Appeal to the Cause of Miners
In the Paint Creek District
August 15, 1912 — On the Steps of the State Capitol Building, Charleston WV
This, my friends, marks, in my estimation, the most remarkable move ever made in the State of West Virginia. It is a day that will mark history in the long ages to come. What is it? It is an uprising of the oppressed against the master class.
From this day on, my friends, Virginia — West Virginia — shall march in the front of the nation’s states. To me, I think, the proper thing to do is to read the purpose of our meeting here today — why these men have laid down their tools, why these men have come to the State House.
To His Excellency, William E. Glasscock, Governor of the State of West Virginia:
It is respectfully represented unto your Excellency that the owners of the various coal mines doing business along the valley of Cabin Creek, Kanawha County, West Virginia, are maintaining and have at present in their employ a large force of armed guards, armed with Winchesters, a dangerous and deadly weapon; also having in their possession three Gatling guns, which they have stationed at commanding positions overlooking the Cabin Creek Valley, which said weapons said guards use for the purpose of brow-beating, intimidating and menacing the lives of all the citizens who live in said valley, and whose business calls them into said valley, who are not in accord with the management of the coal companies, which guards are cruel and their conduct toward the citizens is such that it would be impossible to give a detailed account of.
Therefore, suffice it to say, however, that they beat, abuse, maim and hold up citizens without process of law, deny freedom of speech, a provision guaranteed by the Constitution, deny the citizens to assemble in a peaceable manner for the purpose of discussing questions in which they are concerned. Said guards also hold up a vast body of laboring men who live at the mines, and so conduct themselves that a great number of men, women and children live in a state of constant fear, unrest and dread.
We hold that the stationing of said guards along the public highways, and public places is a menace to the general welfare of the state. That such action on the part of the companies in maintaining such guards is detrimental to the best interests of society and an outrage against the honor and dignity of the State of West Virginia.
As citizens interested in the public weal and general welfare, and believing that law and order, and peace, should ever abide, that the spirit of brotherly love and justice and freedom should everywhere exist, we must tender our petition that you would bring to bear all the powers of your office as Chief Executive of this State, for the purpose of disarming said guards and restoring to the citizens of said valley all the rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and said State.
In duty bound, in behalf of the miners of the State of West Virginia.
I want to say with all due respect to the Governor — I want to say to you that the Governor will not, cannot do anything, for this reason: The Governor was placed in this building by Scott and Elkins and he don’t dare oppose them. Therefore, you are asking the Governor of the State to do something that he cannot do without betraying the class he belongs to.
I remember the Governor in a state, when Grover Cleveland was perched in the White House — Grover Cleveland said he would send the Federal troops out, and the Governor of that state [John Peter Altgeld of Illinois] said, “Will you? If you do I will meet your Federal troops with the state troops, and we will have it out.” Old Grover never sent the troops — he took back water.
You see, my friends, how quickly the Governor sent his militia when the coal operators got scared to death.
I have no objection to the militia. I would always prefer the militia, but there was no need in this county for the militia, none whatsoever. They were law-abiding people, and the women and children. They were held up on the highways, caught in their homes and pulled out like rats and beaten up — some of them. I said, “If there is no one else in the State of West Virginia to protest, I will protest.”
The womanhood of this State shall not be oppressed and beaten and abused by a lot of contemptible, damnable blood-hounds, hired by the operators. They wouldn’t keep their dogs where they keep you fellows. You know that. They have a good place for their dogs and a slave to take care of them. The mine owners’ wives will take the dogs up, and say, “I love you, dea-h.”
Now, my friends, the day for petting dogs is done; the day for raising children to a nobler manhood and better womanhood is here.
You have suffered, I know how you have suffered. I was with you nearly three years in this state. I went to jail, went to the Federal courts, but I never took any back water. I still unfurl the red flag of industrial freedom, no tyrant’s face shall you know, and I call you today into that freedom, long perched on the bosom
I am back again to find you, my friends, in a state of industrial peonage — after ten years absence I find you in a state of industrial peonage.
The Superintendent at Acme — I went up there, and they said we were unlawful — we had an unlawful mob along. Well, I will tell you the truth, we took a couple of guns, because we knew we were going to meet some thugs, and by jimminy.
We will prepare for the job, just like Lincoln and Washington did. We took lessons from them, and we are here to prepare for the job.
Well, when I came out on the public road the Superintendent — you know the poor salary slave — he came out and told me that there were Notary Publics there and a squire — one had a peg leg, and the balance had pegs in their skulls.
They forbid me speaking on the highway, and said that if I didn’t discontinue I would be arrested. Well, I want to tell you one thing, I don’t run to jail, but when the blood-hounds undertake to put me in jail I will go there. I have gone there. I would have had the little peg-leg Squire arrest me only I knew this meeting was going to be pulled off today to let the world know what was going on in West Virginia. When I get through with them, by the Eternal God they will be glad to let me alone.
I am not afraid of jails. We build the jails, and when we get ready we will put them behind the bars. That may happen very soon — things happen overnight.
Now. brothers, not in all the history of the labor movement have I got such an inspiration as I have got from you here today. Your banners are history, they will go down to the future ages, to the children unborn, to tell them the slave has risen, children must be free.
The labor movement was not originated by man. The labor movement, my friends, was a command from God Almighty. He commanded the prophets thousands of years ago to go down and redeem the Israelites that were in bondage, and he organized the men into a union and went to work. And they said, “The masters have made us gather straw, they have been more cruel than they were before. What are we going to do?” The prophet said, “A voice from heaven has come to get you together.” They got together and the prophet led them out of the land of bondage and robbery and plunder into the land of freedom. And when the army of the pirates followed them the Dead Sea opened and swallowed them up, and for the first time the workers were free.
And so it is. That can well be applied to the State of West Virginia. When I left Cabin Creek ten years ago to go to another terrific battle field, every man on Cabin Creek was organized — every single miner. The mine owners and the miners were getting along harmoniously, they had an understanding and were carrying it out. But they had some traitors who made a deal with the mine owners and the organization was driven out of Cabin Creek. There were no better miners in the whole State of West Virginia than on Cabin Creek, no better operators, in those days. You got along together. They were trying to make it happy and comfortable for you but the demon came and tore the organization to pieces, and you are at war today.
I hope, my friends, that you and the mine owners will put aside the breach and get together before I leave the State. But I want to say make no settlement until they sign up that every bloody murderer of a guard has got to go.
This is done, my friends, beneath the flag our fathers fought and bled for, and we don’t intend to surrender our liberty.
I have a document issued eighteen years ago, telling how they must handle the labor movement — pat them on the back, make them believe that they were your devoted friends. I hold the document, taken from their statement in Washington. It plainly states, “We have got to crucify them but we have got to do it cunningly.” And they have been doing it cunningly. But I want to say in answer to your statements, that you are dealing with a different class of workers today than eighteen years ago. We have begun education, we have educated the workers, and you can’t enslave them. They will come again, and you will either take to the ocean and get out of the nation and leave us alone, or you will settle right with us.
It is different now, my friends. It was Mark Hanna who said some years ago — the shrewdest politician America ever had–he said, “I want to tell you that before 1912 the Republican and Democratic parties will be about to get their death blow.”
Never in the history of the United States was there such an upheaval as there is today. The politicians are cutting each other’s throats, eating each other up, they are for the offices. Teddy, the monkey-chaser, had a meeting in Chicago, he was blowing his skull off his carcass about race suicide. God Almighty, bring him down the C. and O. and he will never say another word about race suicide. The whole population seems to be made up of kids. Every woman has three babies in her arms and nine on the floor. So you will see there is no danger of race suicide. When he sees this he will keep his mouth shut on that.
See the condition we are in today. There is a revolution. There is an editorial in one of the papers in your own state showing how little they have done for the workers, that the workers are awakening. The literature is being circulated among them. I myself have circulated millions and millions of pieces of literature in this country and awakened the workers. On the trains they say, “Oh, Mother, you gave me a book and that woke me up.” As long as you woke up right it is all right. He says, “I have woke up right.” Then if you woke up right, you are my children.
Oh, you men of wealth, oh you preachers, you are going over to China and sending money over there for Jesus. For God’s sake keep it at home, we need it. Let me tell you, them fellows are owned body and soul by the ruling class, and they would rather take a year in hell with Elkins than ninety-nine in heaven. Do you find a minister preaching against the guards?
He will preach about Jesus, but not about the guards.
When we were crossing the bridge at Washington, the blood-hounds were at the company store. These blood-hounds might have thrown me into the river, and I wouldn’t have known it. The men were hollowing “Police! Police!” I said, “What is the matter with you?” They said, “Oh, God, murder! murder!” Another one came out and his feet never touched the side walk.
My boys came running to me and said, “Oh, Mother, they are killing the boys.” The traction car turned the corner. I said, “Call them boys here.” Then they went, they thought I had an army with me. Then I picked up a boy streaming with blood where the hounds had beat him.
You are to blame, you have voted for the whole gang of commercial
pirates every time you get a chance to free yourselves.
It is time to clean them up.
If this nation is to march onward and upward the day of change is here. I have been reading of the Titanic when she went down. Did you read of her? The big guns wanted to save themselves, and the fellows that were guiding below took up a club and said we will save our people. And then the papers came out and said those millionaires tried to save the women. Oh, Lord, why don’t they give up their millions if they want to save the women and children? Why do they rob them of home, why do they rob millions of women to fill the hell-holes of capitalism.
I realize, I remember what they did to me, the Guggenheims, I remember what the Guggenheim blood-hounds did to me, one night in Colorado. They went to the hotel after we had organized the slaves. I took the four o’clock train for the southern fields, and the blood-hounds, the chief of police, and the whole gang of commercial blood-hounds came up to the hotel and went to the register to find my room, and the hotel keeper said that I had left at four o’clock. We had a meeting that night. They took a fellow and drove him down the street barefooted and put him on the train and told him to never come back. And we are very civilized! They don’t do that in Russia, it is in America.
They took me and put me in jail — I had the smallpox, I had the Helen Gould smallpox covering me all over. And at four o’clock in the morning they came and the blood-hounds — Helen Gould’s blood-hounds — and they bound four hundred miners in Colorado, for gold, and threw their widows and orphans out on the highways in the snow. When I was fighting the battle with those wretches they put me into a pen which you built, a pest house, it was burned down before morning, it wasn’t worth fifty cents. We went down by a store and the storekeeper said, “God Almighty, put us down in the cellar and they won’t know us, put the dirty clothes on us” — when them dirty clothes found out that there was such a lot of rotten carcasses under them, the dirty clothes turned over.
If your sheriff had done his duty as a citizen of this state and according to his oath, he would have disarmed the guards and then there would have been no more trouble.
Just make me Governor for one month. I won’t ask for a sheriff or policeman, and I will do business, and there won’t a guard stay in the State of West Virginia. The mine owners won’t take sixty-nine thousand pounds of coal in dockage off of you fellows. Sixty-nine thousand pounds of coal they docked you for, and a few pounds of slate, and they give to Jesus on Sunday.
They give your missionary women a couple of hundred dollars and rot you under pretense of giving to Jesus. Jesus never sees a penny of it, and never heard of it. They use it for the women to get a jag on and then go and hollow for Jesus.
I wish I was God Almighty, I would throw down something some night from heaven, and get rid of the whole blood-sucking bunch.
I want to show you here that the average wages you fellows get in this country is $500.00 a year. Before you get a thing to eat there is $20.00 taken out a month, which leaves about $24.00 a month.
Then you go the the “Pluck-me” stores and want to get something to eat for your wife, and you are off that day, and the child comes back and says, “Papa, I can’t get anything.” “Why,” he says, “There is four dollars coming to me,” and the child goes back crying, without a mouthful of anything to eat. The father goes to the “Pluck-me” store and says to the manager, “There is four dollars coming to me,” and the manager says, “Oh, no, we have kept that for rent!” “You charge six dollars a month, and there are only three days gone.” “Well,” he says, “it is a rule that two-thirds of the rent is to be kept if there is only a day.”
That is honesty! Do you wonder these women starve? Do you wonder at this uprising? And you fellows have stood it entirely too long. It is time now to put a stop to it. We will give the Governor until tomorrow night to take them guards out of Cabin Creek.
Here on the steps of the Capitol of West Virginia, I say that if the Governor won’t make them go, then we will make them go.
We have come to the chief executive, we have asked him and he couldn’t do anything.
The prosecuting attorney is of the same type–another fellow belonging to the ruling class.
Hush up, there, hush up, hush up.
I want to tell you that the Governor will get until tomorrow night, Friday night, to get rid of his blood-hounds, and if they are not gone we will get rid of them.
Aye, men! Aye, men, inside of this building, Aye, women! Come with me and see the horrible pictures, see the horrible condition the ruling class has put these women in. Aye, they destroy women. Look at those little children, the rising generation; yes, look at the little ones; yes, look at the women assaulted. Some one said that that place ought to be drained up there. The mine owner’s home is drained; the superintendent’s home is drained. But I want to ask you, when a man works ten or eleven hours in the foul gas of the mine day after day if he is in condition to come out and drain.
I have worked, boys, I have worked with you for years. I have seen the suffering children, and in order to be convinced I went into the mines on the night shift and the day shift and helped the poor wretches to load coal at times. We lay down at noon and we took our lunches, and we talked our wrongs over, we gathered together at night and asked “How will we remedy things?” We organized secretly, and after a while held public meetings. We got our people together in those organized states. Today the mine owners and the miners come together. They meet each other and shake hands and have no more war in those states, and the working men are becoming more intelligent. And I am one of those, my friends, I don’t care about your woman suffrage and the temperance brigade or any other of your class associations, I want women of the coming day to discuss and find out the cause of child crucifixion, that is what I want to find out. I have worked in the factories of Georgia and Alabama, and these blood-hounds were tearing the hands off of children and working them fourteen hours a day until I fought for them. They made them put up every Saturday morning for missionary work in China. I know what I am talking about. I am not talking at haphazard, I have the goods. Go down, men of today, who rob and exploit, go down into hell and look at the ruins you have put there, look at the jails. We pay six million dollars a year to chain men like demons in a bastille — and we call ourselves civilized! Six million dollars a year we pay for jails, and nothing for education.
I have been in jail more than once, and I expect to go again. If you are too cowardly to fight, I will fight. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves, actually to the Lord you ought, just to see one old woman who is not afraid of all the blood-hounds. How scared those villains are when one woman eighty years old, with her head gray, can come in and scare hell out of the whole bunch. We didn’t scare them? The mine owners run down the street like a mad dog today. They ask who started this thing? I started it, I did it, and I am not afraid to tell you if you are here, and I will start more before I leave West Virginia. I started this mass-meeting today. I had these banners written, and don’t accuse anybody else of the job.
It is freedom or death, and your children will be free. We are not going to leave a slave class to the coming generation, and I want to say to you that the next generation will not charge us for what we have done, they will charge and condemn us for what we have left undone.
You have got your bastille. Yes, we have no fears of them at all. I was put out at twelve o’clock at night, and landed with five cents in my pocket, by seven bayonets in the State of Colorado. The Governor told me — he is a corporation rat, you know, he told me never to come back. A man is a fool, if he is a governor, to tell a woman not to do a thing.
I went back next day and I have been back since the fight, and he hasn’t bothered me. He has learned it won’t do to tamper with women of the right metal. You have a few cats — they are not women, they are what you call ladies. There is a difference between women and ladies. The modern parasites made ladies, but God Almighty made women.
Now, my boys, you are mine, we have fought together, we have hungered together, we have marched together, but I can see victory in the heavens for you. I can see the hand above you guiding and inspiring you to move onward and upward. No white flag — we cannot raise it, we must not raise it. We must redeem the world.
Go into our factories, see how the conditions are there, see how women are ground up for the merciless money pirates, see how many of the poor wretches go to work with crippled bodies. I talked with a mother who had her small children working. She said to me, “Mother, they are not of age, but I had to say they were, I had to tell them they were of age, so they would get a chance to help me get something to eat.” She said after they were there a little while, “I have saved forty dollars, the first I ever saw. I put that into a cow and we had some milk for the little ones.” In all the years her husband had put in the earth digging out wealth, he never got a glimpse of forty dollars until he had to take his infant boys, that ought to go to school, and sacrifice them.
If there was no other reason, that should stimulate every man and woman to fight this damnable system of commercial pirates. (Cries of: “Right, right.”) That alone should do it, my friends.
Is there a committee here? I want to take a committee of the well fed fellows and well dressed fellows, I want to present this to the Governor. Be very polite. Don’t get on your knees. Get off your knees and stand up. None of these fellows are better than you, they are only flesh and blood–that is the truth.
[Committee formed around Jones and started into the Capitol building.]
These fellows all want to go and see the king.
I will give the press a copy of this resolution and this petition, that was given to the Governor.
Now, my boys, guard rule and tyranny will have to go, there must be an end. I am going up Cabin Creek. I am going to hold meetings there. I am going to claim the right of an American citizen. I was on this earth before these operators were. I was in this country before these operators. I have been seventy-four years under this flag, I have got the right to talk. I have seen its onward march. I have seen the growth of oppression. And I want to say to you, my friends, I am going to claim my right as a citizen of this nation. I won’t violate law, I will not kill anybody or starve anybody, but I will talk unsparingly of all the corporation blood-hounds we can bring to jail.
I have no apologies to offer. I have seen your children murdered, I have seen you blown to death in the mines and there was no redress. A fellow in Colorado says, “Why don’t you prop the mines?” The operator said, “Oh, hell, Dagoes are cheaper than props.” Every miner is a Dago with the blood-sucking pirates, and they are cheaper than props. Because if they kill a hundred of you, well it was your fault. There must be a mine inspector kept there.
The night before the little Johnston boys were killed, the mine inspector — John Laing is a mine owner, he wouldn’t inspect them — the mine inspector went there and said the mines are propped securely. The next morning the little Johnston children went to work, and when they were found their hands were clasped in their dinner buckets with two biscuits.
You work for Laing day after day. He is mine inspector. But he wouldn’t be if I had anything to say about it. He would take a back seat.
Boys, I want to say to you, obey the law. Let me say to the Governor, and let me say to the mine owners, let me say to all people, that I will guarantee there will be no destruction of property.
In the first place, that is our property. It is inside where our jobs are. We have every reason to protect it. In the mines is where our jobs are. We are not out to destroy property. We are out to preserve and protect property, and I will tell you why. We are going to get more wages, and we are going to stop the docking system. Put that down. Your day for docking is done. Stop it. If they don’t stop it we will.
We’ll take care of the property. There will be no property destroyed.
Not a bit, and if you want your property protected these miners will protect it for you, and they won’t need a gun.
We will protect it, at the risk of our lives. I know the miners, I have marched with ten thousand, twenty thousand, and destroyed no property. We had twenty thousand miners in Pennsylvania, but destroyed no property.
They used to do that years ago, but after we have educated them they saw that violence was not the idea. We stopped it. We organized. We brought them to school once again. I will tell you why we are not going to destroy your property, Mr. Governor. Because one of these days we are going to take over the mines.
That is what we are going to do. We are going to take over those mines. The government has a mine in North Dakota. It works eight hours, not a minute more. There are no guards, no police, no militia. The men make a hundred and twenty-five dollars a month, and there is never any trouble at that mine. Uncle Sam is running the job, and he is a pretty good mine inspector.
There used to be, when I was in Illinois before, a bunch of these black brutes down at Arbuckle, and we had them organize. There was a fellow whose name was Sy. We have them in the miners’ union, as well as in the mines. I asked them whether they were grafting in the union — they got ten dollars apiece each month, twenty dollars in all. I went down and when they came up reading the financial statement and all those ten dollars were read, I said, “What is the ten dollars going for?” They told me. I said, “Get out of camp, I have no use for grafters.”
We have them in the union. They have learned the lesson from the mine owners. There was a good old darkey there, and said, “Oh,” said Sy, “I done talked to the Lord for a week, and the Lord jest come and whispered in my ear last night, and said, ‘Sy, Sy, Sy, I have done had a talk with Mother about that graft. Come down tomorrow night.’” Sy said, “O, Lord Jesus, don’t fail to let Mother come,” and I went. He said Jesus didn’t lie. Jesus said, “Mother come here for sure, she take care of that money, and wouldn’t let them fellows get it for nothing.” At once the fellows said Amen.
So we put a stop to the graft. We have a lot of grafters too. It is a disease. We have learned the game from the fellows above.
I want you to listen a moment. I want the business men to listen. You business men are up against it. There is a great revolution going on in the industrial world. The Standard Oil Company owns eighty-six great department stores in this country. The small business man is beginning to be eliminated. He has got to get down, he can’t get up. It is like Carnegie said before the Tariff Commissioner in Washington: “Gentlemen, I am not bothered about tariff on steel rails,” he says, “what concerns me and my class is the right to organize.”
The day for the small man is gone, and the day to rise is now here. We want the right to organize. Carnegie said that in a few years–he went into the business with five thousand — he took seven thousand five hundred. He said he knew the time was ripe for steel bridges, and they went into it. He closed out his interest for three hundred million dollars.
Do you wonder that the steel workers are robbed? When one thief alone can take three hundred million dollars and give to a library–to educate your skulls because you didn’t get a chance to educate them yourselves.
A fellow said, “I don’t think we ought to take those libraries.” Yes, take them, and let him build libraries in every town in the country. It is your money. Yet he comes and constructs those libraries as living monuments reddened with the blood of men, women and children that he robbed.
How did he make three hundred million dollars? Come with me to Homestead, and I will show you the graves reddened with the blood of men, women and children. That is where we fixed the Pinkertons, and they have never rose from that day to this. And we will fix the Baldwins in West Virginia.
The Pinkertons were little poodle dogs for the operators. We will fix the Baldwins just the same.
Some fellow said, “You are talking on the porch of the State House.” That is the very place I want to talk, where what I say will not be perverted.
Senator Dick said, when I met him, “I am delighted to see you, Mother Jones.” I said, “I am not delighted to see you.” He said, “What is the matter?” I said, “You have passed the Dick military bill to shoot my class down, that is why I wouldn’t shake hands with you.” That is the way to do business with those fellows. All the papers in the country wrote it up, and he was knocked down off his perch. I will knock a few of these Senators down before I die.
I will tell you. I want you all to be good.
They say you are not, but I know you better than the balance do. Be good. Don’t drink, only a glass of beer. The parasite blood-suckers will tell you not to drink beer, because they want to drink it all, you know. They are not afraid to tell you to drink, for fear there will not be enough for their carcass.
(Cries of: ”The Governor takes champagne.”)
He needs it. He gets it from you fellows. He ought to drink it. You pay for it, and as long as he can get it for nothing any fellow would be a fool not to drink it.
But I want you to be good. We are going to give the Governor until tomorrow night. He will not do anything. He could if he would, but the fellows who put him in won’t let him.
(Cries of: “Take him out.”)
I don’t want him out, because I would have to carry him around.
I want you to keep the peace until I tell you to move, and when I want you everyone will come.
Now, be good. I don’t tell you to go and work for Jesus. Work for yourselves, work for bread. That is the fight we have got. Work for bread. They own our bread.
This fight that you are in is the great industrial revolution that is permeating the heart of men over the world. They see behind the clouds the Star that rose in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago, that is bringing the message of a better and nobler civilization. We are facing the hour. We are in it, men, the new day, we are here facing that Star that will free men, and give to the nation a nobler, grander, higher, truer, purer, better manhood. We are standing on the eve of that mighty hour when the motherhood of the nation will rise, and instead of clubs or picture shows or excursions she will devote her life to the training of the human mind, giving to the nation great men and women.
I see that hour. I see the Star breaking your chains; your chains will be broken, men. You will have to suffer more and more, but it won’t be long. There is an awakening among all the nations of the earth.
I want to say, my friends, as Kipling said. He was a military colonel or general in the British army, and he said:
We have fed you all for thousands of years,
And you hail us yet unfed.
There is not a dollar of your stolen wealth
But what marks the graves of workers dead.
We have given our best to give you rest;
You lie on your silken fold.
Oh, God, if that be the price of your stolen wealth,
We have paid it o’er and o’er.
There is never a mine blown skyward now,
But our boys are burned to death for gold;
There is never a wreck on the ocean
But what we are its ghastly crew.
Go count your dead by the forges rail
Of the factories where your children lie,
Oh, God, if that be the price of your stolen wealth,
We pay it a thousand fold.
We have fed you all for thousands of years;
That was our doom, you know.
Since the days they chained us on the field,
Till the fight that is now on over the world.
Aye, you have beaten our lives, our babies and wives,
In chains you naked lie.
Oh, God, if that be the price we pay for your stolen wealth,
We have paid it o’er and o’er.
We are going to stop payment. I want you to quit electing such judges as you have been. This old judge you had here, he used to be your lawyer. When this fight was on he was owned by the corporations. When you wanted him he went off fishing, and got a pain in his back. Elect judges and governors from your own ranks.
A doctor said to me in Cincinnati, “Did you ever graduate from a college, Mother Jones?” I said, “I did.” He said, “Would you mind telling me?” “No,” I said, “I graduated from the college of hard knocks. That is my college, I graduated from that college — hunger, persecution and suffering. And I wouldn’t exchange that college for all the university dudes on the face of God’s earth.”
I know of the wrongs of humanity; I know your aching backs; I know your swimming heads; I know your little children suffer; I know your wives, when I have gone in and found her dead and found a babe nursing at the dead breast, and found the little girl eleven years old taking care of three children. She said, “Mother, will you wake up, baby is hungry and crying?” When I laid my hand on mamma she breathed her last. And the child of eleven had to become a mother to the children.
Oh, men, have you any hearts? Oh, men, do you feel? Oh, men, do you see the judgement day on the throne above, when you will be asked, “Where did you get your gold?” You stole it from these wretches. You murdered, you assassinated, you starved, you burned them to death, that you and your wives might have palaces, and that your wives might go to the sea-shore. Oh, God, men, when I see the horrible picture, when I see the children with their hands off, when I took an army of babies and walked a hundred and thirty miles with a petition to the President of the United States, to pass a bill in Congress to keep these children from being murdered for profit. He had a secret service then all the way to the palace. And now they want to make a president of that man! What is the American nation coming to?
Manhood, womanhood, can you stand for it? They put reforms in their platforms, but they will get no reform. He promised everything to labor. When we had the strike in Colorado he sent two hundred guns to blow our brains out. I don’t forget. You do, but I don’t. And our women were kicked out like dogs, at the point of the bayonet. That is America. They don’t do it in Russia. Some women get up with five dollars worth of paint on their cheeks, and have tooth brushes for their dogs, and say, “Oh, them horrible miners. Oh, that horrible old Mother Jones, that horrible old woman.”
I am horrible, I admit, and I want to be to you blood-sucking pirates. I want you, my boys, to buckle on your armor. This is the fighting age. This is not the age for cowards, put them out of the way.
[At this point Jones stopped suddenly and said to some one in the crowd: “Say, are you an operator, with that cigar in your grub?”]
Take your medicine, because we are going to get after you, no doubt about it.
I want you to be good. Give the Governor time until tomorrow night, and if he don’t act then it is up to you. We have all day Saturday, all day Sunday, all day Monday, and Tuesday and Wednesday, if we need it.
We are used to living on little, we can take a crust of bread in our hands and go.
When they started that Civic Federation in New York, they got women attached to the Morgan and Rockefeller joint, they wanted to revolutionize the mechanics in Washington. One day I went to their dinner. An Irishman, a machinist, rolled up his sleeves, and ran into a restaurant and got a piece of bologna as long as my arm — you know it is black. He got some bread. He put a chunk of the bologna into his mouth, and put some bread in his mouth, and went out eating. One of these women came along and said, “Oh, my man, don’t eat that it will ruin your stomach, it will give you indigestion.” He said, “Oh, hell, the trouble with my stomach is that I never get enough to digest.”
That is the trouble with half our stomachs. We don’t get enough to digest, and when we do get something we are afraid to put it in lest it won’t digest.
Go to the “Pluck-me” store and get all you can eat. Then you say to Mirandy — You say, Oh, God, I have a pain in my stomach. You wash yourself, and she holds the water. The mine owner’s wife don’t hold the water. “Oh, Mirandy, bring the linen to take the corporation hump off my back.”
I can’t get up to you. I would like to be there, I would give you a hump on your back.
Boys, stay quiet until tomorrow night. I think it would be a good thing to work tomorrow, because the mine owners will need it. The mine commissioner will get a pain in his skull tonight, and his wife will give him some dope. The mine owner’s wife is away at the sea-shore. When she finds no more money coming, she will say, “Is there any more money coming?” He will say, “Most of the miners are not working.” She will say, “Take the guards and shoot them back into the mines, those horrible fellows.”
The Governor says, if you don’t go to work, said he, in the mines or on the railroads, I am going to call the militia, and I will shoot you. So we went. I said we can get ready, too. What militia can you get to fight us? Those boys on Paint Creek wouldn’t fight us if all the governors in the country wanted you to. I was going yesterday to take dinner with them, but I had something else to do. I am going some day to take dinner with them, and I will convert the whole bunch to my philosophy. I will get them all my way.
Now, be good, boys. Pass the hat around, some of these poor devils want a glass of beer. Get the hat. The mine owner robs them. Get a hat, you fellows of the band.
I want to tell you another thing. These little two by four clerks in the company stores, they sell you five beans for a nickel, sometimes three beans for a nickel. I want to tell you, be civil to those. Don’t say anything.
Another thing I want you to do. I want you to go in regular parade, three or four together. The moving picture man wants to get your picture to send over the country.
(Some one in the crowd asks what the collection is being taken for.)
The hat is for the miners who came up here broke, and they want to get a glass of beer.
And to pay their way back — and to get a glass of beer. I will give you five dollars. Get a move on and get something in it.
This day marks the forward march of the workers in the state of West Virginia. Slavery and oppression will gradually die. The national government will get a record of this meeting. They will see men of intelligence, that they are not out to destroy but to build. And instead of the horrible homes you have got, we will build on their ruins homes for you and your children to live in, and we will build them on the ruins of the dog kennels which they wouldn’t keep their mules in. That will bring forth better ideas than the world has had. The day of oppression will be gone. I will be with you whether true or false. I will be with you at midnight or when the battle rages, when the last bullet ceases, but I will be in my joy, as an old saint said:
Oh, God of the mighty clan,
God grant that the woman who suffered for you,
Suffered not for a coward, but Oh, for a man.
God grant that the woman who suffered for you,
Suffered not for a coward, but Oh, for a fighting man.
Bring the hat in, is that all you got? That is all I got.
Go out and get some more, that is not enough to go on a strike. Any of you big fellows got any money in your pockets? If you have, shell it out, or we will take it out.
Maybe the Governor will give something.
The Governor is sick. He can’t come out.
Hand in the money.
[From someone in the crowd: ”The Governor is sick?”]
Mother: Yes. He has got a pain in his stomach. Go over and form a parade, the motion picture man wants to take a picture. Go ahead and arrange the parade — Get out, and get them in a line.
Hush up, the poor fellow is sick.
Now let us go home. Be good boys. I am coming down to the camps to see you.
[The crowd did not disperse, but waited until some one got up on the box. The writer learned that his name was Walter Deal, who made a speech. At this point Mother Jones came out and got upon the box and began to speak.]
My object in coming back to you is this: That this meeting stand adjourned until we hear from the Governor. We are going to have a committee. There is always a lot of hot air orators that like to blow off hot air on occasions like this. There is nothing in what they say. We want brain work, not hands, but brains. There is no more speaking here, this meeting stands adjourned until we hear from the Governor. I told you to organize and march along here.
We will let you know. Go home to your camps. The Governor ain’t going to come, he is occupied. This meeting stands adjourned, no more hot air here.
You have heard the motion to adjourn, ready to vote. As many as are in favor of adjourning, hold up your hands.
Now you have got to go.
Mother don’t permit the contrary.
We can’t forget that we are men. We have been tendered courteously the ground. It is nothing but right, but if the chief executive wanted to protest he could have done so. He has given us the ground. You have talked the causes of the grievances. Wait until you hear from them. Leave the Capitol alone.
Go home, boys, when we need you again I will call on you. I will be down tomorrow, and if I am not down the telegraph will be going.
Source: Source: US Congressional Hearings, “Conditions in the Paint Creek District, West Virginia,” Subcommittee of the Committee on Education and Labor, US Senate, 63rd Congress, 1st Session September 1913, (Washington DC: US Government Printing Office) 1913, pp. 2262-2276.