“…anybody else would have got killed.”

"…over rough lonely roads along the mountains…"

“…over rough lonely roads along the mountains…

I love research. I love tangents and arcane facts that lead me far afield of my predetermined story. I love to get lost in the tall dark woods where I can spin around til I don’t know if I’m coming or going. Which way is home? I have no idea but I’ll find my way eventually… when I’m ready. My dog taught me that.

I love old letters, those paper artifacts of our connections to one another, the paper record of our life and times. Tonight, I’m reading the letters of Mother Mary Harris Jones and getting a glimpse into a life of purpose and will.

We glorify the Man of Action as a cultural trope, but we overlook The Little Old Lady of Labor’s Call to Action.

Mother Jones  was a firebrand, all right. She was a prickly burr under the saddle of the tyrant. A righteous hornet with a well-aimed stinger spreading agitation.

I thought I’d share a letter she wrote in 1920 to John H. Walker, President of the Illinois State Federation of Labor.  Keep in mind, she was around 83 years old when she wrote this:

Dear John,

… Things are pretty lively over here, we are doing business. I had a meeting at Princeton, West Va., yesterday the first labor meeting ever held there.

The mine at Bluefield, West Va.

The mine at Bluefield, West Va.

It was only five miles from Bluefield, the head-quarters of the Baldwin Thugs. I must have had six or seven thousand people, there were seven wagon-loads of Baldwin Thugs at the meeting, but John, I licked Hell out of the whole crowd.

I googled images of Baldwin Thugs. This is the first image that came up. One of the security thugs working for the Baldwin-Felts Agency in West Virginia to keep the peace which means to keep the miners from organizing and going on strike.

I googled images of Baldwin Thugs. This is the first image that came up. One of the security thugs working for the Baldwin-Felts Agency in West Virginia to keep the peace which means to keep the miners from organizing and going on strike.

Another image for Baldwin Thug. Thank you, Google.

Another image for Baldwin Thug. Thank you, Google.

While this looks like a picture of two old guys in shorts and white cotton socks going to Punchville, Google assures me this is also a "Baldwin Thug."

While this looks like a picture of two old guys in shorts and white cotton socks going to Punchville, Google assures me this is also a “Baldwin Thug.”

By the time you get to this shot, "Baldwin Thug" kinda loses its sinister reputation. What is that? A cocka-Poo?

By the time you get to this shot, “Baldwin Thug” kinda loses its sinister reputation. What is that? A cocka-Poo?

I put a new life and a new spirit into the wretches, certainly it was taking my life in my hands, because I had to come back thirty-two miles, over rough lonely roads along the mountains, with only one man and he was a lawyer, and the chauffer with me, everyone was afraid they would follow me and murder me, but we bluffed them and took the wrong road.

In case anyone missed Mother's lawyer joke.

In case anyone missed Mother’s lawyer joke.

It was near eleven o’clock when I got into Hinton, but after I crossed the river, I felt safe. I got into Charleston at four o’clock in the morning, had no sleep for twenty-eight hours. I had to go thirty-four miles over that rough road and back the same and then speak for one hour and a half to that tremendous  audience, but John, I sowed the seed anyhow, the voice of labor should not be raised there before, it was just as bad as homestead, but anybody else would have got killed.

She felt safe here.

Hinton, West Virginia–Mother Jones felt safe here.

Give my love to them all at home…

Sincerely yours,

Mother

"I licked Hell out of the whole crowd." --Mother Mary Harris Jones

“I licked Hell out of the whole crowd.” –Mother Mary Harris Jones

6 Comments on ““…anybody else would have got killed.”

  1. 30 plus miles – hours upon hours of bad roads, possibly pursued by men wishing harm to her and a lawyer as companion! That’s a rough ride and a tough spirit! She was so amazing! I’ll add gratitude for her will and spirit to my thanksgiving list!

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    • And I’m giving my Thanks for you, dear Jayne! Enjoy your cabin in the woods! I’m sending my love to both you and Milton!

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  2. That was good! Mike Davis and I were just emailing about how we can’t get your play out of our heads….Happy Thanksgiving to you dear Arlitia. I am thankful you keep the words coming out of your pen.

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    • Happy Thanksgiving to you as well! Seeing your quilt earlier at the museum has inspired me to finally unbury my sewing room! I am so thankful for you and your art!

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