Martin Irons sleeps and in
God’s good time his name will be revived,
the contumely will be effaced
and his memory will shine resplendent
in the galaxy of agitators, pioneers and warriors
who died to make man free.
Hellraisers Journal, Thursday June 13, 1907
Mother Jones News for May: Visits Grave of Martin Irons
During the month of May 1907, Mother Jones was found active as a speaker for the Socialist Party in Texas, and, in Arizona, she was found in Bisbee, assisting the Western Federations of Miners. While in Texas, Mother paid a visit to the grave of Martin Irons. An account of that visit can be found below, along with a tribute to the Pioneer Labor Hero, Martin Irons.
From The Dallas Morning News of May 1, 1907:
“MOTHER” JONES WILL SPEAK.
Chicago Woman, Speaker on Socialistic
Topics, Is Here.
“Mother” Jones of Chicago, a lecturer whose advocacy of Socialism has made her well known throughout the United States, will speak tonight at 8 o’clock in the Woodman Hall at the corner of Corinth and Wall Streets, near the cotton mills. Tomorrow night she will speak in the City Hall auditorium, and both addresses will constitute part of the campaign for municipal positions of the local Socialist candidates.
The following statement concerning Mother Jones has been issued:
It is safe to say that Mother Jones has a knowledge of industrial conditions, gained by experience and investigation at first hand, unequaled by any speaker before the public today. In the miners’ cause in the textile districts and against the child labor infamy of the South she labored for years. Mother Jones was deported from Colorado, was jailed in Utah and West Virginia and has faced the courts on numerous occasions by reason of her fealty to the working class.
From The Dallas Morning News of May 2, 1907:
“MOTHER” JONES MAKES ADDRESS
Woman Socialist Speaker Opens Campaign
in Behalf of That Ticket in Dallas.
Discussing the distribution of work and wealth, treating of trade unionism and of modern capitalism and advocating the principles of Socialism, “Mother” Jones, whose work in the mining and textile districts has made her name familiar to people of the working class, spoke last night to an audience which, in leu of a sufficiency of chairs, stood about at the doors and windows of the hall, located at the corner of Corinth and Wall streets.
The address was delivered in a very direct fashion and the audience frequently applauded. The occasion marked the opening of the municipal campaign of the local Socialists. Mother Jones said in part:
If a man had $50,000 we asked where he stole it when I was child. We knew he could not have earned that much, and we regarded him pretty much as a sea pirate who had been cast ashore. Nowadays we don’t think the man with $50,000 amounts to so very much; he must have $100,000,000 in order to rank as a man of very great wealth.
Now, mind you, I am not finding fault with the individual, but with the system.
I have been a trade unionist all my life and belonged to the Knights of Labor in the early stages of the founding of that organization. I am opposed to the workers striking and starving. I am opposed to the workers going out on a strike, with their wives and little ones starving, while the capitalist owner says, “We will starve them to death and make them come back.” I want you to settle at the ballot box which fellow shall starve.
Fifty years ago-I am going to bring it up to you together, because I have hungered with you, because together with you I have faced the military, because together with you I have seen the sufferings of childhood-the workers had created in this country $7,000,000,000 of wealth; the workers, no one else, had created this. In four years you had increased that to $10,000,000,000. Tonight you have increased that wealth, with your bone, stew, muscle and knowledge, to $110,000,000,000. In order to do this you have worked ten hours a day, some of you twelve hours. But how much of this wealth do you own? Just 1 per cent, and the other class, the exploiting class, the capitalist class, own the other 99 per cent.
The robber class own 99 per cent of the wealth, and I want you young men to mark this and to remember it when you cast your ballot. Your fathers, the old fellows with gray beards, can’t get a divorce from the old parties, but you can start out right in placing your votes.
The question is, where has this more than a billion of wealth gone to? You haven’t got it, although you may think you have; although your forewoman, because of her slightly advanced position over you, may think she has it. The truth is the wealth which has been created by your labor is in the hands of Morgan, Rockefeller, Gould and that class.
Today we look on the ruined walls of Nations which have long ago been destroyed, and we may ascertain by history that the owning classes before the fall of these Nations were telling the people how prosperous they were and were urging them to be conservative. Away back in Egypt and Greece they were preaching to the people and telling the leaders of the people,”You must keep them in a conservative frame of mine,” and yet, at the same time the destruction of the Nations themselves was written on the walls. When Rome went down 1,500 people owned all her wealth. But a great part of that wealth was taken from other Nations and not from the Romans themselves. In this country we have always had a slave system, and our owning classes have not taken their wealth from other Nations so much as they have from their own fellows.
Why is it that you work ten hours a day? You can create today as much in one hour as your father could in ten , so that you should work one-tenth as much as your father or you should have ten times his wealth. Why haven’t you the wealth that is rightly yours, having been created by you? “Well, because I didn’t want it, because I haven’t any sense or education,” you say. It is, the purpose of Socialism to give you the desire for that which is yours, even if you have not the sense or education to want it.
The speaker referred to her own experiences in the textile districts of Georgia and Alabama, where she herself worked in order to study economic conditions. She told also of her experiences in the mining districts of West Virginia, relating the incidents which came under her observation. She told of appearing in a court in West Virginia controlled by corporation influence, and she again emphasized the need of placing in all Governmental positions representatives of the working class. In this connection, after she had spoken of the social evil as a result of the present economic system, she said:
There are today in your Texas prisons 1,600 young men under the age of 21. Do you know what I would do with these prisoners if I could? I would put them on a special train, send them to Washington, run the grafters out of the capital and turn these 1,600 men loose to making the laws.
The speaker further declared that the working people were divided among themselves on issues that were not vital to them. She represented capitalism as it exists today as a great vampire.
One wing of this vampire is being flapped up and down by those adhering to the gold standard, and not one of them know what it is because they never get a chance to see any gold. The other wing is flapped by the advocates of the silver standard, and they don’t know what the standard is because they never see any silver. Then there is the tail of this vampire, and that is the prohibition party, which says that if the people quit drinking and debauching themselves they can save up more and live better, but a party which offers no solution of the economic problems of the day. And the head of the vampire is in Europe enjoying itself, while the working people wear themselves out in useless agitation against one another.
Relation was made of methods resorted to in order to keep mine workers divided among themselves in a certain camp, where the religious prejudices of Protestant and Catholic workers were inflamed.
[Said Mrs. Jones near the conclusion of her address:]
A banker once asked me if it were not the purpose of the Socialist party to seek the division of all wealth. “No,” I replied, “it seeks the equal distribution of work.” Had Adam received at the end of his honeymoon until the present time $2 a day and had he lived under the shelter of a tree, subsisted on air and saved until this good day every bit of his money he would not have today the amount of your fortune. Where did you earn your $3,000,000?”
Tonight Mother Jones will speak at 8 o’clock in the City Hall auditorium.
From The Dallas Morning News of May 3, 1907:
ADDRESS BY MOTHER JONES.
At the City Hall She Talks of
“Aims of Socialism.”
“Aims of Socialism” were discussed at the City hall last night by Mary Jones, better known as Mother Jones. Referring to the Haywood and Moyer trial in Idaho she said:
One Governor died as a result of the stings of poverty in the working class that he had sworn to protect. He reaped what he had sown. He sowed anarchy. He died as might have been expected. He had negro soldiers in the camps to overawe the miners. And even the President of the United States has referred to us as undesirable citizens. Even the women and children threw stones at the Christ when he was on earth and he was deemed an undesirable citizen. Now they go to church and worship him, dead 1,900 years ago. They call us dreamers, and dreamers we are. But our dreams are to be the salvation of your children and the preservation of liberty in the days that are to come. Then the jails and penitentiaries will become club rooms.
Support Socialism in politics. What have Democrats and Republicans given you? Nothing but hard knocks. If you men are too weak in the knees to fight for your rights, there are enough of us women to conduct the rebellion. Some of you party men have been slaves until you are gray as musk rats. And what have you got? Why, if you was to die there is not enough on your bones to be picking for a decent mouse. Women decry Socialism and decline to take part in a study of the real suffering and the method of alleviating and eliminating it, but they sit up all night and weep over trashy novels of fancied suffering while their own weakling babies cry unnoticed.
Oh, if you force us to we shall fight. We are not afraid of a conflict. Every land is as its motherhood. As the mother, so is the child. Be strong, be full of courage, be sure of right and be untiring. We are right; we are following the teachings of Christ and we shall win.
From Appeal to Reason of May 4, 1907:
Mother Jones’ Texas Dates.
Navo, May 3rd and 4th; Princeton, 6th and 7th; Copeville, 8th and 9th; Farmersville, 10th and 11th; Blue Ridge, 13th and 14th; Whitewright, 15th and 16th: Bailey, 17th; Randolph, 18th and 19th; Bonham, 20th; Honey Grove, 21st.
From Appeal to Reason of May 11, 1907:
THE GRAVE OF MARTIN IRONS
BY MOTHER JONES.
On the morning of April 16 I arrived at Eddy, Texas. I was received by Comrade Williams and his wife. After breakfast they drove me to Bruceville, accompanied by a few of the citizens, and a little later I found myself at the grave of one of labor’s loyal champions. The world remembers little of him now, and that little only to do him cruel injustice. He sleeps almost forgotten, but the day of his resurrection will come as certain as the sunrise.
It was nineteen long years since I had last seen this loyal fellow-worker in the great cause; since I had clasped his honest hand; since I had heard his earnest voice pleading for the slaves who work for wages and produce to enrich their masters and deny themselves.
The grave was marked with a piece of iron. This rough souvenir suggests the name of the labor warrior who there fell into his last long sleep. No tender hand had planted any flowers upon the grave of Martin Irons, but a mocking bird was singing sweetly near his resting place and the wild flowers were scattering their springtime perfume to the breezes as if to rebuke man’s cruel forgetfulness by the sweet and gentle breath and melody of Mother Nature.
It is fortunate that Martin Irons did not awaken when he fell asleep. The world had nothing but cruelty, scorn and suffering for him. He had been too true. Had he prated of the identity of interests between master and slave, his name would have been honored and he would have fared like a prince of the blood. He had the ability but refused to prostitute it.
Jay Gould would have paid him liberally, but Martin Irons refused to see him. All of Gould’s millions were so much worthless chaff to him in the presence of his duty to labor.
When the great Missouri Pacific strike was crushed the whole burden of it fell upon his shoulders. All the papers vilified him, but he never complained. His own followers who, had they been true to him, would have won the strike, now turned upon him to slander him on account of their own cowardice.
But Martin Irons through it all remained the warrior. He had the heart of a child and the soul of a hero. The capitalist class made up its mind that it would be troubled with him no more, and so he was hounded as if he had been a wild beast, deprived of employment, driven from place to place until he was literally starved into a pauper’s grave.
But Martin Irons was a pauper in no other sense. In principle he was rich and royal. He kept his own company and his pride did not desert him. What must have been his opinion of the world! He did not say. He accepted his fate; he had been true.
No self-reproach added to his suffering and if the angels of love have not abandoned their mission they hover near where Martin Irons sleeps and in God’s good time his name will be revived, the contumely will be effaced and his memory will shine resplendent in the galaxy of agitators, pioneers and warriors who died to make man free.
From Appeal to Reason of May 11, 1907:
Part of report from W. J. Bell of Tyler, Texas, Socialist Party State Secretary:
-“Mother” Jones was refused the use of the court-house at Gatesville. She did not fail to inform the audience that they were refused the use of their own house.
Bell further reports:
-We learn that “Mother” Jones is responsible for starting that “typewriter fund,” having sent in $4 from Beaumont through another comrade who failed to state the purpose of the contribution. “Mother” writes: “I am going to keep up a fuss until you get that typewriter. I will go into some other state and raise the money and shame them.”
From Bisbee Daily Review of May 17, 1907:
Note: The Bisbee Daily Review is not known for being overly friendly towards organized workers in general, nor towards the Western Federation of Miners in particular.
STIRKE PETERING OUT.
The strike inaugurated in Bisbee by the Western Federation of Miners organizers is gradually coming to a close as an incident in the history of the Warren District. Every day sees men come in on the train turn a deaf ear to the story of the organizers and their pickets and promptly accept employment in the mines at the best wages to be had in the country for the shortest time of work. Every man under ground in the Warren district receives $4 for eight hours’ work….
The street talking no longer attracts attention except from the curious and those who go to hear it as they would go to any other place of amusement. “Mother” Jones has been on duty for the past week but she has proved a disappointment and has caused no enthusiasm among the strikers…
From Bisbee Daily Review of May 28, 1907:
Brief City News…”Mother Jones,” the socialist orator, was a passenger outbound yesterday morning after spending the past two weeks in the Warren district.
From Bisbee Daily Review of May 30, 1907:
Brief City News…”Mother” Jones, the Socialist orator, arrived in the city last evening from Tombstone.
The Dallas Morning News
-May 1, 1907, page 6
-May 2, 1907, page 5
-May 3, 1907, page 7
Appeal to Reason
-May 4, 1907
-May 11, 1907
-May 11, 1907
Bisbee Daily Review
-May 17, 1907
-May 28, 1907
-May 30, 1907
Mother Jones, Mar 11, 1905, AtR
Letter from Mother Jones to Terence V. Powderly:
May 24, 1907.
Mr. T. V. Powderly,
Washington, D. C.
My dear Friend and Comrade:
For a long time I felt that I wanted to drop you a few lines and let you know that I am still alive, and fighting the common enemy as best I know how. I was in Washington last Fall and went there principally to see you, and spend a week or ten days getting notes on the old time fights, but after I arrived I found out that you had gone to Europe, a trip I considered you badly needed, after the long years of kicks and abuse you got from those you had faithfully served; and though all the world may abuse you there will still be one, who will defend you. I know of the many dark battles you had to fight. You were rocking the cradle of the movement, you made it possible for others to march on. No doubt, with many of us you made blunders, but I know and feel that you did the best you knew how under the conditions with which you had to deal. It was the early stages of the training school for the future conflict. Last month I happened to be within a few miles of Bruceville; as the train was passing through there in the early morning, I stopped off and went out to see the pillow of clay on which the head of poor Martin Irons rested. He sleepeth well, Jay Gould cannot awaken him now. His grave was marked by a piece of iron, it is his only tombstone. It marked the spot where that brave warrior of labors battles rested. No tender hand seemed to care for it, but the wild flowers did not forget to plant their perfume around his grave. One thing struck me in the early morning, and that was that the birds had not forgotten that he was resting there, they had awakened from their slumbers, and were calling their mates to enjoy God’s sunshine. They were not responding to the call of a trust whistle, only to the call of nature.
While waiting for the train I called upon Dr. Harris, to my regret he was not home. I met his charming daughter, and left a message of deep appreciation from both you and me for the doctor for his kindness to Martin in his last hour.
I enclose you a few leaves from his grave, Knowing how deeply you will appreciate them, and how poor Martin would feel if he saw you press your lips to them.
Now Comrade let me congratulate you on the manly and fearless steps you have taken in defense of our brave boys in Idaho. It is needless for me to say to you, that capitalism has no soul, nor no love for humanity or its sufferings, and those who take up the battle for the oppressed, must bear the penalty. How the spectacular performer in Washington has put his foot in it. The word “undesirable citizen” will go down in history. He and his crew of pirates would no doubt give a great deal to undo that.
I hope you go out to see douglas Wilson. He needs your consoling words in his lonely condition, and his faithful wife needs some words of encouragement, I have always loved Douglas. He is a true brave fellow and the labor movement misses him from the field of battle. Tell him from me that I am going to write him a long letter some day in the near future, I would have done it before But I lost his adress.
The enclosed circular, will tell you the same old story of the robber and the robbed.
Will you be home next Winter? There are some things of the past, over which I want to talk with you. I want to spend a week or ten days in Washington,
Believe me every faithfully Yours in the cause of suffering humanity,
If you can get me a copy of the government report of the Colo War do so. I am told it is out of print.
The Correspondence of Mother Jones
-ed by Edward M. Steel
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1985
“Song for the Knights of Labor” from “Iron & Gold”
A song from our historical musical about railroads, robber barons, and labor in 19th Century America. It centers on the great Southwest Strike of 1886, which pitted labor leader Martin Irons against railroad magnate Jay Gould. In this song, Irons sings to an assembly of the Knights of Labor, an early universal labor union. -Mark Arnest