I was born in the city of Cork, Ireland, in 1830. My people were poor. For generations they had fought for Ireland's freedom. Many of my folks have died in that struggle. My father, Richard Harris, came to America in 1835, and as soon as he had become an American citizen he sent for his family. His work as a laborer with railway construction crews took him to Toronto, Canada. Here I was brought up but always as the child of an American citizen. Of that citizenship I have ever been proud.
After finishing the common schools, I attended the Normal school with the intention of becoming a teacher. Dressmaking too, I learned proficiently. My first position was teaching in a convent in Monroe, Michigan. Later, I came to Chicago and opened a dress-making establishment. I preferred sewing to bossing little children. However, I went back to teaching again, this time in Memphis, Tennessee. Here I was married in 1861. My husband was an iron moulder and a member of the Iron Moulders' Union.
In 1867, a fever epidemic swept Memphis. Its victims were mainly among the poor and the workers. The rich and the well-to-do fled the city. Schools and churches were closed. People were not permitted to enter the house of a yellow fever victim without permits. The poor could not afford nurses. Across the street from me, ten persons lay dead from the plague. The dead surrounded us. They were buried at night quickly and without ceremony. All about my house I could hear weeping and the cries of delirium. One by one, my four little children sickened and died. I washed their little bodies and got them ready for burial. My husband caught the fever and died. I sat alone through nights of grief. No one came to me. No one could. Other homes were as stricken as was mine. All day long, all night long, I heard the grating of the wheels of the death cart.
After the union had buried my husband, I got a permit to nurse the sufferers. This I did until the plague was stamped out.
I returned to Chicago and went again into the dressmaking business with a partner. We were located on Washington Street near the lake. We worked for the aristocrats of Chicago, and I had ample opportunity to observe the luxury and extravagance of their lives. Often while sewing for the lords and barons who lived in magnificence on the Lake Shore Drive, I would look out of the plate glass windows and see the poor, shivering wretches, ,jobless and hungry, walking along the frozen lake front. The contrast of their condition with that of the tropical comfort of the people for whom I sewed was painful to me. My employers seemed neither to notice nor to care.
Summers, too, from the windows of the rich, I used to watch the mothers come from the west side slums, lugging babies and little children, hoping for a breath of cool, fresh air from the lake. At night, when the tenements were stifling hot, men, women and little children slept in the parks. But the rich, having donated to the ice fund, had, by the time it was hot in the city, gone to seaside and mountains.
In October, 1871, the great Chicago fire burned up our establishment and everything that we had. The fire made thousands homeless. We stayed all night and the next day without food on the lake front, often going into the lake to keep cool. Old St. Mary's church at Wabash Avenue and Peck Court was thrown open to the refugees and there I camped until I could find a place to go.
Near by in an old, tumbled down, fire scorched building the Knights of Labor held meetings. The Knights of Labor was the labor organization of those days. I used to spend my evenings at their meetings, listening to splendid speakers. Sundays we went out into the woods and held meetings.
Those were the days of sacrifice for the cause of labor. Those were the days when we had no halls, when there were no high salaried officers, no feasting with the enemies of labor. Those were the days of the martyrs and the saints. I became acquainted with the labor movement. I learned that in 1865, after the close of the Civil War, a group of men met in Louisville, Kentucky. They came from the North and from the South; they were the "blues" and the "greys" who a year or two before had been fighting each other over the question of chattel slavery. They decided that the time had come to formulate a program to fight another brutal form of slavery-industrial slavery. Out of this decision had come the Knights of Labor.
From the time of the Chicago fire I became more and more engrossed in the labor struggle and I decided to take an active part in the efforts of the working people to better the conditions under which they worked and lived. I became a member of the Knights of Labor.
One of the first strikes that I remember occurred in the Seventies. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad employees went on strike and they sent for me to come help them. I went. The mayor of Pittsburgh swore in as deputy sheriffs a lawless, reckless bunch of fellows who had drifted into that city during the panic of 1873. They pillaged and burned and rioted and looted. Their acts were charged up to the striking workingmen. The governor sent the militia.
The Railroads had succeeded in getting a law passed that in case of a strike, the train-crew should bring in the locomotive to the round-house before striking. This law the strikers faithfully obeyed. Scores of locomotives were housed in Pittsburgh.
One night a riot occurred. Hundreds of box cars standing on the tracks were soaked with oil and set on fire and sent down the tracks to the roundhouse. The roundhouse caught fire. Over one hundred locomotives, belonging to the Pennsylvania Railroad Company were destroyed. It was a wild night. The flames lighted the sky and turned to fiery flames the steel bayonets of the soldiers.
The strikers were charged with the crimes of arson and rioting, although it was common knowledge that it was not they who instigated the fire; that it was started by hoodlums backed by the business men of Pittsburgh who for a long time had felt that the Railroad Company discriminated against their city in the matter of rates.
I knew the strikers personally. I knew that it was they who had tried to enforce orderly law. I knew they disciplined their members when they did violence. I knew, as everybody knew, who really perpetrated the crime of burning the railroad's property. Then and there I learned in the early part of my career that labor must bear the cross for others' sins, must be the vicarious sufferer for the wrongs that others do.
These early years saw the beginning of America's industrial life. Hand and hand with the growth of factories and the expansion of railroads, with the accumulation of capital and the rise of banks, came anti-labor legislation. Came strikes. Came violence. Came the belief in the hearts and minds of the workers that legislatures but carry out the will of the industrialists.
From 1880 on, I became wholly engrossed in the labor movement. In all the great industrial centers the working class was in rebellion. The enormous immigration from Europe crowded the slums, forced down wages and threatened to destroy the standard of living fought for by American working men. Throughout the country there was business depression and much unemployment. In the cities there was hunger and rags and despair. Foreign agitators who had suffered under European despots preached various schemes of economic salvation to the workers. The workers asked only for bread and a shortening of the long hours of toil. The agitators gave them visions. The police gave them clubs.
Particularly the city of Chicago was the scene of strike after strike, followed by boycotts and riots. The years preceding 1886 had witnessed strikes of the lake seamen, of dock laborers and street railway workers. These strikes had been brutally suppressed by policemen's clubs and by hired gunmen. The grievance on the part of the workers was given no heed. John Bonfield, inspector of police, was particularly cruel in the suppression of meetings where men peacefully assembled to discuss matters of wages and of hours. Employers were defiant and open in the expression of their fears and hatreds. The Chicago Tribune, the organ of the employers, suggested ironically that the farmers of Illinois treat the tramps that poured out of the great industrial centers as they did other pests, by putting strychnine in the food.
The workers started an agitation for an eight-hour day. The trades unions and the Knights of Labor endorsed the movement but because many of the leaders of the agitation were foreigners, the movement itself was regarded as "foreign" and as "un-American." Then the anarchists of Chicago, a very small group, espoused the cause of the eight-hour day. From then on the people of Chicago seemed incapable of discussing a purely economic question without getting excited about anarchism.
The employers used the cry of anarchism to kill the movement. A person who believed in an eight-hour working day was, they said, an enemy to his country, a traitor, an anarchist. The foundations of government were being gnawed away by the anarchist rats. Feeling was bitter. The city was divided into two angry camps. The working people on one side hungry, cold, jobless, fighting gunmen and police clubs with bare hands. On the other side the employers, knowing neither hunger nor cold, supported by the newspapers, by the police, by all the power of the great state itself.
The anarchists took advantage of the widespread discontent to preach their doctrines. Orators used to address huge crowds on the windy, barren shore of Lake Michigan. Although I never endorsed the philosophy of anarchism, I often attended the meetings on the lake shore, listening to what these teachers of a new order had to say to the workers.
Meanwhile Vile employers were meeting. They met in the mansion of George M. Pullman on Prairie Avenue or in the residence of Wirt Dexter, an able corporation lawyer. They discussed means of killing the eight-hour movement which was to be ushered in by a general strike. They discussed methods of dispersing the meetings of the anarchists.
A bitterly cold winter set in. Long unemployment resulted in terrible suffering. Bread lines increased. Soup kitchens could not handle the applicants. Thousands knew actual misery.
On Christmas day, hundreds of poverty stricken people in rags and tatters, in thin clothes, in wretched shoes paraded on fashionable Prairie Avenue before the mansions of the rich, before their employers, carrying the black flag. I thought the parade an insane move on the part of the anarchists, as it only served to make feeling more bitter. As a matter of fact, it had no educational value whatever and only served to increase the employers' fear, to make the police more savage, and the public less sympathetic to the real distress of the workers
The first of May, which was to usher in the eight-hour day uprising, came. The newspapers had done everything to alarm the people. All over the city there were strikes and walkouts. employers quaked in their boots. They saw revolution. The workers in the McCormick Harvester Works gathered outside the factory. Those inside who did not join the strikers were called scabs. Bricks were thrown. Windows were broken. The scabs were threatened. Some one turned in a riot call.
The police without warning charged down upon the workers, shooting into their midst, clubbing right and left. Many were trampled under horses' feet. Numbers were shot dead. Skulls were broken. Young men and young girls were clubbed to death.
The Pinkerton agency formed armed bands of ex-convicts and hoodlums and hired them to capitalists at eight dollars a day, to picket the factories and incite trouble.
On the evening of May 4th, the anarchists held a meeting in the shabby, dirty district known to later history as Haymarket Square. All about were railway tracks, dingy saloons and the dirty tenements of the poor. A half a block away was the Desplaines Street Police Station presided over by John Bonfield, a man without tact or discretion or sympathy, a most brutal believer in suppression as the method to settle industrial unrest.
Carter Harrison, the mayor of Chicago, attended the meeting of the anarchists and moved in and about the crowds in the square. After leaving, he went to the Chief of Police and instructed him to send no mounted police to the meeting, as it was being peacefully conducted and the presence of mounted police would only add fuel to fires already burning red in the workers' hearts. But orders perhaps came from other quarters, for disregarding the report of the mayor, the chief of police sent mounted policemen in large numbers to the meeting.
One of the anarchist speakers was addressing the crowd. A bomb was dropped from a window overlooking the square. A number of the police were killed in the explosion that followed.
The city went insane and the newspapers did everything to keep it like a madhouse. The workers' cry for justice was drowned in the shriek for revenge. Bombs were "found" every five minutes. Men went armed and gun stores kept open nights. Hundreds were arrested. Only those who had agitated for an eight-hour day, however, were brought to trial and a few months later hanged. But the man, Schnaubelt, who actually threw the bomb was never brought into the case, nor was his part in the terrible drama ever officially made clear.
The leaders in the eight hour day movement were hanged Friday, November the 11th. That day Chicago's rich had chills and fever. Rope stretched in all directions from the jail. Police men were stationed along the ropes armed with riot rifles. Special patrols watched all approaches to the jail. The roofs about the grim stone building were black with police. The newspapers fed the public imagination with stories of uprisings and jail deliveries.
But there were no uprisings, no jail deliveries, except that of Louis Lingg, the only real preacher of violence among all the condemned men. He outwitted the gallows by biting a percussion cap and blowing off his head.
The Sunday following the executions, the funerals were held. Thousands of workers marched behind the black hearses, not because they were anarchists but they felt that these men, whatever their theories, were martyrs to the workers' struggle. The procession wound through miles and miles of streets densely packed with silent people.
In the cemetery of Waldheim, the dead were buried. But with them was not buried their cause. The struggle for the eight hour day, for more human conditions and relations between man and man lived on, and still lives on.
Seven years later, Governor Altgeld, after reading all the evidence in the case, pardoned the three anarchists who had escaped the gallows and were serving life sentences in jail. He said the verdict was unjustifiable, as had William Dean Howells and William Morris at the time of its execution. Governor Altgeld committed political suicide by his brave action but he is remembered by all those who love truth and those who have the courage to confess it.
It was about 1891 when I was down in Virginia. There was a strike in the Dietz mines and the boys had sent for me. When I got off the train at Norton a fellow walked up to me and asked me if I were Mother Jones.
"Yes, I am Mother Jones."
He looked terribly frightened. "The superintendent told me that if you came down here he would blow out your brains. He said he didn't want to see you 'round these parts."
"You tell the superintendent that I am not coming to see him anyway. I am coming to see the miners."
As we stood talking a poor fellow, all skin and bones, joined us.
"Do you see those cars over there, Mother on the siding?" He pointed to cars filled with coal.
"Well, we made a contract with the coal company to fill those cars for so much, and after we had made the contract, they put lower bottoms in the cars, so that they would hold another ton or so. I have worked for this company all my life and all I have now is this old worn-out frame." We couldn't get a hall to hold a meeting. Every one was afraid to rent to us. Finally the colored people consented to give us their church for our meeting. Just as we were about to start the colored chairman came to me and said: "Mother, the coal company gave us this ground that the church is on. They have sent word that they will take it from us if we let you speak here."
I would not let those poor souls lose their ground so I adjourned the meeting to the four corners of the public roads. When the meeting was over and the people had dispersed, I asked my co-worker, Dud Hado, a fellow from Iowa, if he would go with me up to the post office. He was a kindly soul but easily frightened.
As we were going along the road, I said, "Have you got a pistol on you?"
"Yes," said he, "I'm not going to let any one blow your brains out."
"My boy," said I, it is against the law in this county to carry concealed weapons. I want you to take that pistol out and expose a couple of inches of it."
As he did so about eight or ten gunmen jumped out from behind an old barn beside the road, jumped on him and said, "Now we've got you, you dirty organizer. They bullied us along the road to the town and we were taken to an office where they had a notary public and we were tried. All those blood-thirsty murderers were there and the general manager came in.
"Mother Jones, I am astonished," said he. "What is your astonishment about!" said I. "That you should go into the house of God with anyone who carries a gun."
"Oh that wasn't God's house," said I. "That is the coal company's house. Don't you know that God Almighty never comes around to a place like this!"
He laughed and of course, the dogs laughed, for he was the general manager.
They dismissed any charges against me and they fined poor Dud twenty-five dollars and costs. They seemed surprised when I said I would pay it. I had the money in my petticoat.
I went over to a miner's shack and asked his wife for a cup of tea. Often in these company-owned towns the inn-keepers were afraid to let me have food. The poor soul was so happy to have me there that she excused herself to "dress for company." She came out of the bedroom with a white apron on over her cheap cotton wrapper.
One of the men who was present at Dud's trial followed me up to the miner's house. At first the miner's wife would not admit him but he said he wanted to speak privately to Mother Jones. So she let him in.
"Mother," he said, "I am glad you paid that bill so quickly. They thought you'd appeal the case. Then they were going to lock you both up and burn you in the coke ovens' at night and then say that you had both been turned loose in the morning and they didn't know where you had gone."
Whether they really would have carried out their plans I do not know. But I do know that there are no limits to which powers of privilege will not go to keep the workers in slavery.
In 1893, J. A. Wayland with a number of others decided to demonstrate to the workers the advantage of co-operation over competition. A group of people bought land in Tennessee and founded the Ruskin Colony. They invited me to join them.
"No," said I, "your colony will not succeed. You have to have religion to make a colony successful, and labor is not yet a religion with labor."
I visited the colony a year later. I could see in that short time disrupting elements in the colony. I was glad I had not joined the colony but had stayed out in the thick of the fight. Labor has a lot of fighting to do before it can demonstrate. Two years later Wayland left for Kansas City. He was despondent.
A group of us got together; Wayland, myself, and three men, known as the "Three P's" -Putnam, a freight agent for the Burlington Railway; Palmer, a clerk in the Post Office; Page, an advertising agent for a department store. We decided that the workers needed education. That they must have a paper devoted to their interests and stating their point of view. We urged Wayland to start such a paper. Palmer suggested the name, "Appeal to Reason."
"But we have no subscribers," said Wayland.
"I'll get them," said I. "Get out your first edition and I'll see that it has subscribers enough to pay for it."
He got out a limited first edition and with it as a sample I went to the Federal Barracks at Omaha and secured a subscription from almost every lad there. Soldiers are the sons of working people and need to know it. I went down to the City Hall and got a lot of subscriptions. In a short time I had gathered several hundred subscriptions and the paper was launched. It did a wonderful service under Wayland. Later Fred G. Warren came to Girard where the paper was published, as editorial writer. If any place in America could be called my home, his home was mine. Whenever, after a long, dangerous fight, I was weary and felt the need of rest, I went to the home of Fred Warren.
Like all other things, "The Appeal to Reason" had its youth of vigor, its later days of profound wisdom, and then it passed away. Disrupting influences, quarrels, divergent points of view, theories, finally caused it to go out of business.
Before 1899 the coal fields of Pennsylvania were not organized. Immigrants poured into the country and they worked cheap. There was always a surplus of immigrant labor, solicited in Europe by the coal companies, so as to keep wages down to barest living. Hours of work down under ground were cruelly long. Fourteen hours a day was not uncommon, thirteen, twelve. The life or limb of the miner was unprotected by any laws. Families lived in company owned shacks that were not fit for their pigs. Children died by the hundreds due to the ignorance and poverty of their parents. Often I have helped lay out for burial the babies of the miners, and the mothers could scarce conceal their relief at the little ones' deaths. Another was already on its way, destined, if a boy, for the breakers; if a girl, for the silk mills where the other brothers and sisters already worked.
The United Mine Workers decided to organize these fields and work for human conditions for human beings. Organizers were put to work. Whenever the spirit of the men in the mines grew strong enough a strike was called.
In Arnot, Pennsylvania, a strike had been going on four or five months. The men were becoming discouraged. The coal company sent the doctors, the school teachers, the preachers and their wives to the homes of the miners to get them to sign a document that they would go back to work.
The president of the district, Mr. Wilson, and an organizer, Tom Haggerty, got despondent. The signatures were overwhelmingly in favor of returning on Monday.
Haggerty suggested that they send for me. Saturday morning they telephoned to Barnesboro, where I was organizing, for me to come at once or they would lose the strike.
"Oh Mother," Haggerty said, "Come over quick and help us! The boys are that despondent! They are going back Monday."
I told him that I was holding a meeting that night but that I would leave early Sunday morning.
I started at daybreak. At Roaring Branch, the nearest train connection with Arnot, the secretary of the Arnot Union, a young boy, William Bouncer, met me with a horse and buggy. We drove sixteen miles over rough mountain roads. It was biting cold. We got into Arnot Sunday noon and I was placed in the coal company's hotel, the only hotel in town. I made some objections but Bouncer said, "Mother, we have engaged this room for you and if it is not occupied, they will never rent us another."
Sunday afternoon I held a meeting. It was not as large a gathering as those we had later but I stirred up the poor wretches that did come.
"You've got to take the pledge," I said. "Rise and pledge to stick to your brothers and the union till the strike's won!"
The men shuffled their feet but the women rose, their babies in their arms, and pledged themselves to see that no one went to work in the morning.
"The meeting stands adjourned till ten o'clock tomorrow morning," I said." Everyone come and see that the slaves that think to go back to their masters come along with you."
I returned to my room at the hotel. I wasn't called down to supper but after the general manager of the mines and all of the other guests had gone to church, the housekeeper stole up to my room and asked me to come down and get a cup of tea.
At eleven o'clock that night the housekeeper again knocked at my door and told me that I had to give up my room; that she was told it belonged to a teacher. "It's a shame, mother," she whispered, as she helped me into my coat.
I found little Bouncer sitting on guard down in the lobby. He took me up the mountain to a miner's house. A cold wind almost blew the bonnet from my head. At the miner's shack I knocked.
A man's voice shouted, "Who is there!"
"Mother Jones," said I.
A light came in the tiny window. The door opened.
"And did they put you out, Mother!"
"They did that."
"I told Mary they might do that," said the miner. He held the oil lamp with the thumb and his little finger and I could see that the others were off. His face was young but his body was bent over.
He insisted on my sleeping in the only bed, with his wife. He slept with his head on his arms on the kitchen table. Early in the morning his wife rose to keep the children quiet, so that I might sleep a little later as I was very tired.
At eight o'clock she came into my room, crying.
"Mother, are you awake!"
"Yes, I am awake."
"Well, you must get up. The sheriff is here to put us out for keeping you. This house belongs to the Company."
The family gathered up all their earthly belongings, which weren't much, took down all the holy pictures, and put them in a wagon, and they with all their neighbors went to the meeting. The sight of that wagon with the sticks of furniture and the holy pictures and the children, with the father and mother and myself walking along through the streets turned the tide. It made the men so angry that they decided not to go back that morning to the mines. Instead they came to the meeting where they determined not to give up the strike until they had won the victory.
Then the company tried to bring in scabs. I told the men to stay home with the children for a change and let the women attend to the scabs. I organized an army of women housekeepers. On a given day they were to bring their mops and brooms and "the army" would charge the scabs up at the mines. The general manager, the sheriff and the corporation hirelings heard of our plans and were on hand. The day came and the women came with the mops and brooms and pails of water.
I decided not to go up to the Drip Mouth myself, for I knew they would arrest me and that might rout the army. I selected as leader an Irish woman who had a most picturesque appearance. She had slept late and her husband had told her to hurry up and get into the army. She had grabbed a red petticoat and slipped it over a thick cotton night gown. She wore a black stocking and a white one. She had tied a little red fringed shawl over her wild red hair. Her face was red and her eyes were mad. I looked at her and felt that she could raise a rumpus.
I said, "You lead the army up to the Drip Mouth. Take that tin dishpan you have with you and your hammer, and when the scabs and the mules come up, begin to hammer and howl. Then all of you hammer and howl and be ready to chase the scabs with your mops and brooms. Don't be afraid of anyone."
Up the mountain side, yelling and hollering, she led the women, and when the mules came up with the scabs and the coal, she began beating on the dishpan and hollering and all the army joined in with her. The sheriff tapped her on the shoulder.
"My dear lady," said he, "remember the mules. Don't frighten them."
She took the old tin pan and she hit him with it and she hollered, "To hell with you and the mules!"
He fell over and dropped into the creek. Then the mules began to rebel against scabbing. They bucked and kicked the scab drivers and started off for the barn. The scabs started running down hill, followed by the army of women with their mops and pails and brooms.
A poll parrot in a near by shack screamed at the superintendent, "Got hell, did you! Got hell!"
There was a great big doctor in the crowd, a company lap dog. He had a little satchel in his hand and he said to me, impudent like, "Mrs. Jones, I have a warrant for you."
"All right," said I. "Keep it in your pill bag until I come for it. I am going to hold a meeting now."
From that day on the women kept continual watch of the mines to see that the company did not bring in scabs. Every day women with brooms or mops in one hand and babies in the other arm wrapped in little blankets, went to the mines and watched that no one went in. And all night long they kept watch. They were heroic women. In the long years to come the nation will pay them high tribute for they were fighting for the advancement of a great country.
I held meetings throughout the surrounding country. The company was spending money among the farmers, urging them not to do anything for the miners. I went out with an old wagon and a union mule that had gone on strike, and a miner's little boy for a driver. I held meetings among the farmers and won them to the side of the strikers.
Sometimes it was twelve or one o'clock in the morning when I would get home, the little boy asleep on my arm and I driving the mule. Sometimes it was several degrees below zero. The winds whistled down the mountains and drove the snow and sleet in our faces. My hands and feet were often numb. We were all living on dry bread and black coffee. I slept in a room that never had a fire in it, and I often woke up in the morning to find snow covering the outside covers of the bed.
There was a place near Arnot called Sweedy Town, and the company's agents went there to get the Swedes to break the strike. I was holding a meeting among the farmers when I heard of the company S efforts. I got the young farmers to get on their horses and go over to Sweedy Town and see that no Swede left town.
They took clotheslines for lassos and any Swede seen moving in the direction of Arnot was brought back quick enough.
After months of terrible hardships the strike was about won. The mines were not working. The spirit of the men was splendid. President Wilson had come home from the western part of the state. I was staying at his home. The family had gone to bed. We sat up late talking over matters when there came a knock at the door. A very cautious knock.
"Come in," said Mr. Wilson.
Three men entered. They looked at me uneasily and Mr. Wilson asked me to step in an adjoining room. They talked the strike over and called President Wilson's attention to the fact that there were mortgages on his little home, held by the bank which was owned by the coal company, and they said, "We will take the mortgage off your home and give you $25,000 in cash if you will just leave and let the strike die out."
I shall never forget his reply:
"Gentlemen, if you come to visit my family, the hospitality of the whole house is yours. But if you come to bribe me with dollars to betray my manhood and my brothers who trust me, I want you to leave this door and never come here again."
The strike lasted a few weeks longer. Meantime President Wilson, when strikers were evicted, cleaned out his barn and took care of the evicted miners until homes could be provided. One by one he killed his chickens and his hogs. Everything that he had he shared. He ate dry bread and drank chicory. He knew every hardship that the rank and file of the organization knew. We do not have such leaders now.
The last of February the company put up a notice that all demands were conceded. "Did you get the use of the hall for us to hold meetings?" said the women.
"No, we didn't ask for that."
"Then the strike is on again," said they.
They got the hall, and when the President, Mr. Wilson, returned from the convention in Cincinnati he shed tears of joy and gratitude.
I was going to leave for the central fields, and before I left, the union held a victory meeting in Bloomsburg. The women came for miles in a raging snow storm for that meeting, little children trailing on their skirts, and babies under their shawls. Many of the miners had walked miles. It was one night of real joy and a great celebration. I bade them all good night. A little boy called out, "Don't leave us, Mother. Don't leave us!" The dear little children kissed my hands. We spent the whole night in Bloomsburg rejoicing. The men opened a few of the freight cars out on a siding and helped themselves to boxes of beer. Old and young talked and sang all night long and to the credit of the company no one was interfered with.
Those were the days before the extensive use of gun men, of military, of jails, of police clubs. There had been no bloodshed. There had been no riots. And the victory was due to the army of women with their mops and brooms.
A year afterward they celebrated the anniversary of the victory. They presented me with a gold watch but I declined to accept it, for I felt it was the price of the bread of the little children. I have not been in Arnot since but in my travels over the country I often meet the men and boys who carried through the strike so heroically.
One night I went with an organizer named Scott to a mining town in the Fairmont district where the miners had asked me to hold a meeting. When we got off the car I asked Scott where I was to speak and he pointed to a frame building. We walked in. There were lighted candles on an altar. I looked around in the dim light. We were in a church and the benches were filled with miners.
Outside the railing of the altar was a table. At one end sat the priest with the money of the union in his hands. The president of the local union sat at the other end of the table. I marched down the aisle.
"What's going on?" I asked.
"Holding a meeting," said the president.
"For the union, Mother. We rented the church for our meetings."
I reached over and took the money from priest. Then I turned to the miners.
"Boys," I said, "this is a praying institution. You should not commercialize it. Get up every one of you and go out in the open fields."
They got up and went out and sat around a field while I spoke to them. The sheriff was there and he did not allow any traffic to go along the road while I was speaking. In front of us was a schoolhouse. I pointed to it and I said, "Your ancestors fought for you to have a share in that institution over there. It's yours. See the school board, and every Friday night hold your meetings there. Have your wives clean it up Saturday morning for the children to enter Monday. Your organization is not a praying institution. It's a fighting institution. It's an educational institution along industrial lines. Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living!"
Tom Haggerty was in charge of the Fairmont field. One Sunday morning, the striking miners of Clarksburg started on a march to Mononglia get out the miners in the camps along the way. We camped in the open fields and held meetings on the road sides and in barns, preaching the gospel of unionism. The Consolidated Coal Company that owns the little town of New England forbade the distribution of the notices of our meeting and arrested any one found with a notice. But we got the news around. Several of our men went into the camp. They went in twos. One pretended he was deaf and the other kept hollering in his ear as they walked around, "Mother Jones is going to have a meeting Sunday afternoon outside the town on the sawdust pile." Then the deaf fellow would ask him what he said and he would holler to him again. So the word got around the entire camp and we had a big crowd. When the meeting adjourned, three miners and myself set out for Fairmont City. The miners, Jo Battley, Charlie Blakelet and Barney Rice walked but they got a little boy with a horse and buggy to drive me over. I was to wait for the boys just outside the town, across the bridge, just where the interurban car comes along. The little lad and I drove along. It was dark when we came in sight of the bridge which I had to cross. A dark building stood beside the bridge. It was the Coal Company's store. It was guarded by gunmen. There was no light on the bridge and there was none in the store. A gunman stopped us. I could not see his face. "who are you!" said he. "Mother Jones," said I, "and a miner's lad." "So that's you, Mother Jones," said he rattling his gun. "Yes, it's me I said, " and be sure you take care of the store tonight. Tomorrow I'll have to be hunting a new job for you." I got out of the buggy where the road joins the Interurban tracks, just across the bridge. I sent the lad home. "When you pass my boys on the road tell them to hurry up. Tell them I'm waiting just across the bridge." There wasn't a house in sight. The only people near were the gunmen whose dark figures I could now and then see moving on the bridge. It grew very dark. I sat on the ground, waiting. I took out my watch, lighted a match and saw that it was about time for the interurban. Suddenly the sound of "Murder! Murder! Police! Help!" rang out through the darkness. Then the sound of running and Barney Rice came screaming across the bridge toward me. Blakley followed, running so fast his heels hit the back of his head. "Murder! Murder!" he was yelling. I rushed toward them. "Where's Jo?" I asked. "They're killing Jo-on the bridge --the gunmen." At that moment the Interurban car came in sight. It would stop at the bridge. I thought of a scheme. I ran onto the bridge, shouting, "Jo! Jo! The boys are coming. They're coming! The whole bunch's coming. The car's most here!" Those bloodhounds for the coal company thought an army of miners was in the Interurban car. They ran for cover, barricading themselves in the company's store. They left Jo on the bridge, his head broken and the blood pouring from him. I tore my petticoat into strips, bandaged his head, helped the boys to get him on to the Interurban car, and hurried the car into Fairmont City. We took him to the hotel and sent for a doctor who sewed up the great, open cuts in his head. I sat up all night and nursed the poor fellow. He was out of his head and thought I was his mother. The next night Tom Haggerty and I addressed the union meeting, telling them just what had happened. The men wanted to go clean up the gunmen but I told them that would only make more trouble. The meeting adjourned in a body to go see Jo. They went to his room, six or eight of them at a time, Until they had all seen him.
We tried to get a warrant out for the arrest of the gunmen but we couldn't because the coal company controlled the judges and the courts. Jo was not the only man who was beaten by the gunmen. There were many and the brutalities of these bloodhounds would fill volumes. In Clarksburg, men were threatened with death if they even billed meetings for me. but the railway men billed a meeting in the dead of night and I went in there alone. The meeting was in the court house. The place was packed. The mayor and all the city officials were there. "Mr. Mayor," I said, "will you kindly chairman for a fellow American citizen?" He shook his head. No one would accept my offer. "Then," said I, "as chairman of the evening, I introduce myself, the speaker of the evening, Mother Jones."
The Fairmont field was finally organized to a man. The scabs and the gunmen were driven out. Subsequently, through inefficient organizers, through the treachery of the unions' own officials, the unions lost strength. The miners of the Fairmont field were finally betrayed by the very men who were employed to protect their interests. Charlie Battley tried to retrieve the losses but officers had become corrupt and men so discouraged that he could do nothing.
It makes me sad indeed to think that the sacrifices men and women made to get out from under the iron heel of the gunmen were so often in vain! That the victories gained are so often destroyed by the treachery of the workers' own officials, men who themselves knew the bitterness and cost of the struggle.
I am old now and I never expect to see the boys in the Fairmont field again, but I like to think that I have had a share in changing conditions for them and for their children.
The United Mine Workers had tried to organize Kelly Creek on the Kanawah River but without results. Mr. Burke and Tom Lewis, members of the board of the United Mine Workers, decided to go look the field over for themselves. They took the train one night for Kelly Creek. The train came to a high trestle over a steep canyon. Under some pretext all the passengers except the two union officials were transferred to another coach, the coach uncoupled and pulled across the trestle. The officials were on the trestle in the stalled car. They had to crawl on their hands and knees along the track. Pitch blackness was below them. The trestle was a one-way track. Just as they got to end of the trestle, a train thundered by.
When I heard of the coal company's efforts to kill the union officers, I decided myself to go to Kelly Creek and rouse those slaves. I took a nineteen-year-old boy, Ben Davis, with me. We walked on the east bank of the Kanawah River on which Kelly Creek is situated. Before daylight one morning, at a point opposite Kelly Creek, we forded the river. It was just dawn when I knocked at the door of a store run by a man by the name of Marshall. I told him what I had come for. He was friendly. He took me in a little back room where he gave me breakfast. He said if anyone saw him giving food to Mother Jones he would lose his store privilege. He told me how to get my bills announcing my meeting into the mines by noon. But all the time he was frightened and kept looking out the little window.
Late that night a group of miners gathered about a mile from town between the boulders. We could not see one another's faces in the darkness. By the light of an old lantern I gave them the pledge.
The next day, forty men were discharged, blacklisted. There had been spies among the men the night before. The following night we organized another group and they were all discharged. This started the fight. Mr. Marshall, the grocery man, got courageous. He rented me his store and I began holding meetings there. The general manager for the mines came over from Columbus and he held a meeting, too.
"Shame," he said, "to be led away by an old woman!"
"Hurrah for Mother Jones!" shouted the miners.
The following Sunday I held a meeting in the woods. The general manager, Mr. Jack Rowen, came down from Columbus on his special car. I organized a parade of the men that Sunday. We had every miner with us. We stood in front of the company's hotel and yelled for the general manager to come out. He did not appear. Two of the company's lap dogs were on the porch. One of them said, "I'd like to hang that old woman to a tree."
"Yes," said the other, "and I'd like to pull the rope."
On we marched to our meeting place under the trees. Over a thousand people came and the two lap dogs came sniveling along too. I stood up to speak and I put my back to a big tree and pointing to the curs, I said, "You said that you would like to hang this old woman to a tree. Well, here's the old woman and here's the tree. Bring along your rope and hang her!"
And so the union was organized in Kelly Creek. I do not know whether the men have held the gains they wrested from the company. Taking men into the union is just the kindergarten of their education and every force is against their further education. Men who live up those lonely creeks have only the mine owners' Y.M.C.As, the mine owners' preachers and teachers, the mine owners' doctors and newspapers to look to for their ideas. So they don't get many.
In June of 1902 I was holding a meeting of the bituminous miners of Clarksburg, West Virginia. I was talking on the strike question, for what else among miners should one be talking of? Nine organizers sat under a tree near by. A United States marshal notified them to tell me that I was under arrest. One of them came up to the platform.
"Mother," said he, "you're under arrest. They've got an injunction against your speaking."
I looked over at the United States marshal and I said, "I will be right with you. Wait till I run down." I went on speaking till I had finished. Then I said, "Goodbye, boys; I'm under arrest. I may have to go to jail. I may not see you for a long time. Keep up this fight! Don't surrender! Pay no attention to the injunction machine at Parkersburg. The Federal judge is a scab anyhow. While you starve he plays golf. While you serve humanity, he serves injunctions for the money powers."
That night several of the organizers and myself were taken to Parkersburg, a distance of eighty-four miles. Five deputy marshals went with the men, and a nephew of the United States marshal, a nice lad, took charge of me. On the train I got the lad very sympathetic to the cause of the miners. When we got off the train, the boys and the five marshals started off in one direction and we in the other.
"My boy," I said to my guard, "look, we a going in the wrong direction."
"No, mother," he said.
"Then they are going in the wrong direction lad."
"No, mother. You are going to a hotel. They are going to jail."
"Lad," said I, stopping where we were, "Am I under arrest!" "You are, mother." "Then l am going to jail with my boys." I turned square around. "Did you ever hear Mother Jones going to a hotel while her boys were in jail!" I quickly followed the boys and went to jail with them. But the jailer and his wife would not put me in a regular cell.
"Mother," they said, "you're our guest."
And they treated me as a member of the family, getting out the best of everything and "plumping me" as they called feeding me. I got a real good rest while I was with them.
We were taken to the Federal court for trial We had violated something they called an junction. Whatever the bosses did not want the miners to do they got out an injunction against doing it. The company put a woman on the stand. She testified that I had told the miners to go into the mines and throw out the scabs. She was a poor skinny woman with scared eyes and she wore her best dress, as if she were in church. I looked at the miserable slave of the coal company and I felt sorry for her: sorry that there was a creature so low who would perjure herself for a handful of coppers.
I was put on the stand and the judge asked me if I gave that advice to the miners, told them to use violence.
"You know, sir," said I, "that it would be suicidal for me to make such a statement in public. I am more careful than that. You've been on the bench forty years, have you not, judge?"
"Yes, I have that," said he.
"And in forty years you learn to discern between a lie and the truth, judge?"
The prosecuting attorney jumped to his feet and shaking his finger at me, he said
"Your honor - there is the most dangerous woman in the Country today. She called your honor a scab. But I will recommend mercy of the court - if she will consent to leave the state and never return."
"I didn't come into the court asking mercy," I said, "but I came here looking for justice. And I will not leave this state so long as there is a single little child that asks me to stay and fight his battle for bread."
The judge said, "Did you call me a scab!"
"I certainly did, judge."
He said, "How came you to call me a scab?"
"When you had me arrested I was only talking about the constitution, speaking to a lot of men about life and liberty and a chance for happiness; to men who had been robbed for years by their masters, who had been made industrial slaves. I was thinking of the immortal Lincoln. And it occurred to me that I had read in the papers that when Lincoln made the appointment of Federal judge to this bench, he did not designate senior or junior. You and your father bore the same initials. Your father was away when the appointment came. You took the appointment. Wasn't that scabbing on your father, judge?"
"I never heard that before," said he.
A chap came tiptoeing up to me and whispered, "Madam, don't say 'judge' or 'sir' to the court. Say 'Your Honor.'"
"Who is the court?" I whispered back.
"His honor, on the bench," he said, looking shocked.
"Are you referring to the old chap behind the justice counter? Well, I can't call him 'your honor' until I know how honorable he is. You know I took an oath to tell the truth when I took the witness stand."
When the court session closed I was told that the judge wished to see me in his chambers. When I entered the room, the judge reached out his hand and took hold of mine, and he said, "I wish to give you proof that I am not a scab; that I didn't scab on my father."
He handed me documents which proved that the reports were wrong and had been circulated by his enemies. "Judge," I said, "I apologize. And I am glad to be tried by so human a judge who resents being called a scab. And who would not want to be one. You probably understand how we working people feel about it."
He did not sentence me, just let me go, but he gave the men who were arrested with me sixty and ninety days in jail.
I was going to leave Parkersburg the next night for Clarksburg. Mr. Murphy, a citizen of Parkersburg, came to express his regrets that I was going away. He said he was glad the judge did not sentence me. I said to him, "If the injunction was violated I was the only one who violated it. The boys did not speak at all. I regret that they had to go to jail for me and that I should go free. But I am not trying to break into jails. It really does not matter much; they are young and strong and have a long time to carry on. I am old and have much yet to do. Only Barney Rice has a bad heart and a frail, nervous wife. When she hears of his imprisonment, she may have a collapse and perhaps leave her little children without a mother's care."
Mr. Murphy said to me, "Mother Jones, I believe that if you went up and explained Rice's condition to the judge he would pardon him." I went to the judge's house. He invited me to dinner.
"No, Judge," I said, "I just came to see you about Barney Rice."
"What about him!" "He has heart disease and a nervous wife."
"Heart disease, has he!"
"Yes, he has it bad and he might die in your jail. I know you don't want that."
"No," replied the judge,"I do not." He called the jailer and asked him to bring Rice to the phone. The judge said, "How is your heart, Barney!"
"Me heart's all right, all right," said Barney. "It's that damn old judge that put me in jail for sixty days that's got something wrong with his heart. I was just trailing around with Mother Jones."
"Nothing wrong with your heart, eh!"
"No, there ain't a damn thing wrong wid me heart! Who are you anyhow that's talking!"
"Never mind, I want to know what is the matter with your heart!"
"Hell, me heart's all right, I'm telling you." The judge turned to me and said, "Do you hear his language!"
I told him I did not hear and he repeated to me Barney's answers. "He swears every other word," said the judge.
"Judge," said I, "that is the way we ignorant working people pray."
"Do you pray that way!"
"Yes, judge, when I want an answer quick."
"But Barney says there is nothing the matter with his heart."
"Judge, that fellow doesn't know the difference between his heart and his liver. I have been out to meetings with him and walking home down the roads or on the railroad tracks, lie has had to sit down to get his breath."
The judge called the jail doctor and told him to go and examine Barney's heart in the morning. Meantime I asked my friend, Mr. Murphy, to see the jail doctor. Well, the next day Barney was let out of jail.
The strike of the anthracite miners which started in the spring with $90,000 in the treasury, ended in the fall with over a million dollar in the possession of the United Mine Workers The strike had been peaceful. The miners had the support of the public. The tie up of the collieries had been complete. Factories and railroads were without coal.
Toward fall New York began to suffer. It October, Mr. Roosevelt summoned "Divine Right Baer", President of the Coal Producers Union, and other officials of the coal interests to Washington. He called also the officials of the miners' union. They sat at the cabinet table, the coal officials on one side, the miners officials at the other and the president at the head of the table in between the two groups.
They discussed the matter and the mine owners would not consent to any kind of settlement. Mr. Baer said that before he would consent to arbitration with the union he would call out the militia and shoot the miners back into the mines.
The meeting adjourned without results. Mr., Roosevelt sent for John Mitchell. He patted him on the shoulder, told him that he was the true patriot and loyal citizen and not the mine owners. After the conference there was a deadlock.
Mr. Mitchell reported the conference to the miners. They said, "All right. We have money enough to see this thing through. We will fight to a finish. Until the coal operators recognize our union and deal with our demands."
Wall Street sent for Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan to come home from Europe. He came. The situation was serious for the mine operators. The public was indignant at their stubbornness. A Mr. ------------ wrote to Montgomery where I was organizing and asked me to come to New York, saying he wished to discuss the strike with me. I went to headquarters at Wilkes-Barre and asked Mr. Mitchell what I should do.
He said, "Go, Mother, but whatever you do, do not consent to any outside group arbitrating this strike. The union won this strike. The operators know that they are beaten and that they must deal with the United Mine Workers."
"No," I said, "I will consent to no other group undertaking the settlement. I will report to you."
I met Mr. -------- and we went over the situation. He then went down to Mr. Morgan's office and I waited for him in his office until he returned. "Mr. Morgan is most distressed," he said on his return. 'He says the miners have us!"
On Sunday afternoon, Mr. Baer and his group met on Mr. Morgan's yacht out in the bay of New York. Mr. Root came down from Washington to represent Roosevelt. Not a newspaperman was permitted out on that yacht. There were no telegrams, no telephones, no messages. How to lose the strike without apparently losing it was what they discussed. But give the victory to the union they would not!
Mr. Root proposed the way out. The President should appoint "an impartial board of inquiry." This method of settling the strike would avoid capitulation to the union, put the operators in the position of yielding to public opinion, make the miners lose public support if they refused to submit their cause to the board.
The next morning, Monday, my friend, Mr. ----------- met Mr. Morgan at 209 Madison Avenue. He returned from that appointment, crying "The strike is settled." I went back to Wilkes-Barre and found that Mr. Mitchell had already been to Washington and had consented to the arbitration of the strike by a board appointed by the president.
"It would never do to refuse the president," he said, when I tried to dissuade him from taking part in the conferences.
"You have a good excuse to give the president," I replied. "Tell him that when you came home from the last conference in the cabinet room, Mr. Baer said he would shoot the miners back before he would deal with their union." Tell him that the miners said, 'All right. We will fight to a finish for the recognition of The United Mine Workers'."
"It would not do to tell the president that," he replied.
That night, Mr. Mitchell, accompanied by Mr. Wellman, Roosevelt's publicity man, went to Washington. He had an audience with the president the next morning. Before he left the White House, the newspapers, magazines and pulpits were shouting his praises, calling him the greatest labor leader in all America. Mr. Mitchell was not dishonest but he had a weak point, and that was his love of flattery; and the interests used this weak point in furtherance of their designs.
When he returned to Wilkes-Barre, priests, ministers and politicians fell on their knees before him. Bands met him at the station. The men took the horses from his carriage and drew it themselves. Parades with banners marched in his honor beside the carriage. His black hair was pushed back from his forehead. His face was pale. His dark eyes shone with excitement. There were deep lines in his face from the long strain he had been under.
Flattery and homage did its work with John Mitchell. The strike was won. Absolutely no anthracite coal was being dug. The operators could have been made to deal with the unions if Mr. Mitchell had stood firm. A moral victory would have been won for the principle of unionism. This to my mind was more important than the material gains which the miners received through the later decision of the president's board.
Mr. Mitchell died a rich man, distrusted by the working people whom he once served.
From out that strike came the Irish Hessian law-the establishment of a police constabulary. The bill was framed under the pretext that it would protect the farmer. Workingmen went down to Harrisburg and lobbied for it. They hated the coal an iron police of the mine owners and thought anything preferable to them. They forgot that the coal and iron police could join the constabulary and they forgot the history of Ireland, whence the law came: Ireland, soaked with the blood of men and of women, shed by the brutal constabulary.
"No honorable man will join," said a labor leader to me when I spoke of my fears.
"Then that leaves the workers up against the bad men, the gunmen and thugs that do join," I answered. And that's just where they have been left.
I attended the hearings of the board of inquiry, appointed by President Roosevelt. Never shall I forget the words of John Mitchell as he appeared before the commission:
"For more than twenty years the anthracite miners have groaned under most intolerable and inhuman conditions. In a brotherhood of labor they seek to remedy their wrongs."
Never shall I forget the words of President Baer, speaking for the operators:
"The rights and interests of the laboring man will be protected not by the labor agitator but by the Christian men and women to whom God in His infinite wisdom has given the control of the property interests of this country."
Never shall I forget the words of labor's great pleader, Clarence Darrow:
"These agents of the Almighty have seen men killed daily; have seen men crippled, blinded and maimed and turned out to alms-houses and on the roadsides with no compensation. They have seen the anthracite region dotted with silk mills because the wages of the miner makes it necessary for him to send his little girls to work twelve hours a day, a night, in the factory . . . at a child's wage. President Baer sheds tears because boys are taken into the union but he has no tears because they are taken into the breakers."
Never, never shall I forget his closing words, words which I shall hear when my own life draws to its close: "This contest is one of the important contests that have marked the progress of human liberty "since the world began. Every advantage that the human race has won has been at fearful cost. Some men must die that others may live. It has come to these poor miners to bear this cross not for themselves alone but that the human race may be lifted up to a higher and broader plane."
The commission found in favor of the miners in every one of their demands. The operators gracefully bowed to their findings. Labor walked into the House of Victory through the back door.
At the close of the anthracite strike in October, 1902, I went into the unorganized sections of West Virginia with John H. Walker of Illinois. Up and down along both sides of the New River we held meetings and organized -Smithersfield, Long Acre, Canilton, Boomer.
The work was not easy or safe and I was lucky to have so fearless a co-worker. Men who joined the union were blacklisted throughout the entire section. Their families were thrown out on the highways. Men were shot. They were beaten. Numbers disappeared and no trace of them found. Store keepers were ordered not to sell to union men or their families. Meetings had to be held in the woods at night, in abandoned mines, in barns.
We held a meeting in Mount Hope. After the meeting adjourned, Walker and I went back to our hotel. We talked till late. There came a tap on the door.
"Come in," I said.
A miner came into the room. He was lean and tall and coughed a lot.
"Mother," he said, "there are twelve of us here and we want to organize." I turned to Walker.
"Mother," he said, "the National Board told us to educate and agitate but not to Organize; that was to come later."
"I'm going to Organize these men tonight," said I.
"I'm reckoning I'm not going to be mining coal so long in this world and I thought I'd like to die organized," said the spokesman for the group.
I brought the other miners in my room and Mr. Walker gave them the obligation.
"Now, boys, you are twelve in number. That was the number Christ had. I hope that among your twelve there will be no Judas, no one who will betray his fellow. The work you do is for your children and for the future. You preach the gospel of better food, better homes, a decent compensation for the wealth you produce. It is these things that make a great nation."
The spokesman kept up his terrible coughing. He had miner's consumption. As they had no money to pay for their charter I told them that I would attend to that.
Three weeks afterward I had a letter from one of the group. He told me that their spokesman was dead but they had organized eight hundred men and they sent me the money for the charter.
In Caperton Mountain camp I met Duncan Kennedy, who is now commissioner for the mine owners. He and his noble wife gave shelter and fed us when it was too late for us to go down the mountain and cross the river to an inn. Often after meetings in this mountain district, we sat through the night on the river bank. Frequently we would hear bullets whizz past us as we sat huddled between boulders, our black clothes making us invisible in the blackness of the night.
Seven Organizers were sent into Laurel Creek. All came back, shot at, beaten up, run out of town.
One Organizer was chased out of town with a gun.
"What did you do?" I said.
"Which way?" said I.
"Mother," he said, "you mustn't go up there. They've got gunmen patrolling the roads."
"That means the miners up there are prisoners," said I, "and need me."
A week later, one Saturday night I went with eight or ten trapper boys to Thayer, a camp about six miles from Laurel Creek. Very early Sunday morning we walked to Laurel Creek. I climbed the mountain so that I could look down on the camp with its huddle of dirty shacks. I sat down on a rock above the camp and told the trapper boys to go down to the town, and tell the boys to come up the mountain side.. That Mother Jones was going to speak at two o'clock and tell the superintendent that Mother Jones extends a cordial invitation him to come.
Then I sent two boys across a little gully a log cabin to get a cup of tea for me. The min came out and beckoned to me to come over. I went and as I entered the door, my eyes rested on a straw mattress on which rested a beautiful young girl. She looked at me with the most gentle eyes I ever saw in a human-being. The wind came in through the cracks of the floor and would raise the bed clothes a little.
I said to the father, "What is wrong with your girl?"
"Consumption," said he. "I couldn't earn enough in the mines and she went to work in boarding house. They worked her so hard she took sick --consumption."
Around a fireplace sat a group of dirty children, ragged and neglected-looking. He gave us tea and bread.
A great crowd came up the mountains that afternoon. The superintendent sent one of his lackeys, a colored fellow. When the miners told me who he was and that he was sent there as a spy, I said to him, "See here, young man, don't you know that the immortal Lincoln a white man, gave you freedom from slavery? Why do you now betray your white brothers who are fighting for industrial freedom?"
"Mother," said he, "I can't make myself scarce but my hearing and my eyesight ain't extra today."
That afternoon, up there on the mountain-side, we organized a strong union.
The next day the man who gave me food-his name was Mike Harrington-went to the mines to go to work, but he was told to go to the office and get his pay. No man could work m the mines, the superintendent said, who entertained agitators in his home.
Mike said to him, "I didn't entertain her. She paid me for the tea and bread."
"It makes no difference," said he, "you had Mother Jones in your house and that is sufficient."
He went home and when he opened the door, his sick daughter said, "Father, you have lost your job." She started to sob. That brought on a coughing fit from which she fell back on the pillow exhausted-dead.
That afternoon he was ordered to leave his house as it was owned by the company. They buried the girl and moved to an old barn.
Mike was later made an organizer for the United Mine Workers and he made one of the most faithful workers I have ever known.
In February of 1903, I went to Stanford Mountain where the men were on strike. The court had issued an injunction forbidding the miners from going near the mines. A group of miners walked along the public road nowhere near the mines. The next morning they held meeting in their own hall which they themselves had built. A United States deputy marshal came into the meeting with warrants for thirty members for violating the injunction.
The men said, "We did not break any law. We did not go near the mines and you know we were on the public road."
"Well," said the deputy, "we are going arrest you anyway."
They defied him to arrest them, insisting they had not violated the law. They gave him twenty-five minutes to leave town. They sent for his brother, who was the company doctor and told him to take him out.
That night I went to hold a meeting with them. They told me what had happened.
I said, "Boys, it would have been better if you had surrendered, especially as you had truth on your side and you had not been near the mines.
" After the meeting I went to a nearby camp - Montgomery - where there was a little hotel and the railway station. Before leaving, the boys, who came to the edge of the town with me said, "You will be coming back soon Mother?"
I had no idea how soon it would be.
The next morning I went to the station to get an early train. The agent said to me, "Did you hear what trouble they had up in Stanford Mountain last night?"
"I think you are mistaken," I answered, "for I just came down from there myself last night."
"Well," he said, "they have had some trouble there, all the same."
"Yes; I was taking the railway messages and couldn't get all the details. Some shooting."
I said, "Take back my ticket. I must go up to those boys."
I took the short trail up the hillside to Stanford Mountain. It seemed to me as I came to-ward the camp as if those wretched shacks were huddling closer in terror. Everything was deathly still. As I came nearer the miners' homes, I could hear sobbing. Then I saw between the stilts that propped up a miner's shack the clay red with blood. I pushed open the door. On a mattress, wet with blood, lay a miner. His brains had been blown out while he slept. His shack was riddled with bullets.
In five other shacks men lay dead. In one of them a baby boy and his mother sobbed over the father's corpse. When the little fellow saw me, he said, "Mother Jones, bring back my papa to me. I want to kiss him."
The coroner came. He found that these six men had been murdered in their beds while they peacefully slept; shot by gunmen in the employ of the coal company.
The coroner went. The men were buried on the mountain side. And nothing was ever done to punish the men who had taken their lives.
In the spring of 1903 I went to Kensington, Pennsylvania, where seventy-five thousand textile workers were on strike. Of this number at least ten thousand were little children. The workers were striking for more pay and shorter hours. Every day little children came into Union Headquarters, some with their hands off, some with the thumb missing, some with their fingers off at the knuckle. They were stooped things, round shouldered and skinny. Many of them were not over ten years of age, the state law prohibited their working before they were twelve years of age.
The law was poorly enforced and the mothers of these children often swore falsely as to their children's age. In a single block in Kensington, fourteen women, mothers of twenty-two children all under twelve, explained it was a question of starvation or perjury. That the fathers had been killed or maimed at the mines.
I asked the newspaper men why they didn't publish the facts about child labor in Pennsylvania. They said they couldn't because the mill owners had stock in the papers.
"Well, I've got stock in these little children," said I," and I'll arrange a little publicity."
We assembled a number of boys and girls one morning in Independence Park and from there we arranged to parade with banners to the court house where we would hold a meeting. A great crowd gathered in the public square in front of the city hall. I put the little boys with their fingers off and hands crushed and maimed on a platform. I held up their mutilated hands and showed them to the crowd and made the statement that Philadelphia's mansions were built on the broken bones, the quivering hearts and drooping heads of these children. That their little lives went out to make wealth for others. That neither state or city officials paid any attention to these wrongs. That they did not care that these children were to be the future citizens of the nation.
The officials of the city hall were standing the open windows. I held the little ones of the mills high up above the heads of the crowd and pointed to their puny arms and legs and hollow chests. They were light to lift.
I called upon the millionaire manufactures to cease their moral murders, and I cried to the officials in the open windows opposite, "Some day the workers will take possession of your city hall, and when we do, no child will be sacrificed on the altar of profit."
The officials quickly closed the windows, as they had closed their eyes and hearts.
The reporters quoted my statement that Philadelphia mansions were built on the broken bones and quivering hearts of children. The Philadelphia papers and the New York papers got into a squabble with each other over the question. The universities discussed it. Preachers began talking. That was what I wanted. Public attention on the subject of child labor.
The matter quieted down for a while and I concluded the people needed stirring up again. The Liberty Bell that a century ago rang out for freedom against tyranny was touring the country and crowds were coming to see it every«where. That gave me an idea. These little children were striking for some of the freedom that childhood ought to have, and I decided that the children and I would go on a tour.
I asked some of the parents if they would let me have their little boys and girls for a week or ten days, promising to bring them back safe and sound. They consented. A man named Sweeny was marshal for our" army." A few men and women went with me to help with the children. They were on strike and I thought, they might well have a little recreation.
The children carried knapsacks on their backs which was a knife and fork, a tin cup and plate. We took along a wash boiler in which to cook the food on the road. One little fellow had drum and another had a fife. That was our band. We carried banners that said, "We want more schools and less hospitals." "We want time to play." "Prosperity is here. Where is ours?"
We started from Philadelphia where we held a great mass meeting. I decided to go with the children to see President Roosevelt to ask him to have Congress pass a law prohibiting the exploitation of childhood. I thought that President Roosevelt might see these mill children and compare them with his own little ones who were spending the summer on the seashore at Oyster Bay. I thought too, out of politeness, we might call on Morgan in Wall Street who owned the mines where many of these children's fathers worked.
The children were very happy, having plenty to eat, taking baths in the brooks and rivers every day. I thought when the strike is over and they go back to the mills, they will never have another holiday like this. All along the line of march the farmers drove out to meet U with wagon loads of fruit and vegetables. Their wives brought the children clothes and money. The interurban trainmen would stop their trains and give us free rides.
Marshal Sweeny and I would go ahead to the towns and arrange sleeping quarters for the children, and secure meeting halls. As we marched on, it grew terribly hot. There was no rain and the roads were heavy with dust. From time to time we had to send some of the children back to their homes. They were too weak to stand the march.
We were on the outskirts of New Trenton, New Jersey, cooking our lunch in the wash boiler, when the conductor on the interurban car stopped and told us the police were coming down to notify us that we could not enter the town. There were mills in the town and the mill owners didn't like our coming.
I said, "All right, the police will be just in time for lunch." Sure enough, the police came and we invited them to dine with us. They looked at the little gathering of children with their tin plates and cups around the wash boiler. They just smiled and spoke kindly to the children, and said nothing at all about not going into the city.
We went in, held our meeting, and it was the wives of the police who took the little children and cared for them that night, sending them back in the morning with a nice lunch rolled up paper napkins.
Everywhere we had meetings, showing up with living children, the horrors of child labor. At one town the mayor said we could not hold a meeting because he did not have sufficient police protection. "These little children have never known any sort of protection, your honor" I said, "and they are used to going without it.,' He let us have our meeting. One night in Princeton, New Jersey, we slept in the big cool barn on Grover Cleveland's great estate. The heat became intense. There was much suffering in our ranks, for our little ones were not robust. The proprietor of the leading hotel sent for me. "Mother," he said "order what you want and all you want for your army, and there's nothing to pay."
I called on the mayor of Princeton and asked for permission to speak opposite the campus of the University. I said I wanted to speak on higher education. The mayor gave me permission. A great crowd gathered, professors and students and the people; and I told them that the rich robbed these little children of any education of the lowest order that they might send their sons and daughters to places of higher education. That they used the hands and feet of little children that they might buy automobiles for their wives and police dogs for their daughters to talk French to. I said the mil owners take babies almost from the cradle. And I showed those professors children in our army who could scarcely read or write because they were working ten hours a day in the silk mills of Pennsylvania.
"Here's a text book on economics," I said pointing to a little chap, James Ashworth, who was ten years old and who was stooped over like an old man from carrying bundles of yarn that weighed seventy-five pounds. "He gets three dollars a week and his sister who is fourteen gets six dollars. They work in a carpet factory ten hours a day while the children of the rich are getting their higher education."
That night we camped on the banks of Stony Brook where years and years before the ragged Revolutionary Army camped, Washington's brave soldiers that made their fight for freedom.
From Jersey City we marched to Hoboken. I sent a committee over to the New York Chief of Police, Ebstein, asking for permission to march up Fourth Avenue to Madison Square where I wanted to hold a meeting. The chief refused and forbade our entrance to the city.
I went over myself to New York and saw · Mayor Seth Low. The mayor was most courteous but he said he would have to support the police commissioner. I asked him what the reason was for refusing us entrance to the city and he said that we were not citizens of New York.
"Oh, I think we will clear that up, Mr. Mayor," I said. "Permit me to call your attention to an incident which took place in this nation just a year ago. A piece of rotten royalty came over here from Germany, called Price Henry. The Congress of the United 'States voted $45,000 to fill that fellow's stomach three weeks and to entertain him. His highness was getting $4,000,000 dividends out of the blood of the workers in this country. Was he a citizen of this land?"
"And it was reported, Mr. Mayor, that you and all the officials of New York and the University Club entertained that chap." And repeated, "Was he a citizen of New York!"
"No, Mother," said the mayor, "he was not."
"And a Chinaman called Lee Woo was also entertained by the officials of New York. Was he a citizen of New York?"
"No, Mother, he was not."
"Did they ever create any wealth for our nation!"
"No, Mother, they did not," said he.
"Well, Mr. Mayor, these are the little citizens of the nation and they also produce its wealth. Aren't we entitled to enter your city!"
"Just wait" says he, and he called the commissioner of police over to his office. Well, finally they decided to let the army come in. We marched up Fourth Avenue to Madison Square and police officers, captains sergeants, roundsmen and reserves from three precincts accompanied us. But the police would not let us hold a meeting in Madison Square. They insisted that the meeting be held in Twentieth Street.
I pointed out to the captain that the single taxers were allowed to hold meetings in the square. "Yes," he said, "but they won't have twenty people and you might have twenty thousand." We marched to Twentieth Street. I told an immense crowd of the horrors of child labor in the mills around the anthracite region and I showed them some of the children. I showed them Eddie Dunphy, a little fellow of twelve, whose job it was to sit all day on a high stool, handing in the right thread to another worker. Eleven hours a day he sat on the high stool with dangerous machinery all about him. All day long, winter and summer, spring and fall, for three dollars a week.
And then I showed them Gussie Rangnew, a little girl from whom all the childhood had gone. Her face was like an old woman's. Gussie packed stockings in a factory, eleven hours a day for a few cents a day.
We raised a lot of money for the strikers and hundreds of friends offered their homes to the little ones while we were in the city. The next day we went to Coney Island at the invitation of Mr. Bostick who owned the wild animal show The children had a wonderful day such as they never had in all their lives. After the exhibition of the trained animals, Mr. Bostick let me speak to the audience. There was a back drop to the tiny stage of the Roman Coliseum with the audience painted in and two Roman emperors down in front with their thumbs down. Right in front of the emperors were the empty iron cages of the animals. I put my little children in the cages and they clung to the iron bars while I talked.
I told the crowd that the scene was typical of the aristocracy of employers with their thumb down to the little ones of the mills and factories, and people sitting dumbly by.
"We want President Roosevelt to hear the wail of the children who never have a chance to go to school but work eleven and twelve hours a day in the textile mills of Pennsylvania; who weave the carpets that he and you walk upon and the lace curtains in your windows, and the clothes of the people. Fifty years ago there was a cry against slavery and men gave up their lives to stop the selling of black children on the block. Today the white child is sold for two dollars a week to the manufacturers. Fifty years ago the black babies were sold C. 0.D. Today the white baby is sold on the installment plan.
"In Georgia where children work day and night in the cotton mills they have just passed a bill to protect song birds. What about little children from whom all song is gone?
"I shall ask the president in the name of the aching hearts of these little ones that he emancipate them from slavery. I will tell the president that the prosperity he boasts of is the prosperity of the rich wrung from the poor and the helpless.
"The trouble is that no one in Washington cares. I saw our legislators in one hour pass three bills for the relief of the railways but when labor cries for aid for the children they will not listen.
"I asked a man in prison once how he happened to be there and he said he had stolen a pair of shoes. I told him if he had stolen a railroad he would be a United States Senator.
"We are told that every American boy has the chance of being president. I tell you that these little boys in the iron cages would sell their chance any day for good square meals and a chance to play. These little toilers whom I have taken from the mills --deformed, dwarfed in body and soul, with nothing but toil before them -have never heard that they have a chance, the chance of every American male citizen, to become the president.
"You see those monkeys in those cages over there." I pointed to a side cage. "The professors are trying to teach them to talk. The monkeys are too wise for they fear that the manufacturers would buy them for slaves in their factories."
I saw a stylishly dressed young man down in the front of the audience. Several times he grinned. I stopped speaking and pointing to him I said, 'Stop your smiling, young man! Leave this place! Go home and beg the mother who bore you in pain, as the mothers of these little children bore them, go home and beg her to give you brains and a heart
He rose and slunk out, followed by the eyes of the children in the cage. The people stone still and out in the rear a lion roared.
The next day we left Coney Island for Manhattan Beach to visit Senator Platt, who had made an appointment to see me at nine o'clock in the morning. The children got stuck in the sand banks and I had a time cleaning the sand off the littlest ones. So we started to walk on the railroad track. I was told it was private property and we had to get off. Finally a saloon keeper showed us a short cut into the sacred grounds of the hotel and suddenly the army appeared in the lobby. The little fellows played "Hail, hail, the gang's all here" their fifes and drums, and Senator Platt when he saw the little army ran away through the back door to New York.
I asked the manager if he would give children breakfast and charge it up to Senator as we had an invitation to breakfast that morning with him. He gave us a private room and he gave those children such a breakfast as they had never had in all their lives I had breakfast too, and a reporter from of the Hearst papers and I charged it all to Senator Platt.
We marched down to Oyster Bay but the president refused to see us and he would not answer my letters. But our march had done its work. We had drawn the attention of the nation to the crime of child labor. And while the strike of the textile workers in Kensington was lost and the children driven back to work, not long afterward the Pennsylvania legislature passed a child labor law that sent thousands of children home from the mills, and kept thousands of others from entering the factory until they were fourteen years of age.
Lattimer was an eye-sore to the miners. It seemed as if no one could break into it. Twenty-six organizers and union men had been killed in that coal camp in previous strikes. Some of them had been shot in the back. The blood of union men watered the highways. No one dared go in.
I said nothing about it but made up my mind that I was going there some night. After the raid of the women in Coaldale in the Panther Creek, the general manager of Lattimer said that if I came in there I would go out a corpse. I made no reply but I set my plans and I did not consult an undertaker.
From three different camps in the Panther Creek I had a leader bring a group of strikers to a junction of the road that leads into Lattimer. There I met them with my army of women again. As I was leaving the hotel the clerk said, "Mother, the reporters told me to ring their bell if I saw you go out."
"Well, don't see me go out. Watch the front door carefully and I will go out the back door."
We marched through the night, reaching Lattimer just before dawn. The strikers hid themselves in the mines. The women took up their position on the door steps of the miners' shacks. When a miner stepped out of his house to go to work, the women started mopping the step, shouting, "No work today!"
Everybody came running out into the dirt streets. "God, it is the old mother and her army," they were all saying.
The Lattimer miners and the mule drivers were afraid to quit work. They had been made cowards. They took the mules, lighted the lamps in their caps and started down the mines, not knowing that I had three thousand miners down below ground waiting for them and the mules.
"Those mules won't scab today," I said to the general manager who was cursing everybody. "They know it is going to be a holiday."
"Take those mules down!!" shouted the general manager.
Mules and drivers and miners disappeared down into the earth. I kept the women singing patriotic songs so as to drown the noise of the men down in the mines.
Directly the mules came up to the surface without a driver, and we women cheered for the mules who were the first to become good Union citizens. They were followed by the miners who began running home. Those that didn't go up were sent up. Those that insisted on working and thus defeating their brothers were grabbed by the women and carried to their wives.
An old Irish woman had two sons who were scabs. The women threw one of them over the fence to his mother. He lay there still. His mother thought he was dead and she ran into the house for a bottle of holy water and shook it over Mike.
"Oh for God's sake, come back to life," she hollered.
"Come back and join the union." He opened his eyes and saw our women standing around him. "Sure, I'll go to hell before I'll scab again,' says he.
The general manager called the sheriff who asked me to take the women away. I said "Sheriff, no one is going to get hurt, no property is going to be destroyed but there are to be no more killings of innocent men here."
I told him if he wanted peace he should put up a notice that the mines were closed until the strike was settled.
The day was filled with excitement. The deputies kept inside the office; the general manager also. Our men stayed up at the mines to attend to the scabs and the women did the rest. As a matter of fact the majority of the men those with any spirit left in them after years of cowardice, wanted to strike but had not dared. But when a hand was held out to them, they took hold and marched along with their brothers.
The bosses telephoned to John Mitchell that he should take me and my army of women out of Lattimer. That was the first knowledge that Mitchell had of my being there.
When the manager saw there was no hope and that the battle was won by the miners, he came out and put up a notice that the mines were closed until the strike was settled.
I left Lattimer with my army of women and went up to Hazelton. President Mitchell and his organizers were there. Mr. Mitchell said, "Weren't you afraid to go in there!"
"No," I said,
"I am not afraid to face any thing if facing it may bring relief to the class that I belong to."
The victory of Lattimer gave new life to the whole anthracite district. It gave courage to the organization. Those brave women I shall never forget who caused those stone walls to fall by marching around with tin pans and cat calls.
Soon afterward, a convention was called and the strike was settled. The organizers got up a document asking every miner to subscribe so much to purchase a $10,000 house for John Mitchell. The document happened to come into my hands at the convention which was called to call off the victorious strike. I arose and said:
"If John Mitchell can't buy a house to suit him for his wife and for his family out of his salary, then I would suggest that he get a job that will give him a salary to buy a $10000 house. Most of you do not own a shingle on the roof that covers you. Every decent man buys a house for his own wife first before he buys a house for another man's wife.
I was holding the petition as I spoke and I tore it up and threw the bits on the floor. " 'Tis you men and your women who won the strike," I said, "with your sacrifice and your patience and your forbearance through all these past weary months. 'Tis the sacrifice of your brothers in other trades who sent the strike benefits week in and week out that enabled you to make the fight to the end."
From then on Mitchell was not friendly to me. He took my attitude as one of personal enmity. And he saw that he could not control me. He had tasted power and this finally destroyed him. I believe that no man who holds a leader's position should ever accept favors from either side. He is then committed to show favors. A leader must stand alone.
In Lonaconia, Maryland, there was a strike. I was there. In Hazelton, Pennsylvania, a Convention was called to discuss the anthracite strike. I was there when they issued the strike call. One hundred and fifty thousand men responded. The men of Scranton and Shamokin and Coaldale and Panther Creek and Valley Battle. And I was there.
In Shamokin I met Miles Daugherty, an organizer. When he quit work and drew his pay, he gave one-half of his pay envelope to his wife and the other half he kept to rent halls and pay for lights for the union. Organizers did not draw much salary in those days and they did heroic, unselfish work.
Not far from Shamokin, in a little mountain town the priest was holding a meeting when I went in. He was speaking in the church. I spoke in an open field. The priest told the men to go back and obey their masters and their reward would be in Heaven. He denounced the strikers as children of darkness. The miners left the church in a body and marched over to my meeting.
"Boys," I said, "this strike is called in order that you and your wives and your little on may get a bit of Heaven before you die."
We organized the entire camp.
The fight went on. In Coaldale, in the Hazelton district, the miners were not permitted to assemble in any hall. It was necessary to the strike in that district that the Coaldale miners be organized.
I went to a nearby mining town that was thoroughly organized and asked the women if they would help me get the Coaldale men out. This was in McAdoo. I told them to leave their men at home to take care of the family. I asked them to put on their kitchen clothes and bring mops and brooms with them and a couple of tin pans. We marched over the mountains fifteen miles, beating on the tin pans as if they were cymbals. At three o'clock in the morning we met the Crack Thirteen of the militia, patrolling the roads to Coaldale. The colonel of the regiment said "Halt! Move back!"
I said, "Colonel, the working men of America will not halt nor will they ever go back. The working man is going forward!"
"I'll charge bayonets," said he.
"On your people."
"We are not enemies," said I. "We are just a band of working women whose brothers and husbands are in a battle for bread. We want our brothers in Coaldale to join us in our fight. We are here on the mountain road for our children's sake, for the nation's sake. We are not going to hurt anyone and surely you would not hurt us."
They kept us there till daybreak and when they saw the army of women in kitchen aprons, with dishpans and mops, they laughed and let us pass. An army of strong mining women makes a wonderfully spectacular picture.
Well, when the miners in the Coaldale camp started to go to work they were met by the McAdoo women who were beating on their pans and shouting, "Join the union! Join the union!" They joined, every last man of them, and we got so enthusiastic that we organized the street Car men who promised to haul no scabs for the coal companies. As there were no other groups to organize we marched over the mountains home, beating on our pans and singing patriotic songs.
Meanwhile President Mitchell and all his organizers were sleeping in the Valley Hotel over in Hazelton. They knew nothing of our march into Coaldale until the newspaper men telephoned to him that "Mother Jones was raising hell up in the mountains with a bunch of wild women!"
He, of course, got nervous. He might have gotten more nervous if he had known how we made the mine bosses go home and how we told their wives to clean them up and make decent American citizens out of them. How we went around to the kitchen of the house where the militia were quartered and ate the breakfast that was on the table for the soldiers.
When I got back to Hazelton, Mitchell looked at me with surprise. I was worn out. Coaldale had been a strenuous night and morning and its thirty mile tramp. I assured Mitchell that no one had been hurt and no property injured. The military had acted like human beings. They took the matter as a joke. They enjoyed the morning's fun. I told him how scared the sheriff had been. He had been talking to me without knowing who I was.
"Oh Lord," he said, "that Mother Jones is sure a dangerous woman."
"Why don't you arrest her!" I asked him
"Oh Lord, I couldn't. I'd have that mob of women with their mops and brooms after me and the jail ain't big enough to hold them all. They'd mop the life out of a fellow!"
Mr. Mitchell said, "My God, Mother, did you get home safe! What did you do!"
"I got five thousand men out and organized them. We had time left over so we organized the street car men and they will not haul any scabs into camp."
"Did you get hurt, Mother!"
"No, we did the hurting."
"Didn't the superintendents' bosses get after you?"
"No, we got after them. Their wives and our women were yelling around like cats. It was a great fight."
The state of Colorado belonged not to a republic but to the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, the Victor -Company and their dependencies. The governor was their agent. The militia under Bell did their bidding. Whenever the masters of the state told the governor to bark, he yelped for them like a mad hound. Whenever they told the military to bite, they bit.
The people of Colorado had voted overwhelmingly for an eight-hour day. The legislature passed an eight hour law but the courts had declared it unconstitutional. Then when the measure was submitted directly to the people, they voted for it with 40,000 votes majority. But the next legislature, which was controlled by the mining interests, failed to pass the bill.
The miners saw that they could not get their demands through peaceful legislation. That they must fight. That they must strike. All the metal miners struck first. The strike ex-tended into New Mexico and Utah. It became an ugly war. The metal miners were anxious to have the coal miners join them in their struggle.
The executive board of the United Mine Workers was in session in Indianapolis and to this board the governor of Colorado had sent a delegation to convince them that there ought not to be a strike in the coal fields. Among the delegates, was a labor commissioner.
I was going on my way to West Virginia from Mount Olive, Illinois, where the miners were commemorating their dead. I stopped off at headquarters in Indianapolis. The executive board asked me to go to Colorado, look into conditions there, see what the sentiments of the miners were, and make a report to the office.
I went immediately to Colorado, first to the office of The Western Federation of Miners where I heard the story of the industrial conflict. I then got myself an old calico dress, a sunbonnet, some pins and needles, elastic and tape and such sundries, and went down to the southern coal fields of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company.
As a peddler, I went through the various coal camps, eating in the homes of the miners, staying all night with their families. I found the conditions under which they lived deplorable. They were in practical slavery to the company, who owned their houses, owned all the land, so that if a miner did own a house he must vacate whenever it pleased the land owners. They were paid in scrip instead of money so that they could not go away if dissatisfied. They must buy at company stores and at company prices. The coal they mined was weighed by an agent of the company and the miners could not have a check weighman to see that full credit was given them. The schools, the churches, the roads belonged to the Company. I felt, after listening to their stories, after witnessing their long patience that the time was ripe for revolt against such brutal conditions.
I went to Trinidad and to the office of the Western Federation of Miners. I talked with the secretary, Gillmore, a loyal, hard-working man, and with the President, Howell, a good, honest soul. We sat up and talked the matter over far into the night. I showed them the conditions I had found down in the mining camps were heart-rending, and I felt it was our business to remedy those conditions and bring some future, some sunlight at least into the lives of the children. They deputized me to go at once to headquarters in Indianapolis.
I took the train the next morning. When I arrived at the office in Indianapolis, I found the president, John Mitchell, the vice-president, T. L. Lewis, the secretary, W. B. Wilson of Arnot, Pennsylvania, and a board member, called "old man Ream," from Iowa. These officers told me to return at once to Colorado and they would call a strike of the coal miners.
The strike was called November 9th, 1903. The demand was for an eight hour day, a check by weighman representing the miners, payment in money instead of scrip. The whole state of Colorado was in revolt. No coal was dug. November is a cold month in Colorado and the citizens began to feel the pressure of the strike.
Late one evening in the latter part of November I came into the hotel. I had been working all day and into the night among the miners and their families, helping to distribute food and clothes, encouraging, holding meetings. As I was about to retire, the hotel clerk called me down to answer a long distance telephone call from Louisville. The voice said, "Oh for God's sake; Mother, come to us, come to us!"
I asked what the trouble was and the reply was more a cry than an answer, "Oh don't wait to ask. Don't miss the train."
I got Mr. Howell, the president, on the telephone and asked him what was the trouble in Louisville.
"They are having a convention there," he said.
"A convention, is it, and what for? "
"To call off the strike in the northern coal fields because the operators have yielded to the demands." He did not look at me as he spoke. I could see he was heart sick.
"But they cannot go back until the operators settle with the southern miners," I said They will not desert their brothers until the strike is won! Are you going to let them do it?"
"Oh Mother," he almost cried, "I can't help it. It is the National Headquarters who have ordered them back!"
"That's treachery," I said, "quick, get ready and come with me." We telephoned down to the station to have the conductor hold the train for Louisville a few minutes. This he did. We got into Louisville the next morning. I had not slept. The board member, Ream, and Grant Hamilton, rep-resenting the Federation of Labor, came to the hotel where I was stopping and asked where Mr. Howell, the president was.
"He has just stepped out," I said. "He will be back."
"Well, meantime, I want to notify you," Ream said, "that you must not block the settlement of the northern miners because the National President, John Mitchell, wants it, and he pays you."
"Are you. through?" said I.
"Then I am going to tell you that if God Almighty wants this strike called off for his benefit and not for the miners, I am going to raise my voice against it. And as to President John paying me, ... he never paid me a penny in his life. It is the hard earned nickels and dimes of the miners that pay me, and it is their interests that I am going to serve."
I went to the convention and heard the matter of the northern miners returning to the mines discussed. I watched two shrewd diplomats deal with unsophisticated men; Struby, the president of the northern coal fields, and Blood, one of the keenest, trickiest lawyers in the West. And behind them, John Mitchel, toasted and wined and dined, flattered and cajoled by the Denver Citizens' Alliance, and the Civic Federation was pulling the strings.
In the afternoon the miners called on me to address the convention.
"Brothers," I said, "You English speaking miners of the northern fields promised your southern brothers, seventy per cent of whom do not speak English, that you would support them to the end. Now you are asked to betray them, to make a separate settlement. You have a common enemy and it is your duty to fight to a finish. The enemy seeks to conquer by dividing your ranks, by making distinctions between North and South, between American and foreign. You are all miners, fighting a common cause, a common master. The iron heel feels the same to all flesh. Hunger and suffering and the cause of your children bind more closely than a common tongue. I am accused of helping the Western Federation of Miners, as if that were a crime, by one of the National board members. I plead guilty. I know no East or West, North nor South when it comes to my class fighting the battle for justice. If it is my fortune to live to see the industrial chain broken from every workingman's child in America, and if then there is one black child in Africa in bondage, there shall I go."
The delegates rose en masse to cheer. The vote was taken. The majority decided to stand by the southern miners, refusing to obey the national President.
The Denver Post reported my speech and a copy was sent to Mr. Mitchell in Indianapolis. He took the paper in to his secretary and said, pointing to the report, "See what Mother Jones has done. to me!"
Three times Mitchell tried to make the northern miners return to the mines but each time he was unsuccessful. "Mitchell has got to get Mother Jones out of the field," an organizer said. "He can never lick the Federation as long as she is still there."
I was informed that Mitchell went to the governor and asked him to put me out of the state.
Finally the ultimatum was given to the northern miners. All support for the strike was withdrawn. The northern miners accepted the operators' terms and returned to work. Their act created practical peonage in the south and the strike was eventually lost, although the struggle in the south went on for a year.
Much of the fighting took place around Cripple Creek. The miners were evicted from their company-owned houses. They went out on the bleak mountain sides, lived in tents through a terrible winter with the temperature below zero, with eighteen inches of snow on the ground. They tied their feet in gunny sacks and lived lean and lank and hungry as timber wolves. They received sixty-three cents a week strike benefit while John Mitchell went traveling through Europe, staying at fashionable hotels, studying the labor movement. When he returned the miners had been lashed back into the mines by hunger but John Mitchell was given a banquet in the Park Avenue Hotel and presented with a watch with diamonds.
From the day I opposed John Mitchell's authority, the guns were turned on me. Slander and persecution followed me like black shadows. But the fight went on.
One night when I came in from the field where I had been holding meetings, I was just dropping to sleep when a knock --a loud knock -- came on my door. I always slept in my clothes for I never knew what might happen. I went to the door, opened it, and faced a military chap.
"The Colonel wants you up at head-quarters."
I went with him immediately. Three or four others were brought in: War John and Joe Pajammy, organizers. We were all taken down. to the Santa Fe station. While standing there, waiting for the train that was to deport us some of the miners ran down to bid me good bye. "Mother, good-bye," they said, stretching out their hands to take mine.
The colonel struck their hands and yelled al them. "Get away from there. You can't' shake hands with that woman!"
The militia took us to La Junta. They handed me a letter from the governor, notify mg me that under no circumstances could I return to the State of Colorado. I sat all night in the station. In the morning the Denver train came along. I had no food, no money. I asked the conductor to take me to Denver. He said he would.
"Well," I said, "I don't want you to lose your job." I showed him the letter from the governor. He read it.
"Mother," he said, "do you want to go to Denver?"
"I do'," said I.
"Then to Hell with the job;" said he, "it's to Denver you go."
In Denver I got a room and rested a while I sat down and wrote a letter to the governor the obedient little boy of the coal companies.
"Mr. Governor, you notified your dogs of war to put me out of the state. They complied with your instructions. I hold in my hand a letter that was handed to me by one of them, which says 'under no circumstances return to this state.' I wish to notify you, governor, that you don't own the state. When it was admitted to the sisterhood of states, my fathers gave me a share of stock in it; and that is all they gave to you. The civil courts are open. If I break a law of state or nation it is the duty of the civil courts to deal with me. That is why my fore-fathers established those courts to keep dictators and tyrants such as you from interfering with civilians. I am right here in the capital, after being out nine or ten hours, four or five blocks from your office. I want to ask you, governor, what in Hell are you going to do about it?"
I called a messenger and sent it up to the governor's office. He read it and a reporter. who was present in the office at the time told me his face grew red.
"What shall I do?" he said to the reporter. He was used to acting under orders. "Leave her alone," counseled the reporter. "There is no more patriotic citizen in America."
From Denver I went down the Western Slope, holding meetings, cheering and encouraging those toiling and disinherited miners who were fighting against such monstrous odds.
I went to Helper, Utah, and got a room with a very nice Italian family. I was to hold a meeting Sunday afternoon. From every quarter the men came, trudging miles over the mountains. The shop men were notified not to come but they came anyhow. Just as the meeting was about to open, the mayor of the little town came to me and said that I could not hold a meeting; that I was on company ground. I asked him how far his jurisdiction extended He said as far as the Company's jurisdiction He was a Company mayor.
So I turned to the audience and asked then to follow me. The audience to a man followed me to a little tent colony at Half Way that the miners had established when they had been evicted from their homes.
When the meeting closed I returned to Helper. The next day, although there was no smallpox in town, a frame shack was built to isolate smallpox sufferers in. I was notified that I had been exposed to smallpox and must be incarcerated in the shack. But somehow that night the shack burned down.
I went to stay in Half Way because the Italian family were afraid to keep me longer. Another Italian family gave me a bare room in their shack. There was only a big stone to fasten the door. No sooner was I located than the militia notified me that I was in quarantine because I had been exposed to smallpox. But I used to go out and talk to the miners and they used to come to me.
One Saturday night I got tipped off by the postoffice master that the militia were going to raid the little tent colony in the early morning. I called the miners to me and asked them if they had guns. Sure, they had guns. They were western men, men of the mountains. I told them to go bury them between the boulders; deputies were coming to take them away from them. I did not tell them that there was to be a raid for I did not want any bloodshed. Better to submit to arrest.
Between 4:30 and 5 o'clock in the morning I heard the tramp of feet on the road. I looked out of my smallpox window and saw about forty-five deputies. They descended upon the sleeping tent colony, dragged the miners out of their beds. They did not allow them to put on their clothing. The miners begged to be allowed to put on their clothes, for at that early hour the mountain range is the coldest. Shaking with cold, followed by the shrieks and wails of their wives and children, beaten along the road by guns, they were driven like cattle to Helper. In the evening they were packed in a box car and run down to Price, the county seat and put in jail.
Not one law had these miners broken. The pitiful screams of the women and children would have penetrated Heaven. Their tears melted the heart of the Mother of Sorrows. Their crime was that they had struck against the power of gold.
The women huddled beneath the window of the house where I was incarcerated for small-pox.
"Oh Mother, what shall we do? "they wailed "What's to become of our little children!"
"See my little Johnny," said one woman holding up a tiny, red baby-new born.
"That's a nice baby," I said.
"He sick. Pretty soon he die. Company take house. Company take my man. Pretty soon company take my baby."
Two days after this raid was made, the stone that held my door was suddenly pushed in. A fellow jumped into the room, stuck a gun under my jaw and told me to tell him where he could get $3,000 of the miners' money or he would blow out my brains.
"Don't waste your powder," I said. "You write the miners up in Indianapolis. Write Mitchell. He's got money now."
"I don't want any of your damn talk," he replied, then asked: "Hasn't the president got money?" "You got him in ,jail" "Haven't you got any money?"
"Sure " I put my hand in my pocket, took out fifty cents and turned the pocket inside out.
"Is that all you got?" "Sure, and I'm not going to give it to you, for I want it to get a jag on to boil the Helen Gould smallpox out of my system so I will not inoculate the whole nation when I get out of here."
"How are you going to get out of here if you haven't money when they turn you loose?"
"The railway men will take me anywhere."
There were two other deputies outside. They kept hollering for him to come out. "She ain't got any money," they kept insisting. Finally he was convinced that I had nothing.
This man, I afterward found out, had been a bank robber, but had been sworn in as deputy to crush the miners' union. He was later killed while robbing the post office in Prince. Yet he was the sort of man who was hired by the moneyed interests to crush the hopes and aspirations of the fathers and mothers and even the children of the workers.
I was held twenty-six days and nights in that bare room, isolated for smallpox. Finally with no redress I was turned loose and went to Salt Lake. During all those days and nights I did not undress because of imminent danger.
All civil law had broken down in the Cripple Creek strike. The militia under Colonel Verdeckberg said, "We are under orders only from God and Governor Peabody." Judge Advocate McClelland when accused of violating the constitution said, "To hell with the constitution!" There was a complete breakdown of all civil law. Habeas corpus proceedings were suspend-ed. Free speech and assembly were forbidden. People spoke in whispers as in the days of the inquisition. Soldiers committed outrages. Strikers were arrested for vagrancy and worked in chain gangs on the street under brutal soldiers. Men, women and tiny children were packed in the Bullpen at Cripple Creek. Miners were shot dead as they slept. They were ridden from the country, their families knowing not where they had gone, or whether they lived.
When the strike started in Cripple Creek, the civil law was operating, but the governor, a banker, and in complete sympathy with the Rockefeller interests, sent the militia. They threw the officers out of office. Sheriff Robinison had a rope thrown at his feet and told that if he did not resign, the rope would be about his neck.
Three men were brought into Judge Seeds' court -- miners. There was no charge lodged against them. He ordered them released but the soldiers who with drawn bayonets had attended the hearing, immediately rearrested them and took them back to jail.
Four hundred men were taken from their homes. Seventy-six of these were placed on a train, escorted to Kansas, dumped out on a prairie and told never to come back, except to meet death.
In the heat of June, in Victor, 1600 men were arrested and put in the Armory Hall. Bull--pens were established and anyone be he miner, or a woman or a child that incurred the displeasure of the great coal interests, or the militia, were thrown into these horrible stockades.
Shop keepers were forbidden to sell to miners. Priests and ministers were intimidated, fearing to give them consolation. The miners opened their own stores to feed the women and children. The soldiers and hoodlums broke into the stores, looted them, broke open the safes, destroyed the scales, ripped open the sacks of flour and sugar, dumped them on the floor and poured kerosene oil over everything. The beef and meat was poisoned by the militia. Goods were stolen. The miners were without redress, for the militia was immune.
And why were these things done? Because a group of men had demanded an eight hour day, a check weighman and the abolition of the scrip system that kept them in serfdom to the mighty coal barons. That was all. Just that miners had refused to labor under these conditions. Just because miners wanted a better chance for their children, more of the sunlight, more free-dom. And for this they suffered one whole year and for this they died.
Perhaps no one in the labor movement has seen more brutality perpetrated upon the workers than I have seen. I have seen them killed in industry, worn out and made old before their time, jailed and shot if they protested. Story after story I could tell of persecution and of bravery unequalled on any battlefield.
There was Mrs. M. F. Langdon of Cripple Creek. "The Victor Record," a newspaper giving the miners' side of the strike, had been arbitrarily suppressed by the militia, as were all journals that did not espouse the cause of the coal operators. Her husband had been arrested because he was the editor of The Record.
The military were surprised when the morning after the suppression of the paper and the jailing of the editor and his helpers, the paper came out as usual. Throughout the night Mrs. Langdon, working with a tiny candle, had set the type and run the sheets out on a hand press.
On November 19, 1903, two organizers, De-molli and Price, were going to Scofield when a short distance from town, a mob composed of members of the "citizens' alliance" boarded the train armed with high-powered rifles, and ordered the train crew to take the organizers back.
In December, Lucianno Desentos and Joseph Vilano were killed outright by deputy sheriff. at Secundo. Soon after their killing, the home of William G. Isaac, an Organizer, was blown up. He was in Glenwood Springs when it occurred. Part of the house was wrecked by the explosion, the part in which his two little children usually slept. The night of the explosion, however, they slept in the back room with their mother. The family was saved from being burned to death in the fire that followed the explosion by crawling through a broken window. Isaac was arrested and charged with attempting the murder of his wife and children.
And so I could go on and on. Men beaten and left for dead in the road. The home of Sherman Parker searched without warrants, his wife in her nightclothes made to hold the light for the soldiers. And no arms found.
On Sunday in February of 1914, Joe Panonia and myself went to a camp out in Berwyn to hold a meeting, and William Farley and James Mooney, national organizers, went to Bohnn. Both settlements lay in the same direction, Berwyn being a little further on. As we drove through Bohnn after our meeting, three women ran out from a shack, waving their long, bony arms at us and shrieking and whirling around like witches. They jumped right in front of our automobile in the narrow road.
"Come in! Come in! Something bad!" They put their hands to their heads and rocked sidewise. They were foreigners and knew little English.
"Joe," I said, "we'd better drive on. They may have been drinking. It may be some sort of hoax to get us into the house."
"No! No!" shrieked the women. "No drink! Something bad!" They climbed on the running board and began pulling us.
"Come on, Mother," said Joe. "Let's go in -- I think there has been trouble."
We followed the three lanky women into the shack. On a wretched bed covered with dirty rag-ends of blankets and old quilts lay Mooney, -- bleeding profusely and unconscious. Farley sat beside him, badly beaten.
Joe raced into Trinidad and got a doctor but although Mooney survived he was never quite right in the head afterward. Farley, however, recovered from his terrible beating.
He said that as they were returning from Bohhn, seven gunmen jumped out from the bushes along the road, had beaten them up, kicked them and stamped their feet upon them. All seven were armed and resistance was useless.
Organizers were thrown into jail and held without trial for months. They were deported In April fourteen miners were arrested at Broadhead and deported to New Mexico. They were landed in the desert, thirty miles from food or water. Hundreds of others were de-ported, taken away without being allowed to communicate with wives and children. The women suffered agonies not knowing when their men went from home whether they would ever return. If the deported men returned they were immediately arrested by the militia and put in jail. All organizers and leaders were in danger of death, in the open streets or from ambush. John Lawson was shot at but by a miracle the bullet missed him.
The strike in the southern fields dragged on and on. But from the moment the southern miners had been deserted by their northern brothers, I felt their strike was doomed. Bravely did those miners fight before giving in to the old peonage. The military had no regard for human life. They were sanctified cannibals. Is it any wonder that we have murders and holdups when the youth of the land is trained by the great industrialists to a belief in force; when they see that the possession of money puts one above law.
Men like President Howell and Secretary Simpson will live in history. I was in close touch with them throughout this terrible strike. Their descendants should feel proud that the blood of such great men flows in their veins.
No more loyal, courageous men could be found than those southern miners, scornfully referred to by "citizens' alliances" as "foreigners." Italians and Mexicans endured to the end. They were defeated on the industrial field but theirs was the victory of the spirit.