This May, I feel connections to Mary Harris Jones, who was born in 1830, possibly on Mayday, in Cork, Ireland. She was a prominent labor and community organizer in the US, best known as Mother Jones. Her birthplace is in one of my favorite counties in Ireland and her burial place is not too far from my home in Illinois in the Mount Olive Union Miners Cemetery. That cemetery is also the home for coal miners killed in rioting associated with strikes which she had led.
Mother Jones’s legendary work during her 100 years of life is an inspiration. Her concern for working people caused her to be at odds with union leadership at times, as well as with companies or government. This combativeness led to her being called many things, including the “Miners’ Angel.”
Another labor organizer described her as “the greatest woman agitator of our times.” A DA called her “the most dangerous woman in America,” because she could inspire supposedly contented workers to demand their rights. When a Senator denounced her as the “grandmother of all agitators”, she answered, “I hope to live long enough to be the great-grandmother of all agitators.” She herself said “I’m not a humanitarian; I’m a hell-raiser.” I can’t pretend to or even fully imagine anything like the life she led, but I still admire her courage and caring.
Mother Jones magazine
Beyond place and dates, I feel a connection to Mother Jones in that I find the magazine named after her, to be one of the best sources for insights into current events. It probes deeper into issues than mainstream news services such as NY Times, BBC, or Deutsche Welle and has more factual content than most blogs or opinion magazines.
A good example, and what I started to write about today, is an article called Irony Man, by Nick Turse. It’s in part a review of the film Iron Man, but is really more a review of America’s disastrous foreign policy and how its most enduring harm may be to our own psyche and culture.