Hellraisers Journal: Whereabouts and Doings of Mother Jones for May 1917: Found in West Virginia and Indiana

You ought to be out raising hell.
This is the fighting age.
Put on your fighting clothes.
-Mother Jones

Hellraisers Journal, Thursday June 14, 1917
Mother Jones News for May: Organizing in West Virginia

Mother Jones, Garment Strike, Chg Dly Tb, Feb 26, 1917, crpd 2

During the month of May 1917 Mother Jones was found in West Virginia on a mission for the United Mine Workers of America organizing the mining camps of the Winding Gulf District where she is beloved by the miners and considered a treasonous old-hag by the mine owners.

The following is part of a report from West Virginia published in the United Mine Workers Journal:

Judging from [her listeners’] expressions, I am confident that the results of that grand old lady’s talk and the clean-cut statements of the other representatives as to the opportunity that the United Mine Workers of America are offering the miners of this field, and considering that we now have officials that believe in making contracts above the table, I believe I heard at least fifty or more men this evening say that if the national will keep Mother Jones in this field a while longer we will get a hundred per cent organization.

She also paid visits to Chicago and to Brazil, Indiana.

From the Fairmont West Virginian of May 2, 1917:

[From Section: Washington News Gossip by Charles Brooks Smith.]


George Williams, of eckley [Beckley?], is a visitor in Washington.

Mother Jones, the strike agitator, is holding forth in the Raleigh county coal fields, according to information which is in possession of the government. She is said to be advising the miners in that region that “now is the time to strike for higher wages.” Copies of some parts of her speeches have been forwarded to the authorities here and they are examining them carefully. It is said that they border more than slightly on treason, and that it is more than likely that the government will take the fiery old woman in custody. There is no strike in that part of West Virginia, and the miners in that region have received three advances in wages in less than a year, totaling a 30 per cent, increase.


From the United Mine Workers Journal of May 10, 1917:

Mother Jones in Winding Gulf District

Pemberton, W. Va., April 29.—About seven hundred men of the Winding Gulf attended the meeting of Mother Jones here today.

Mother Jones’s talk was greatly appreciated, her address lasting one hour and thirty minutes. She laid great stress on the duties of the women of the nation, and her words convinced practically every one present that every nation depends on our womanhood and organized labor.

Organizer Lawrence Dwyer also addressed the meeting, citing what benefits the men working in and around the mines are receiving from the efforts of the United Mine Workers of America, and at the conclusion of the meeting the representatives of the organization, at the requests from the men all over the Winding Gulf, promised to visit and re-establish locals at each operation. A local was established at this place and two-thirds of the men here have already enrolled as members.



From the United Mine Workers Journal of May 17, 1917:

Mother Jones Revives Organization

Mt. Hope, W. Va., May 6.—It was a pleasure to me to be in the town of Mt. Hope, V. Va., this afternoon, as I had the pleasure of being one of the audience that attended the meeting of Mother Jones, Lawrence Dwyer, Jas. Gilmore and Abe Clendenen, and I am glad that I shall be able to tell our Kanawha Brothers, when I return to Kanawha tomorrow, of the good work and the results those representatives are doing.

There were about four hundred people present, composed of mine workers from the nearby camps, some business men, ladies, and three coal operators. Every one appeared interested, and the workers in and around the mines, at the conclusion of the meeting, secured the promises from these representatives that they would visit the different camps for the purpose of re-establishing local unions and mingling with these men from the different camps for the remainder of the evening.

Judging from their expressions, I am confident that the results of that grand old lady’s talk and the clean-cut statements of the other representatives as to the opportunity that the United Mine Workers of America are offering the miners of this field, and considering that we now have officials that believe in making contracts above the table, I believe I heard at least fifty or more men this evening say that if the national will keep Mother Jones in this field a while longer we will get a hundred per cent organization. Since my visit to this field five days ago I have repeatedly heard from different members that these representatives have done more organizing than has been done in the field for the past three years. So trusting that the national president will keep up the good work, I remain yours,



Mother Jones at Minden, W. Va.

Minden, W. Va., May 6.—Practically every working man at Minden mines—some five hundred—turned out this morning to hear from Mother Jones, a woman who has done more for the working class than any other person that is living today. And when the vast assemblage gathered on the ball ground to meet her and the other representatives of our national and district organization, imagine our surprise when the superintendent, Mr. Curry, accompanied by an officer approached our representatives and asked them what was the object of the meeting. Our representatives told them that this meeting was being held for the purpose of increasing our membership, then the superintendent informed them that he wouldn’t allow them to hold it. Our representative informed him that we are working under an agreement, and a concession in that agreement grants us the right to hold this meeting. The superintendent still objected, and our representatives then informed him that they were sorry that this company should take the position to enter into an agreement with us and then openly violate it in this manner, but since they do take such a position, we would hold this meeting anyway. The superintendent then asked that we hold it off a while, to enable him to take it up with his company, which our representatives did for about twenty minutes, when they decided they could not wait upon him any longer, as they had a meeting for Mt. Hope, West Virginia, at 3 o’clock p. m. So Representative Lawrence Dwyer opened the meeting and spoke about forty-five minutes, and then gave way to Mother Jones. At this time Mr. Curry, the superintendent, returned and told our representatives it was all right, we could hold our meeting. Mother Jones spoke for one hour and thirty minutes, and she certainly captured the five hundred men. I was amused when Mother Jones, in her speech, asked who was the company that owned these mines, and when the answer was given that it was the Berwind-White Co., she said, oh, she was well acquainted with that company, as she has had quite a bit of fun with it in her time, and the way the superintendent (and the company officials with him in his machine) laughed made me believe they remembered some of that fun-making.

When the opportunity was offered these men to reestablish a local, eighty-nine responded, and the balance promised to enroll at the next meeting, which was set for next Tuesday night. The men from the other camps in this territory begged our representatives to visit their places, and the representatives announced that National President John P. White, directed them to visit every coal operation. This announcement was heartily cheered by all. Every man now feels that we are going to have an organization.



From The Chicago Daily Tribune of May 19, 1917:

Mother Jones Stops in Chicago
for a Few Hours

“Mother” Jones, octogenarian labor leader, made a “between strike” visit in Chicago yesterday. She came here from the West Virginia coal fields and departed shortly afterward for Brazil, Ind., where she will take command of a strike of brickmakers and cement workers. During the short time she was here she expressed her opinion of judges who issue injunctions in labor disputes.


From The Brazil Daily Times of May 19, 1917:


The official weather man has been good enough to promise good weather for Labor’s May Day and Flag Day ceremony here tomorrow.

Mother Jones will deliver two speeches during the day, one in the afternoon at Oak Park and another in the Sourwine Theater at night. Mother Jones comes from West Virginia, where she has assisted in the organization work among the coal miners.

Other prominent labor leaders are on program and a parade at 1:00 o’clock will be a feature.


From The Brazil Daily Times of May 21, 1917:




John Walker Says American Manufacturer
is Biggest Thief on Earth-
Parade Precedes Meeting.

Mother Jones in her plain, outspoken and unpolished language, bitterly assailed Judge A. B. Anderson of the Federal Court; directed some sarcastic remarks at Billy Sunday, evangelist, and the churches and declared her defiance to federal injunctions, before a crowd of several hundred persons at Oak Park yesterday afternoon and a large crowd at the Sourwine Theater last night. The meeting at the park followed a parade on National avenue at 1:30 o’clock. Because of a misunderstanding, several units that were scheduled to take part in the parade were not in line and the procession, as compared with the Eight Hour Day parade was very small.

However, a good sized crowd assembled at the park, many coming in automobiles from a distance, and heard Thomas Powell, John Walker, president of the Illinois Federation of Labor, and Mother Jones, make their remarks. Walker bitterly assailed Judge A. B. Anderson and urged the laboring men to show fight. In speaking of the European war, he declared the real cause of it is because the big industries of the Allies and the Central Powers are fighting for business control of the Orient and labor is compelled to bear the brunt of the war. He says that European manufacturers are thieves because they do not give the laboring people full share of the earnings and the American manufacturers are bigger thieves than those in Europe.

Mother Jones said the labor movement started at Carthage some [1800?] years ago and even at that time they “had Judge Andersons on the bench.” She said that when the workers could get no concessions then they destroyed nations. She said that this will not happen here because the new labor movement is gaining such force that they are forcing the granting of their rights.

She reviewed some of the organization efforts in West Virginia and told how efforts were made to keep her from holding meetings.

In referring to the clay workers’ strike of Brazil, she said she was not going to follow Brother Walker and eulogize the strikers.

[Mother Jones said:]

I didn’t know you had a strike on here. If you had raised more hell I’d heard of you. You strikers are a bunch of leeches or you would have raised more hell. What are you afraid of injunctions for? I got one of ’em on my back and the old fellow who put it there is dead now. The women here are not like the women in West Virginia. Out there they say, “To hell with the judges.”

Mother Jones took some sarcastic pokes at Billy Sunday and the churches and declared that labor unions can do more good than all the Billy Sundays, churches, social settlement clubs, preachers and social workers, for the advancement of humanity.

Mother Jones spoke again at the opera house at night along similar lines.




The West Virginian
(Fairmont, West Virginia)
-May 2, 1917

United Mine Workers Journal, Volume 27
(Indianapolis, Indiana)
Jan 4, 1917 to May 31, 1917
United Mine Workers of America, 1917
UMWJ May 10, 1917
Re: Mother at Winding Gulf

The United Mine Workers Journal, Volume 28
-May 3, 1917 to Oct 25, 1917
UMWA, 1917
UMWJ May 17, 1917
Re: Mother in West Virginia

The Chicago Daily Tribune
(Chicago, Illinois)
-May 19, 1917

The Brazil Daily Times
(Brazil, Indiana)
-May 19, 1917
-May 21, 1917

Mother Jones, Garment Strike, Chg Dly Tb, Feb 26, 1917

See also:
Mother Jones Speaks: Collected Writings and Speeches
-ed by Philip Sheldon Foner
Monad Press, 1983
(search: “the old hag”)

George Wolfe, manager of the Winding Gulf Colliery in Raleigh County, West Virginia, wrote a letter, dated April 30, 1917, to the mine owner warning that “The Old Hag” was once again causing trouble in West Virginia:

Mother Jones is with us again and held a meeting at Sophia yesterday afternoon in which she urged all to meet her tonight and organize, then strike. She states that the Operators are receiving six ($6) dollars per ton for their coal and the pitiful 20% raise is a mere bagatele, when by organizing and striking they could receive so much more. In your communications with the National Defense Council, it might be well to call their attention to this, as it does not look well for greater output of coal to have such characters going around the country. The Old Hag has announced that she will invade the sacred precincts of Winding Gulf on the 5th of May.


Children of Mother Jones – Pete Duffy