“…anybody else would have got killed.”
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:
… 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.
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 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.
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.
Give my love to them all at home…