Mary, Queen of Rights
Raise your voices as one
to a woman who lost it all:
Widowed, children dead from dread yellow fever.
After kids perished, she nursed neighbors.
To a woman who rose from grief and chose
to take up the burden of others:
Mothers, fathers, children, laboring side by side
in factories, in fields, on farms; long hours for pennies,
as their cruel, crafty masters garnered a tidy profit.
Fat cats whose fortunes were secure.
Rich men whose better angels whispered,
“Show love, compassion.”
But Greed and Hubris shout down the likes of angels.
They blot out God in a frenzied cloud of
green ink and gold coins numbering 30 and more.
Still, this widow woman knew nothing and cared less
about her own comfort. Others’ welfare trumped wealth
in her sensibilities; she saw only exploited masses.
She trod into the mines and the mills.
She talked in the fields, where the hopeless
worked long hours under punishing conditions.
She could juggle advocacy, jailings, and public speaking;
she was, indeed, “the most dangerous woman in America.”
She spoke of dignity (if she’d stopped short there,
she’d never have been slapped in a jail cell).
She spoke of fairness (watch it, lady).
She shouted about rights (ah, the gloves were off now).
She stirred the pot, this big little woman,
pistol under her petticoat, taking on police
sent by their rich masters to break up strikes.
She was the voice of unions, the midwife of labor.
Let’s raise a toast in tribute to this hero,
who warned us that labor leaders should never
wear fancy suits or fatten up through union dues
(are you listening, gentlemen?).
A woman who taught us that, no matter what
the rank and file must be protected:
Raise your glasses high to Mary “Mother” Jones.
© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
In our house growing up, Mother Jones was a patron saint. Social justice is only achieved when regular folks get together to affect change. If anyone could be considered “just folks,” it was Mary Jones. I wonder what she would think of some of our union leaders today? For as the rich demonize unions and spit on the rank and file, they should really address their complaints to greedy union bosses, something Mother Jones warned us about in her autobiography.
Remember, it’s not the average wage slave at fault: It’s corrupt bosses, bought off by the likes of the “usual suspects,” the ALEC crew and the Kochs. UNION YES!
In the words of Mother Jones, “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living,” Amy
Photo used by permission of the Women’s Rights Museum.