Hellraiser: Mother Jones - An Historical Novel
Mother Jones' triumphs honored
How the Women Mopped up Coaldale
Those Mules won't Scab Today

Hellraiser: Mother Jones - An Historical Novel

From the Civil War era until the Great Depression, Mary Harris "Mother" Jones was an in-your-face labor organizer who supported the mill workers, garment workers, and coal miners — men women and children — in their fight for fair pay and humane working conditions.

Locally, Mother Jones is best recognized by a Pennsylvania historical marker in Coaldale that reads, "Mary Harris 'Mother' Jones, Labor leader, workers' advocate. Arrested and jailed in Homestead for speaking to striking Steelworkers, 1919. When the judge asked who gave her a permit to speak publicly, she replied, "Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams!'"

During a trial during the Great Coal Strike of 1902, a West Virginia District Attorney called Jones, "The most dangerous woman in America."

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Mother Jones' triumphs honored
Miners march is re-enacted as Coaldale dedicates marker.
October 26, 2002|By Gerry McClenahan Special to The Morning Call -- Freelance
Mother Jones was memorialized Friday when the state Historical and Museum Commission unveiled a plaque in Coaldale citing her role in the American labor movement.

Mary Harris "Mother" Jones was a Coaldale housewife (NOTE: IS THAT TRUE THAT SHE WAS A COALDALE HOUSEWIFE?) who rallied mine workers and their wives to the labor cause by staging a march in 1900.

As a result, most of the mine workers in the Panther Valley joined the fledgling United Mine Workers union that year.

Despite a cold drizzle that lasted all day, a re-enactment of the march was staged before the dedication at Second Street and Route 209.

Tamaqua Downtown Manager Linda Yulanavage, a local history buff, portrayed Jones and led the parade of miners, children and raggedly dressed housewives banging pots and pans with kitchen utensils.

The marker was placed in a park dedicated to area coal miners and can be identified from the roadway by the brick shelter bearing coal company advertisements. Work continues on the park, which eventually will include a sign and restored mine car.

Jones left Chicago in the late 1800s to live in Pennsylvania mine towns and organize workers. Though she lived in Coaldale only for a short time, the community and many others embrace her.

"She was beloved everywhere," said Lois Hartel, secretary of the Pennsylvania Labor History Society, based in Indiana County. "She organized the women to organize the men and was very successful."

The ceremony was attended by members of the state commission and local dignitaries, including state Rep. David G. Argall, R-Schuylkill; Dale Freudenberger, director of the Lehigh and Delaware Heritage Corridor Market Towns Initiative, and Coaldale Mayor Claire Remington.

Argall presented Coaldale a $10,000 check from the state to be used to improve the historical complex and gave $5,000 to the Lehigh and Delaware Heritage Corridor Market Towns to aid Coaldale's downtown revitalization effort.

The plaque was among three that the state commission issued this year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Great Anthracite Coal Strike of 1902. The others are in Scranton and Shenandoah.

The Great Anthracite Strike followed years of unrest between the union and coal bosses and officially began when UMW President John Mitchell led 147,000 mine workers off the job on June 2, 1902.

Not all of those men were members of the union, but all could identify with the sense of oppression that accompanied the low wages, long hours and meager living conditions for the miners and their families.

During the strike, coal mines in five counties shut down, causing a shortage of coal throughout the country and leading to near-starvation and bloodshed. One incident, the Bloody First Ward Riot in Shenandoah on July 30, 1902, involved thousands of striking miners and left three men dead and the town in a state of martial law.

Shenandoah's plaque commemorates that event. It will be placed at Union and Centre streets and dedicated in a ceremony Sunday.

The strike came to an end only with the intervention of President Theodore Roosevelt, who created a commission to study and negotiate the issues. As a result of the commission hearings held in the Lackawanna County Courthouse in Scranton, miners got shorter hours and a 10 percent pay raise.

The strike ended with an agreement forged Oct. 23, 1902. That event was marked by Scranton's plaque, which was placed at the courthouse Friday afternoon.

Jay Berger of Coaldale said that as a member of the district board of directors for the United Mine Workers union, he felt the Coaldale plaque was deserved and the ceremony fitting.

"It was an excellent program marking a significant event for Coaldale and for the labor movement," he said.

Gerry McClenahan is a freelance writer.

How the Women Mopped up Coaldale

Re: Autobiography of Mother Jones

Chapter X11: How the Women Mopped up Coaldale

In Lonaconia, Maryland, there was a strike. I was there. In Hazleton, 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 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 nor 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 kitchen clothes and bring MOPS and BROOMS with them and a couple of TIN PANS. We marched over the mountains fifteen miles, beatin 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 baynots," said he.

"On whom?"

"On your people."

"We are not enemines," said I. "We are just a band of working women whose brothers and husbans 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 soliders.

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 and 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."

Those Mules won't Scab Today


Chapter XI : Those Mules Won't Scab Today

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 COALDLAE 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 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 SCABE 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 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 ito 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 wome 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 ot 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

"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 $10,000 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 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...