A TRADE unionist has launched an appeal commemorating Cork-born union leader Mother Jones which will also raise funds for a well-known Cork education facility.
Andrew O’Brien, a trade unionist with Unite, recently announced details of a May Day badge appeal in memory of the Cork-born US labour leader “Mother” Mary Harris Jones to raise money for the Cork Life Centre.
Mr O’Brien told The Echo that he had long been an admirer of the Cork Life Centre, a northside education facility that offers one-to-one tuition to young people who for various reasons have not thrived or coped in a mainstream educational setting.
“Don O’Leary, director of the Life Centre, has been very supportive of previous charitable initiatives that I’ve worked on, and I’ve always wanted to support him and his efforts in the Life Centre,” Mr O’Brien said.
Last year’s May Day badge appeal raised just shy of €5,000 for charity and Mr O’Brien is hoping to surpass that amount this year for the Cork Life Centre.
“I would ask anyone who’s interested in supporting our badge appeal to keep an eye on our Twitter account, @MayBadgeAppeal, and they’ll get a link to the Big Cartel website, where they’ll see a selection of badges for sale, ranging from €3.25 to €8.50,” Mr O’Brien said.
Don O’Leary, director of the Cork Life Centre, said he shared with Mr O’Brien a great admiration for James Connolly, the trade union leader and Irish Republican leader executed at Kilmainham in 1916, and he said the Life Centre was very grateful to get such support.
“The May Day badge appeal is a great way to discuss history, and politics, and to explain what May First is all about,” Mr O’Leary said.
Mary Harris was born on Cork’s northside, perhaps on Blarney Street, and was baptised in the North Cathedral on August 1, 1837.
When Mary was 10, her family fled the famine to North America, where she later became a teacher and a dressmaker.
Through her husband, George Jones, Mary became involved in the trade union movement, moving first to Memphis and then Chicago.
After George and their four young children died of Yellow Fever in 1867, and after her dress shop was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Mary became a union organiser, where her gift for oratory speech and her hatred of injustice made her a tireless champion of workers’ rights.
In 1902, already inhabiting the role of “Mother Jones”, wearing outdated black dresses and referring to the workers she helped as “my boys”, Mary Jones was christened by one district attorney “the most dangerous woman in America”.
A year later, to highlight the terrible conditions suffered by children working in mines, she organised a march from Pennsylvania to the New York home of President Theodore Roosevelt.
Almost a century after her death, Mother Jones’ legacy as a union organiser lives on, and her words still echo today: “Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living”.
To support the Cork Life Centre May Day Badge Appeal, visit the Twitter account @MayBadgeAppeal.