charred bodies of eleven little children and two women were found-unrecognizable. Everything lay in ruins. The wires of bed springs writhed on the ground as if they, too, had tried to flee the horror. Oil and fire and guns had robbed men and women and children of their homes and slaughtered tiny babies and defenseless women. Done by order of Lieutenant Linderfelt, a savage, brutal executor of the will of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. The strikers issued a general call to arms: Every able bodied man must shoulder a gun to protect himself and his family from assassins, from arson and plunder. From jungle days to our own so-named civilization, this is a man's inherent right. To a man they armed, through-out the whole strike district. Ludlow went on burning in their hearts.
Everybody got busy. A delegation from Ludlow went to see President Wilson. Among them was Mrs. Petrucci whose three tiny babies were crisped to death in the black hole of Ludlow. She had something to say to her President.
Immediately he sent the United States cavalry to quell the gunmen. He studied the situation, and drew up proposals for a three-year truce, binding miner and operator. The operators scornfully refused.
A mass meeting was called in Denver. Lindsay spoke. He demanded that the operators be made to respect the laws of Colorado. That something be done immediately. The Denver Real Estate Exchange appointed a committee to spit on Judge Lindsey for his espousal of the cause of the miners.
Rockefeller got busy. Writers were hired to write pamphlets which were sent broadcast to every editor in the country, bulletins. In these leaflets, it was shown how perfectly happy was the life of the miner until the agitators came; how joyous he was with the company's saloon,. the company's pigstys for homes, the cornpany's teachers and preachers and coroners. How the miners hated the state law of an eight-hour working day, begging to be allowed to work ten, twelve. How they hated the state law that they should have their own check weigh-man to see that they were not cheated at the tipple.
And all the while the mothers of the children who died in Ludlow were mourning their dead.
"President Wilson said that this strike must be eventually settled by public opinion," said I. "It's about time we aroused a little. We've got to give this crime of convicting an innocent man of murder a little publicity."
"You're right, Mother," said he. "What do you think we ought to do?"
"I want to hold a series of meetings all over the country and get the facts before the American people."
Our first meeting was in Kansas City. I told the great audience that packed the hall that when their coal glowed red in their fires, it was the blood of the workers, of men who went down into black holes to dig it, of women who suffered and endured, of little children who had but a brief childhood. "You are being warmed and made comfortable with human blood" I said.
In Chicago, Frank P. Walsh, Chairman of the Industrial Commission, addressed the meeting. Garrick Theater was crowded. He told them of the desperate efforts of the operators to break the spirit of the miners by jailing their leaders.
We held meetings in Columbus and Cleveland and finally held a mass meeting in Washington. By this time the public opinion that President Wilson referred to was expressing itself so that the long-eared politicians heard.
Through the efforts of men like Ed NockeIs, labor leader of Chicago, and others, John Lawson was released on bonds. Ed Nockels is one of the great men who give their life and talents to the cause of the workers. Not all labor's leaders are honest. There are men as cruel and brutal as the capitalists in their ranks. There is jealousy. There is ambition. The weak envy the strong.
There was Bolton, secretary of the miners in Trinidad, a cold-blooded man, a jealous, ambitious soul. When Lawson was arrested he said, "lie is just where I want him!"
I was at headquarters in Trinidad one morning when two poor wretches came in and asked him for some coal. Their children were freezing, they said.
Bolton loved power. He loved the power of giving or refusing. This time he refused. A fellow named Ulick, an organizer, was present. I said to him, "Go with these men and see what their condition is. Buy them coal and food if they need it,,' and I gave him money.
One of the men had walked over the hills with his shoes in tatters. The other had no overcoat and the weather was below zero. Ulick returned and told me the condition of these miners and their families was terrible.
I am not blind to the short comings of our own people, I am not unaware that leaders betray, and sell out, and play false. But this knowledge does not outweigh the fact that my class, the working class, is exploited, driven, fought back with the weapon of starvation, with guns and with venal courts whenever they strike for conditions more human, more civilized for their children, and for their children's children.
In this matter of arousing public Opinion, I traveled as far as Seattle. The Central Trades Union of Seattle arranged a monster mass meeting for me. I told those fine western people the story of the struggle in their sister state. I raised a lot of hell about it and a lot of money, too, and a yell of public opinion that reached across the Rockies.
The miners of British Columbia were on strike. They sent for me to come and address them. I went with J. G. Brown. As I was about to go on the boat, the Canadian Immigration officers asked me where I was going.
"To Victoria," I told them.
"No you're not," said an officer, "you're going to the strike zone."
"I might travel a bit," said I.
"You can't go," said he, like he was Cornwallis.
"I don't have to give reasons," said he a. proudly as if the American Revolution had never been fought.
"You'll have to state your reasons to my uncle," said I, "and I'll be crossing before morning."
"Who is your uncle?"
"Uncle Sam's my uncle," said I. "He cleaned Hell out of you once and he'll do it again. You let down those bars. I'm going to Canada."
"You'll not put a boot in Canada," said he. "You'll find out before night who's boss on this side the water," said I.
I returned to Labor Headquarters with Brown and we telegraphed the Emigration Department, the Labor Department and the Secretary of State at Washington. They got in touch with the Canadian Government at Ottawa. That very afternoon I got a telegram from the emigration Department that I might go anywhere I wanted in Canada.
The next morning when I went to get on the boat, the Canadian official with whom I had spoken the day before ran and hid. He had found out who my uncle was!
I addressed meetings in Victoria. Then I went up to the strike zone. A regiment of Canadian Kilties met the train, squeaking on their bagpipes. Down the street came a delegation of miners but they did not wear crocheted petticoats. They wore the badge of the working class-the overalls. I held a tremendous meeting that night and the poor boys who had come up from the subterranean holes of the earth to fight for a few hours of sunlight, took courage. I brought them the sympathy of the Colorado strikers, a sympathy and under-standing that reaches across borders and frontiers.
Men's hearts are cold. They are indifferent. Not all the coal that is dug warms the world. It remains indifferent to the lives of those who risk their life and health down in the blackness of the earth; who crawl through dark, choking crevices with only a bit of lamp on their caps to light their silent way; whose backs are bent with toil, whose very bones ache, whose happiness is sleep, and whose peace is death.
I know the life of the miner. I have sat with him on culm piles as he ate his lunch from his bucket with grimy hands. I have talked with his wife as she bent over the washtub. I was talking with a miner's wife one day when we heard a distant thud. She ran to the door of the shack. Men were running and screaming. Other doors flung open. Women rushed out, drying their hands on their aprons.
Whose husband was killed! Whose children were fatherless I
"My God, how many mules have been killed!" was the first exclamation of the superintendent.
Dead men were brought to the surface and laid on the ground. But more men came to take
their places. But mules -- new mules -- had to be bought. They cost the company money. But human life is cheap, far cheaper than are mules.
One hundred and nineteen men were brought out and laid on the ground. The lights in their lamps were out. The light in their eyes was gone. But their death brought about the two-shaft system whereby a man had a chance to escape in case one of the exits filled with gas or burned.
Life comes to the miners out of their deaths, and death out of their lives.
In January of 1915, I was invited to John D. Rockefeller Jr.'s office with several other
labor officers. I was glad to go for I wanted to tell him what his hirelings were doing in Colorado. The publicity that had been given the terrible conditions under which his wealth was made had forced him to take some action. The union he would not recognize -- never. That was his religion. But he had put forth a plan whereby the workers might elect one representative at each mine to meet with the officials in Denver and present any grievance that might arise.
So with Frank J. Hayes, Vice President of the United Mine Workers, James Lord, and Edward Doyle we went to the Rockefeller offices. He listened to our recital of conditions in Colorado and said nothing.
I told him that his plan for settling industrial disputes would not work. That it was a sham and fraud. That behind the representative of the miner was no organization so that the workers were powerless to enforce any just demand; that their demands were granted and grievances redressed still at the will of the company. That the Rockefeller plan did not give the miners a treasury, so that should they have to strike for justice, they could be starved out in a week. That it gave the workers no voice in the management of the job to which they gave their very lives.
John Rockefeller is a nice young man but when we went away from the office where resides the silent government of thousands upon thousands of people, we went away feeling that he could not possibly understand the aspirations of the working class. He was as alien as is one species from another; as alien as is stone from wheat. I came to New York to raise funds for the miners' families. Although they had gone back beaten to work, their condition was pitiful. The women and children were in rags and they were hungry. I spoke to a great mass meeting in Cooper Union. I told the people after they had cheered me for ten minutes, that cheering was easy. That the side lines where it was safe, always cheered.
"The miners lost," I told them, "because they had only the constitution. The other side had bayonets. In the' end, bayonets always win."
I told them how Lieutenant Howert of Walsenberg had offered me his arm when he escorted me to jail. "Madam," said he, "will you take my arm?"
"I am not a Madam," said I. "I am Mother Jones. The Government can't take my life and you can't take my arm, but you can take my suitcase."
I told the audience how I had sent a letter to John Rockefeller, Junior, telling him of conditions in the mines. I had heard he was a good young man and read the Bible, and I thought I'd take a chance. The letter came back with "Refused" written across the envelope.
"Well," I said, "how could I expect him to listen to an old woman when lie would not listen to the President of the United States through his representative, Senator Foster."
Five hundred women got up a dinner and asked me to speak. Most of the women were crazy about women suffrage. They thought that Kingdom-come would follow the enfranchisement of women.
"You must stand for free speech in the streets," I told them.
"How can we," piped a woman, "when we haven't a vote?"
"I have never had a vote," said I, "and I have raised bell all over this country! You don't need a vote to raise hell! You need convictions and a voice!"
Some one meowed, "You're an anti!"
"I am not an anti to anything which will bring freedom to my class," said I. "But I am going to be honest with you sincere women who are working for votes for women. The women of Colorado have had the vote for two generations and the working men and women are in slavery. The state is in slavery, vassal to the Colorado Iron and Fuel Company and its subsidiary interests. A man who was present at a meeting of mine owners told me that when the trouble started in the mines, one operator proposed that women be disfranchised because here and there some woman bad raised her voice in behalf of the miners. Another operator jumped to his feet and shouted, 'For God's sake! What are you talking about! If it had not been for the women's vote the miners would have beaten us long ago!'"
Some of the women gasped with horror. One or two left the room. I told the women I did not believe in women’s rights nor in men's rights but in human rights. "No matter what your fight," I said, "don't be ladylike! God Almighty made women and the Rockefeller gang of thieves made the ladies. I have just fought through sixteen months of bitter warfare in Colorado. I have been up against armed mercenaries but this old woman, without a vote, and with nothing but a hatpin has scared them.
"Organized labor should organize its women along industrial lines. Politics is only the servant of industry. The plutocrats have organized their women. They keep them busy with suffrage and prohibition and charity."
In July of 1919 my attention was called to the brutal conditions of the Sissonville prison Camp in Kanawha County, West Virginia. The practices of the dark ages were not unknown to that county. Feudalism and slave ownership existed in her coal camps. I found the most brutal slave ownership in the prison camp.
Officials of state and nation squawk about the dangers of bolshevism and they tolerate and promote a system that turns out bolshevists by the thousands. A bunch of hypocrites create a constabulary supposedly to stamp out dangerous "reds" but in truth the constabulary is to safeguard the interests of the exploiters of labor. The moneyed interests and their servants, the officials of county and state, howl and yammer about law and order and American ideals in order to drown out the still, small voice of the worker asking for bread.
With Mr. Mooney and Mr. Snyder, organizers, I went to the prison camp of Kanawha County where prisoners were building a county road. It was a broiling hot day.
About forty men were swinging picks and shovels; some old grey haired men were among them, some extremely young, some diseased, all broken in spirit and body. Some of them, the younger ones, were in chains. They had to drag a heavy iron ball and chain as they walked and worked. A road officer goaded them on if they lagged. He was as pitiless as the Bull On their bent backs.
These were men who had received light sentences in the courts for minor offenses, but the road officer could extend the sentence for the infraction of the tiniest rule. Some men had been in the camp for a year whose sentence had been thirty days for having in their possession a pint of liquor. Another fellow told me he was bringing some whiskey to a sick man. He was arrested, given sixty days and fined $100. Unable to pay he was sentenced to five months in the prison camp, and after suffering hell's tortures he had attempted to run away. He was caught and given four additional months.
At night the miserable colony were driven to their horrible sleeping quarters. For some, there were iron cages. Iron bunks with only a thin cloth mattress over them. Six prisoners were crowded into these cages. The place was odorous with filth. Vermin crawled about.
A very young lad slept in a cell, sixteen by twenty feet practically without ventilation, with sixteen negroes, some of whom suffered from venereal disease. There was no sewage system, and the only toilet for this group was a hole in the floor of the cell with a tub beneath. It was not emptied until full. Great greedy flies buzzed about the cells and cages. They lighted on the stripped bodies of the men.
The sick had no care, no medicine. The well had no protection against the sick. None of the wretched army of derelicts had any protection against the brutality of the road overseers. A prisoner had been beaten with the pick handle by the overseer. His wounds were not dressed. Another was refused an interview with his attorney.
I knew it was useless to tell the governor about conditions as I found them. I knew he would be neither interested nor would he care. It wasn't election time.
That night I took the train from Charleston and went straight to Washington. In the morning I went to the Department of Justice. I told the Attorney General about conditions in the prison camp of Sissonville, … the fetid, disease-breeding cells, … the swill given the men for food, . . . the brutal treatment. I asked him to make inquiry if there were not federal prisoners there. He promised me he would make immediate inquiry. This he did. To be sure there were no federal prisoners in the gang, but the investigation scared hell out of them, and the day after the federal agents had been there, fifteen prisoners, illegally held, were released.
The worst abuses were corrected for a while, at least.
Whenever things go wrong, I generally head for the National government with my grievances. I do not find it hard to get redress.
I do not believe that iron bars and brutal treatment have ever been
cures for crime. And certainly I feel that in our great enlightened country,
there is no reason for going back to the middle ages and their forms of
torture for the criminal.
So believing, the steel workers, 300,000 of them, rose en masse against Kaiser Gary, the President of the American Steel Corporation. The slaves asked their czar for the abolition of the twelve-hour day, for a crumb from the huge loaf of profits made in the great war, and for the right to organize.
Czar Gary met his workers as is the customary way with tyrants. He could not shoot them down as did Czar Nicholas when petitioned by his peasants. But he ordered the constabulary out. He ordered forth his two faithful generals: fear and starvation, one to clutch at the worker's throat and the other at his stomach and the stomachs of his little children. When the steel strike was being organized, I was in Seattle with Jay G. Brown, President of the Shingle Workers of America.
"We ought to go East and help organize those slaves," I said to Brown.
"They'll throw us in jail, Mother!" he said.
"Well, they're our own jails, aren't they! Our class builds them."
I came East. So did Jay G. Brown - a devoted worker for the cause of the steel slaves.
The strike in the steel industry was called in September, 1919. Gary as spokesman for the industry refused to consider any sort of appointment with his workers. What did it matter to him that thousands upon thousands of workers in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, worked in front of scorching furnaces twelve long hours, through the day, through the night, while he visited the Holy Land where Our Lord was born in a manger!
I traveled up and down the Monongahela River. Most of the places where the steel workers were on strike meetings were forbidden. If I were to stop to talk to a woman on the street about her child, a cossack would come charging down upon us and we would have to run for our lives. If I were to talk to a man in the streets of Braddock, we would be arrested for unlawful assembly.
In the towns of Sharon and Farrell, Pennsylvania, the lick-spittle authorities forbade all assembly. The workers by the thousands marched into Ohio where the Constitution of the United States instead of the Steel Corporation 's constitution was law.
I asked a Pole where he was going. I was visiting his sick wife; taking a bit of milk to her new baby. Her husband was washing his best shirt in the sink.
"Where I go? Tomorrow I go America," he said, meaning he was going on the march to Ohio.
I spoke often to the strikers. Many of them were foreigners but they knew what I said. I told them, "We are to see whether Pennsylvania belongs to Kaiser Gary or Uncle Sam. If Gary's got it, we are going to take it away from him and give it back to Uncle Sam. When we are ready we can scare and starve and lick the whole gang. Your boys went over to Europe. They were told to clean up the Kaiser. Well, they did it. And now you and your boys are going to clean up the kaisers at home. Even if they have to do it with a leg off and an arm gone, and eyes out.
"Our Kaisers sit up and smoke seventy-five cent cigars and have lackeys with knee pants bring them champagne while you starve, while you grow old at forty, stoking their furnaces. You pull in your belts while they banquet. They have stomachs two miles long and two miles wide and you fill them. Our Kalsers have stomachs of steel and hearts of steel and tears of steel for the 'poor Belgians.'
"If Gary wants to work twelve hours a day let him go in the blooming mills and work. What we want is a little leisure, time for music, playgrounds, a decent home, books, and the things that make life worth while."
I was speaking in Homestead. A group of organizers were with me in an automobile As soon as a word was said, the speaker was immediately arrested by the steel bosses' sheriff I rose to speak. An officer grabbed me.
"Under arrest!" he said.
We were taken to jail. A great mob of people collected outside the prison. There was angry talk. The jailer got scared. He thought there might be lynching and he guessed who would be lynched. The mayor was in the jail, too, conferring with the jailer. He was scared. He looked out of the office windows and he saw hundreds of workers milling around and heard them muttering.
The jailer came to Mr. Brown and asked him what he had better do.
"Why don't you let Mother Jones go out and speak to them," he said. "They'll do anything she says."
So the jailer came to me and asked me to speak to the boys outside and ask them to go home.
I went outside the jail and told the boys I was going to be released shortly on bond, and that they should go home now and not give any trouble. I got them in a good humor and pretty soon they went away. Meanwhile while I was speaking, the mayor had sneaked out the back way.
We were ordered to appear in the Pittsburgh court the next morning. A cranky old judge asked me if I had had a permit to speak on the streets.
"Yes, sir," said I. "I had a permit."
"Who issued it?" he growled.
"Patrick Henry; Thomas Jefferson; John Adams!" said I.
The mention of those patriots who gave us our charter of liberties made the old steel judge sore. He fined us all heavily.
During the strike I was frequently arrested. So were all the leaders. We expected that. I never knew whether I would find John Fitzpatrick and William Foster at headquarters when I went up to Pittsburgh. Hundreds of threatening letters came to them. Gunmen followed them. Their lives were in constant danger. Citizens Alliance - the little shop-keepers dependent upon the smile of the steel
companies-threatened to drive them out. Never had a strike been led by more devoted, able, unselfish men. Never a thought for themselves. Only for the men on strike, men striking to bring back America to America.
In Foster's office no chairs were permitted by the authorities. That would have been construed as "a meeting." Here men gathered in silent groups, in whispering groups, to get what word they could of the strike.
How was it going in Ohio?
How was it going in Pennsylvania?
How in the Mesaba country?
The workers were divided from one another. Spies working among the Ohio workers told of the break in the strike in Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, they told of the break in Ohio. With meetings forbidden, with mails censored, with no means of communication allowed, the strikers could not know of the progress of their strike. Then fear would clutch their throats.
One day two men came into Headquarters. One of them showed his wrists. They told in broken English of being seized by officers, taken to a hotel room. One of them was handcuffed for a day to a bed. His wrists swelled. Ho begged the officers to release him. He writhed in pain. They laughed and asked him if he would go to work. Though mad with pain he said no. At night they let him go without a word, without redress.
Organizers would come in with bandages on their heads. They had been beaten. They would stop a second before the picture of Fanny Sellins, the young girl whom the constabulary had shot as she bent protectingly over some children. She had died. They had only been beaten.
Foreigners were forever rushing in with tales of violence. They did not understand. Wasn't this America? Hadn't they come to America to be free?
We could not get the story of the struggle of these slaves over to the public. The press groveled at the feet of the steel Gods. The local pulpits dared not speak. Intimidation stalked the churches, the schools, the theaters. The rule of steel was absolute.
Although the strike was sponsored by the American Federation of Labor, under instructions from the Steel Trust, the public were fed daily stories of revolution and Bolshevism and Russian gold supporting the strike.
I saw the parade in Gary. Parades were forbidden in the Steel King's own town. Some two hundred soldiers who had come back from Europe where they had fought to make America safe from tyrants, marched. They were steel workers. They had on their faded uniforms and the steel hats which protected them from German bombs. In the line of march I saw young fellows with arms gone, with crutches, with deep scars across the face -- heroes they were! Workers in the cheap cotton clothes of the working class fell in behind them. Silently the thousands walked through the streets and alleys of Gary. Saying no word. With no martial music such as sent the boys into the fight with the Kaiser across the water. Marching in silence. Disbanding in silence.
The next day the newspapers carried across the country a story of "mob violence "in Gary. Then I saw another parade. Into Gary marched United States soldiers under General Wood. They brought their bayonets, their long range guns, trucks with mounted machine guns, field artillery. Then came violence. The soldiers broke up the picket line. Worse than that, they broke the ideal in the hearts of thousands of foreigners, their ideal of America. Into the blast furnace along with steel went their dream that America was a government for the people-the poor, the oppressed.
I sat in the kitchen with the wife of a steel worker. It was a tiny kitchen. Three men sat at the table playing cards on the oil cloth table cover. They sat in their under shirts and trousers. Babies crawled on the floor, Above our heads hung wet clothes.
"The worse thing about this strike, Mother, is having the men folks all home all the time. There's no place for them to go. If they walk out they get chased by the mounted police. If they visit another house, the house gets raided and the men get arrested for 'holding a meeting.' They daren't even sit on the steps. Officers chase them in. It's fierce, Mother, with the boarders all home. When the men are working, half of them are sleeping, and the other half are in the mills. And I can hang my clothes out in the yard. Now I daren't. The guards make us stay in. They chase us out of our own yards. It's hell, Mother, with the men home all day and the clothes hanging around too. And the kids are frightened. The guards chase them in the house. That makes it worse. The kids, and the men all home and the clothes hanging around."
That was another way the steel tyrants fought their slaves. They crowded them into their wretched kennels, piling them on top of one another until their nerves were on edge. Men and women and babies and children and cooking and washing and dressing and undressing. This condition wore terribly on the women.
"Mother, seems like I'm going crazy!" women would say to me. "I'm scared to go out and I go crazy if I stay in with everything lumped on top of me!"
"The men are not going back?"
When I asked the women that question they would stop their complaints. '~ My man go back, I kill him!" You should see their eyes!
I went to Duquesne. Mayor Crawford, the brother of the President of the MeKeesport Tin Plate Company, naturally saw the strike through steel-rimmed glasses. Jay Brown and I asked him for a permit to address the strikers.
"So you want a permit to speak in Duquesne, do you?" he grinned.
"We do that," said I, "as American citizens demanding our constitutional rights."
He laughed aloud. "Jesus Christ himself could not hold a meeting in Duquesne!" said he.
"I have no doubt of that," said I," not while you are mayor. "You may remember, however, that He drove such men as you out of the temple!"
He laughed again. Steel makes one feel secure.
We spoke. We were arrested and taken to jail. While in my cell, a group of worthy citizens, including town officials and some preachers came to see me.
"Mother Jones," they said, "why don't you use your great gifts and your knowledge of men for something better and higher than agitating?"
"There was a man once," said I, "who had great gifts and a knowledge of men and he agitated against a powerful government that sought to make men serfs, to grind them down. He founded this nation that men might be free. He was a gentleman agitator!'
"Are you referring to George Washington?" said one of the group.
"I am so," said I. "And there was a man once who had the gift of a tender heart and he agitated against powerful men, against invested wealth, for the freedom of black men. He agitated against slavery!"
Are you speaking of Abraham Lincoln?" said a little man who was peeking at me over another fellow's shoulder.
"I am that," said I.
"And there was a man once who walked among men, among the poor and the despised and the lowly, and he agitated against the powers of Rome, against the lickspittle Jews of the local pie counter; he agitated for the Ringdom of God!"
"Are you speaking of Jesus Christ?" said a preacher.
"I am," said I. "The agitator you nailed to a cross some centuries ago. I did not know that his name was known in the region of steel!"
They all said nothing and left.
I went in a house in Monessen where I heard a woman sobbing. "They have taken my man away and I do not know where they have taken him!" Two little sobbing children clung to her gingham apron. Her tears fell on their little heads.
"I will find out for you. Tell me what happened."
"Yesterday two men come. They open door; not knock. They come bust in. They say 'Your husband go back to Russia. He big Bolshevik!' J say, 'Who you?' They say, 'We big government United States. Big detect!"
"They open everything. They open trunks. They throw everything on floor. They take everything from o]d country. They say my husband never came back. They say my husband go Russia. Perhaps first they hang him up, they say."
"They will not hang him. Is your husband Bolshevik?"
"No. He what you call Hunkie in America. He got friend. Friend very good. Friend come see him many times. Play cards. Talk 'bout damn boss. Talk 'bout damn job. Talk just 'bout all damn things. This friend say, 'You like better Russia -- Working people now got country.'
"My husband say, 'Sure I like Russia. Bussia all right. Maybe workmans got chance there.'
"This friend say, 'You like tea?'
"My man say, 'Sure I like!'
"Pretty soon they go walk together. My man not come home. All night gone. Next day come high detect. They say my man Bolshevik. His friend say so.'
"Have you been to the jail?"
"Yes, they say he not there. They say he been gone Russia."
"Here's five dollars," I said. "Now you take care of those little ones and I'll get your man for you."
He was in prison. I found him. Arrested by the United States Secret Service men who worked in connection with the Steel Company's private spies. Scores of workers were in jail, arrested on charges of holding radical thoughts. Holding radical thoughts and even the conservative demand for a shorter day, a better wage, the right to organize was punished with guns and prisons and torture!
He with dozens of others were later freed. With nothing against them. Five hundred "under cover" men worked in Monessen, sneaking into men's houses, into their unions, into their hearts, into their casual thoughts, sneaking and betraying. Five hundred Judas Iscariots betraying the workers for a handful of silver dollars.
With vermin like these must the worker struggle. Rather would the Steel Kings pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to these parasites than give the workers a living wage, a wage which would enable them to live as free men.
I was speaking in Mingo. There was a big crowd there. Most of them were foreigners but they would stand for hours listening to the speakers, trying to fit the English words to the feelings in their hearts. Their patient faces looked up into mine. Slag, the finely powdered dust of the steel mills, was ground into the furrows of their foreheads, into the lines about their mouths. The mark of steel was indelibly stamped upon them. They belonged to steel -- branded as are cattle on the plains by their owners.
I said to them, "Steel stock has gone up. Steel profits are enormous. Steel dividends are making men rich over night. The war -- your war-has made the steel lords richer than the emperors of old Borne. And their profits are not from steel alone but from your bodies with their innumerable burns; their profits are your early old age, your swollen feet, your wearied muscles. You go without warm winter clothes that Gary and his gang may go to Florida to warm their blood. You puddle steel twelve hours a day! Your children play in the muck of mud puddles while the children of the Forty Thieves take their French and dancing lessons, and have their fingernails manicured!"
As I was about to step down from the little platform I saw the crowd in one part of the hall milling around. Some one was trying to pass out leaflets and an organizer was trying to stop him. I heard the organizer say, "No sir, that's all right but you can't do it here! What do you want to get us in for!"
The fellow who had the leaflets insisted on distributing them. I pushed my way over to where the disturbance was.
"Lad," said I, "let me see one of those leaflets."
"It's about Russia, Mother," said the organizer, and you know we can't have that!"
I took a leaflet. It asked the assistance of everyone in getting the government to lift the blockade against Russia, as hundreds of thousands of women and little children were starving for food, and thousands were dying for want of medicine and hospital necessities.
"What is the matter with these leaflets!" I asked the organizer.
"Nothing, Mother, only if we allow them to be distributed the story will go out that the strike is engineered from Moscow. We can't mix issues. I'm afraid to let these dodgers circulate."
"Women and children blockaded and starving! Men, women and children
dying for lack of hospital necessities! This strike will not be won by
turning a deaf ear to suffering whereever it occurs. There's
only one thing to be afraid of … of not being a man
The struggle for freedom went on. Went on against colossal odds. Steel was against them. And the government was against them, from the remote government at Washington down to the tiny official of the steel village. There was dissension in the ranks of labor. Ambition and prejudice played their part.
Human flesh, warm and soft and capable of being wounded, went naked up against steel; steel that is cold as old stars, and harder than death and incapable of pain. Bayonets and guns and steel rails and battle ships, bombs and bullets are made of steel. And only babies are made of flesh. More babies to grow up and work in steel, to hurl themselves against the bayonets, to know the tempered resistance of steel.
The strike was broken. Broken by the scabs brought in under the protection of the troops. Broken by breaking men's belief in the outcome of their struggle. Broken by breaking men's hearts. Broken by the press, by the government. In a little over a hundred days, the strike shivered to pieces.
The slaves went back to the furnaces, to the mills; to the heat and the roar, to the long hours -- to slavery.
At headquarters men wept. I wept with them. A young man put his hands on my shoulders.
"Mother," he sobbed. "It's over."
A red glare from the mills lighted the sky. It made me think of Hell.
"Lad," said.I, "It is not over. There's a fiercer light than those hell fires over yonder! It is the white light of freedom burning in men's hearts!"
Back to the mills trudged the men, accepting the terms of the despot, Gary; accepting hours that made them old, old men at forty; that threw them on the scrap heap, along with the slag from the mills, at early middle age; that made of them nothing but brutes that slept and worked, that worked and slept. The sound of their feet marching back into the mills was the sound of a funeral procession, and the corpse they followed was part of their selves. It was their hope.
Gary and his gang celebrated the victory with banquets and rejoicing. Three hundred thousand workers, living below the living wage, ate the bread of bitterness.
I say, as I said in the town of Gary, it is the damn gang of robbers and their band of political thieves who will start the next American Revolution; just as it was they who started this strike. Fifty thousand American lads died on the battle fields of Europe that the world might be more democratic. Their buddies came home and fought the American workingman when he protested an autocracy beyond the dream of the Kaiser. Had these same soldiers helped the steel workers, we could have given Gary, Morgan and his gang a free pass to hell. All the world's history has produced no more brutal and savage times than these, and this nation will perish if we do not change these conditions.
Christ himself would agitate against them. He would agitate against the plutocrats and hyprocrites who tell the workers to go down on their knees and get right with God. Christ, the carpenter's son, would tell them to stand up on their feet and fight for righteousness and justice on the earth.
The steel strike was over. That is, the men were forced back to work. Only in bible stories can David conquer the giant Goliath. But the strike in the steel workers' hearts is not over.
Back to the forges, to the great caldrons, to the ovens, to the' flame and the smoke go the "hands." But their hearts and their minds are outside the high fences-fences that shut in the worker and shut out justice.
The strike is not over. Injustice boils in men's hearts as does steel in its caldron, ready to pour, white hot, in the fullness of time.
Meanwhile in Kansas, legislators, subservient to the money powers, were busy making laws. They wanted the workers to be life serfs of the old days, attached to their job, and penalized when they left or struck. Governor Allen signed the bill of slavery. The law was called by a fancy name and given a fair face. It forbade the workers striking. It made striking a punishable offense.
A coal strike was coming on. Governor Allen said Kansas should have coal even if the workers did not have justice. Coal was more important than those who dug it. The coal operators said so too.
Throughout Kansas, striking for better conditions, more adequate wages to meet the high cost of living that the war had brought about, for anything in fact, was forbidden, and he who called a strike must go to jail.
President Howat of one of the districts of the United Mine Workers sent for me to come arouse the workers to a sense of their slavery. I went about speaking on the Industrial Slave Law, explaining to the workers just what it meant to them to have the right to strike taken from them by law.
President Howat was indicted and sentenced to jail for calling a strike, a strike voted for by the rank and file. Because he resisted the law he was called a rebel.
In the early part of 1922, the United Mine Workers held their convention. I attended. Questions of wages and agreements were discussed. The operators in the central bituminous coal fields and the union officials had been enjoined from making an agreement with one another by Judge Anderson. Miners dig up coal for the money kings and judges dig up decisions and injunctions. But the judges get better wages.
The question of whether the strike for April 1st, unless the operators signed agreements, should be called by the Convention or left to a vote of the rank and file, was before the assembly.
Howat and his friends wanted the Convention to set a strike date immediately-April first. The conservatives, led by president Lewis, wanted the body of miners themselves to vote on the issue.
Everyone was howling and bellowing and jumping on his feet and yelling to speak. They sounded like a lot of lunatics instead of sane men with the destiny of thousands of workers in their hands.
Although I sympathized with Howat, I felt that the National President should be obeyed. I rose and pushed my way to the platform. I stood there waiting for the men to become quiet. They did so. It was very still. I said:
"Boys stop howling like a lot of fiends and get down like men and do business: You are wasting time here; wasting time that ought to go to your families and babies. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves! Quit this noise!"
Some one called "Speech!"
"This is not the time for me to speak," I said. "It is time for you to act. Trust your president. If he fails we can go out and I will be with you and raise Hell all over the nation!"
After that the Convention got down to business and voted to leave the matter of striking to those who had to do the sacrificing: the rank and file.
The operators refused to meet the miners, broke their sworn agreement that they would do so. There was nothing to do but strike. The rank and file voted it.
In Kansas, against the law, the miners nevertheless went out. Governor Allen ordered them back, just as the slaves of old used to be ordered back into the cotton fields. Again they refused. Refused to desert their brothers and produce scab coal. The Governor called upon the soft collar fellows, the rah-rah boys from the colleges, the drug clerks and undertakers, the ex-soldiers and sailors who were out of work, waiting for their bonuses, --and these mined the coal. A lark it was for them. A day's picnic. They could afford to take the job with light heart and no conscience for it was but a brief job . . . not a lifetime to be spent under the ground. They would not pass on their shovel and lamp to their sons, so it was no matter to them that they left the job a little better for those who were to follow.
The government, under Hoover, opened up scores of scab mines. Non-union coal was dumped on the market. The miners believed that the Federal Government was against them. They set about organizing the non-union fields. I went here and there. I went to West Virginia. Thousands of dollars had been spent in that field. I went among the women in the tent colonies on the hills.
The story of coal is always the same. It is a dark story. For a second's more sunlight, men must fight like tigers. For the privilege of seeing the color of their children's eyes by the light of the sun, fathers must fight as beasts in the jungle. That life may have something of decency, something of beauty-a picture, a new dress, a bit of cheap lace fluttering in the window-for this, men who work down in the mines must struggle and lose, struggle and win.
I have been in West Virginia more or less for the past twenty-three years, taking part in the interminable conflicts that arose between the industrial slaves and their masters. The conflicts were always bitter. Mining is cruel work. Men are down in utter darkness hours on end. They have no life in the sun. They come up from the silence of the earth utterly wearied. Sleep and work, work and sleep. No time or strength for education, no money for books. No leisure for thought.
With the primitive tools of pick and shovel they gut out the insides of the old earth. Their shoulders are stooped from bending. Their eyes are narrowed to the tiny crevices through which they crawl. Evolution, development, is turned backward. Miners become less erect, less wide-eyed.
Like all things that live under ground, away from the sun, they become waxen. Their light is the tiny lamp in their caps. It lights up only work. It lights but a few steps ahead. Their children will follow them down into these strange chambers after they have gone down into the earth forever. Cruel is the life of the miners with the weight of the world upon their backs. And cruel are their strikes. Miners are accustomed to cruelty. They know no other law. They are like primitive men struggling in his ferocious jungle-for himself, for his children, for the race of men.
The miners of Logan County were again on strike in 1923. I was with them. The jails were full of strikers, with innocent men who protested the conditions of their lives. Many of them had been months in jails. Their wives and little children were in dire want.
"Can't you do something for us, Mother," they pleaded.
A delegation of their wretched wives and half-starved children came to me. "For God's sake, Mother, can't you do something for us?"
I took the train for Charleston and went to see Governor Morgan. He received me courteously.
"Governor," I said, "listen-do you hear anything?"
He listened a moment. "No, Mother Jones, I do not."
"I do," said I. "I hear women and little boys and girls sobbing at night. Their fathers are in jail. The wives and children are crying for food."
"I will investigate," said he. He looked me straight in the eye and I knew he would keep his promise.
Shortly afterward I received a letter from the Governor, telling me that all the prisoners were released but three.
For myself I always found Governor Morgan most approachable. The human appeal always reached him. I remember a poor woman coming to see me one day. Her husband had been blacklisted in the mines and he dared not return to his home. The woman was weak from lack of food, too weak to work. I took her to the Governor. He gave her twenty dollars. He arranged for her husband to return, promising him executive protection.
I was with the Governor's secretary one day when a committee called to see the Governor. The committee was composed of lick-spittles of the mine owners. They requested that the Governor put "The Federationist," a labor weekly, out of business. The Governor said, "Gentlemen, the constitution guarantees the right of free speech and free press. I shall 'not go on record as interfering with either as long as the constitution lives."
The committee slunk out of the office.
I think that Governor Morgan is the only governor in the twenty-three years I was in West Virginia who refused to comply with the requests of the dominant money interests. To a man of that type I wish to pay my respects.
There is never peace in West Virginia because there is never justice. Injunctions and guns, like morphia, produce a temporary quiet. Then the pain, agonizing and more severe, comes again. So it is with West Virginia. The strike was broken. But the next year, the miners gathered their breath for another struggle. Sometimes they lost their battle through their own crooked leaders. And once it was my duty to go before the rank and file and expose their leaders who would betray them. And when my boys understood, West Virginia's climate wasn't healthy for them.
Medieval West Virginia t With its tent colonies on the bleak hills? With its grim men and women? When I get to the other side, I shall tell God Almighty about West Virginia!
FONT SIZE=+0>Other strikes come to my mind, strikes of less fire and flame and hence attracting less national notice. The papers proclaimed to stockholders and investors that there was peace, and there was no peace. The garment workers struck and won. In Roosevelt, New Jersey, the workingmen in the fertilizing plant of Williams and Clark struck.
Two strikers were shot dead -- shot in the back by the hired gunmen. The guards were arraigned, let out on bail, and reported back on the job. The strikers were assembled in a vacant lot. Guards shot into their midst, firing low and filling the legs of the workers with bullets.
"Mother," the strikers wrote to me, "come help us with our women."
I went. "Women," said I, "see that your husbands use no fire arms or violence no matter what the provocation. Don't let your husbands scab. Help them stand firm and above all keep them from the saloons. No strike was ever won that did not have the support of the womenfolk."
The street car men struck along in 1916 in New York City.
I spoke to a mass meeting of carmen's wives and we certainly had those women fighting like wildcats. They threatened me with jail and I told the police I could raise as much hell in jail as out. The police said if anyone was killed I should be held responsible and hanged.
"If they want to hang me, let them," I said. "And on the scaffold I will shout 'Freedom for the working class!' And when I meet God Almighty I will tell him to damn my accusers and the accusers of the working class, the people who tend and develop and beautify His world." The last years of my life have seen fewer and fewer strikes. Both employer and employee have become wiser. Both have learned the value of compromise. Both sides have learned that they gain' when they get together and talk things out in reason rather than standing apart, slinging bricks, angry words and bullets. The railway brotherhoods have learned that lesson. Strikes are costly. Fighting them is costly.
All the average human being asks is something he can call home; a family that is fed and warm; and now and then a little happiness; once in a long while an extravagance.
"I am not a suffragist nor do I believe in "careers" for women, especially a "career" in factory and mill where most working women have their "careers." A great responsibility rests upon woman-the training of the children This is her most beautiful task. If men earned money enough, it would not be necessary for women to neglect their homes and their little ones to add to the family’s income.
The last years of my life have seen long stretches of industrial peace. Occasionally has come war. I regretted that illness kept me from helping the railway shopmen in their brave fight for recognition a few years ago. And I rejoiced to see the formation of a third political party-a Farmer-Labor Party. Too long has labor been subservient to the old betrayers, politicians and crooked labor leaders.
I had passed my ninety-third milestone when I attended the convention of the Farmer-Labor Party and addressed the assembly. "The producer, not the meek, shall inherit the earth," I told them. "Not today perhaps, nor tomorrow, but over the rim of the years my old eyes can see the coming of another day."
I was ninety-one years old when I attended the Pan-American Federation of labor held in Mexico City in 1921. This convention was called to promote a better understanding between the workers of America, Mexico and Central America. Gompers attended as did a number of the American leaders.
I spoke to the convention. I told them that a convention such as this Pan-American Convention of labor was the beginning of a new day, a day when the workers of the world would know no other boundaries other than those between the exploiter and the exploited. Soviet Russia, I said, had dared to challenge the old order, had handed the earth over to those who toiled upon it, and the capitalists of the world were quaking in their scab-made shoes. I told them of the national farce of prohibition in America.
"Prohibition came," said I, "through a combination of business men who wanted to get more out of their workers, together with a lot of preachers and a group of damn cats who threw fits when they saw a workingman buy a bottle of beer but saw no reason to bristle when they and their women and little children suffered under the curse of low wages and crushing hours of toil.
"Prohibition," said I, "has taken away the workingman's beer, has closed the saloon which was his only club. The rich guzzle as they ever did. Prohibition is not for them. They have their clubs which are sacred and immune from interference. The only club the workingman bas is the policeman's. He has that when he strikes."
I visited the coal mines of Coalhulia and saw that the life of the miner is the sa~ where-ever coal is dug and capital flies its black flag. As I look back over the long, long years, I see that in all movements for the bettering of men's lives, it is the pioneers who bear most of the suffering. When these movements be-come established, when they become popular, others reap the benefits. Thus it has been with the labor movement.
The early days of the labor movement produced great men. They differed greatly from the modern labor leader. These early leaders sought no publicity, they were single minded, not interested in their own glory nor their own financial advancement. They did not serve Labor for pay. They made great sacrifices that the future might be a bit brighter for their fellow workers.
I remember John Siney, a miner. Holloran, a miner. James, a miner. Robert Watchorn, the first and most able secretary that the miners of this country ever had. These men gave their lives that others might live. They died in want.
Dick. Williams, McLaughlan, Travlick, Roy, Stevens, Wright, Powderly, Martin Irons, Davis, Richards, Grifl~th, Thomas and Morgan were pioneers worthy of our memory.
Powderly had to get up a subscription to defray the expenses of Griffith's funeral. Many of these pioneers died without even the gratitude of those whom they served. Their monuments are the good they did.
Many of our modern leaders of labor have wandered far from the thorny path of these early crusaders. Never in the early days of the labor struggle would you find leaders willing and dining with the aristocracy; nor did their wives strut about like diamond-bedecked peacocks; nor were they attended by humillated, cringing colored servants.
The wives of these early leaders took in washing to make ends meet. Their children picked and sold berries. The women shared the heroism, the privation of their husbands.
In those days labor's representatives did not sit on velvet chairs in conference with labor's oppressors; they did not dine in fashionable hotels with the representatives of the top capitalists, such as the Civic Federation. They did not ride in Pullmans nor make trips to Europe.
The rank and file have let their servants become their masters and dictators. The workers have now to fight not alone their exploiters but likewise their own leaders, who often betray them, who sell them out, who put their own advancement ahead of that of the working masses, who make of the rank and file political pawns.
Provision should be made in all union constitutions for the recall of leaders. Big salaries should not be paid. Career hunters should be driven out, as well as leaders who use labor for political ends. These types are menaces to the advancement of labor.
In big strikes I have known, the men lay in prison while the leaders got out on bail and drew high salaries all the time. The leaders did not suffer. They never missed a meal. Some men make a profession out of labor and get rich thereby. John Mitchell left to his heirs a fortune, and his political friends are using the labor movement to gather funds to erect a monument to his memory, to a name that should be forgotten.
In spite of oppressors, in spite of false leaders, in spite of labor's own lack of understanding of its needs, the cause of the worker continues onward. Slowly his hours are shortened, giving him leisure to read and to think. Slowly his standard of living rises to include some of the good and beautiful things of the world. Slowly the cause of his children becomes the cause of all. His boy is taken from the breaker, his girl from the mill. Slowly those who create the wealth of the world are permitted to share it. The future is in labor's strong, rough hands.