The one happiness these children know. But they had Sundays, for the mill owners and the mill folks themselves were pious. To sunday school went the babies of the there to hear how God had inspired the mill owner to come down and build the mill, so as to give his little ones work that they might develop into industrious, patriotic citizens and earn money. My six children not arriving, the manager got suspicious of me so i left Cottondale and went to tuscaloosa where i got work in a rope factory. This factory was run also by child labor. Here, too, were the children running up and down between spindles.
The, autobiography of, my, mother
They would lie on the the bare floor and sleep. Sleep was their recreation, their release, as play is to the free children. The boss would come along and shake them awake. After the lunch period, the hour-in urban grind, the ceaseless running up and down between the whirring spindles. Often the little ones were afraid to go home alone in the night. Then they would sleep till sunrise on the floor. That was when the mills were running a bit slack and the all-night worked shorter hours. I often went home with the little ones after the days work was done or the night shift went off duty. They were too tired to eat. With their clothes on, they dropped on the bed. To sleep, to sleep.
They crawled under machinery to oil. They replaced spindles all day long, all day long; night through, night through. Tiny babies of six years old with faces of sixty did an eight-hour shift for ten cents a day. If they fell asleep, cold water was dashed in their faces; and the voice of the manager yelled above writing the ceaseless racket and whir of the machines. Toddling chaps of four years old were brought to the mills to help the older sister or brother of ten years but their labor was not paid. The machines, built in the north, were low for the hands of little children. At five-thirty in the morning, long lines of little grey children came out of the early dawn into the factory, into the maddening noise, into the lint filled rooms. Outside the birds sang and the blue sky shone. At the lunch half-hour, children would fall to sleep over their lunch of cornbread and fat pork.
I dont know that this house is big enough for six. He stared. What you all want, a hotel? I took the shredder house, promising to send for my family by the end of the month long when they could get things wound up on the farm. I was given work in the factory, and there i saw the children, little children working, the most heart-rending spectacle in all my life. Sometimes it seemed to me i could not look at those silent little figures; that I must go north, to the grim coal fields, to the rocky mountain camps, where the labor fight is at least fought by grown men. Little girls and boys, barefooted, walked up and down between the endless rows of spindles, reaching thin little hands into the machinery to repair snapped threads.
The house he brought me to was a sort of two-story plank shanty. The windows were broken and the door sagged open. Its latch was broken. It had one room down stairs and a finished loft upstairs. Through the cracks in the roof the rain had come in and rotted the flooring. Downstairs there was a big old open fireplace in front of which were holes big enough to drop a brick through. The manager was delighted with the house. The wind and the cold will come through these holes, i said. Oh, it will be summer soon and you will need all the air you can get.
The, autobiography of, my, mother, literature guide - teacherVision
They put him on their shoulders and marched out of the station with the crowd in line. They marched through the streets, past the railway offices, the mayors office, the office of the chief of police. The chief of police had a change of heart. He sent word to me that the opera house was open and we could hold our meeting. The house was jammed, the aisles, the window sills, every nook and corner. The churches were empty that night, and that night the crowd heard a real sermon by a preacher whose message was one of human brotherhood. When the railroad workers strike ended I went down to cottondale to get a job in the cotton mills.
I wanted to see for myself if the grewsome stories of little children working the mills were true. I applied for a job but the manager told me he had nothing for me unless I had a family that would work also. I told the manager I was going to move my family to cottondale but I had come on ahead to see what chances there were of getting work. Have you children, yes, there are six. He was so enthusiastic that he went with me to find a house to rent. Heres a house that will do plenty, said.
We rented the opera house and advertised the meeting widely. He was to speak sunday evening. Sunday afternoon the committee were served with an injunction, prohibiting the meeting. The owner of the opera house was also notified that he would not be allowed to open the doors of his building. The chairman of the committee on the meeting didnt have much fighting blood in him, but I told several of the boys to say nothing to him but go over to bessemer and Pratt, nearby mining towns, and bring a bunch of miners back with. At the Union hall a large number of people had gathered to see what was going to happen.
When it was train time, i moved that everyone there go down to the depot to meet Debs. I think just the committee on reception should go, said the chairman, who was strong for form. I move that we all form a committee on reception, said i, and everybody hollered, yes! When we got down to the station there were several thousand miners there from Bessemer and Pratt. The train pulled in and Debs got off. Those miners did not wait for the gates to open but jumped over the railing.
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i certainly did, said. He reported me to the general manager and there was hell to pay but i kept right on with my agitation. The strike dragged. Debs was put in jail. The leaders biography were prosecuted. At last the strike was called off. I was in Birmingham. Debs was on his way north after being released from jail and the local union arranged a public meeting for him.
The militia were called out. There was a long drawn out fight. I was forbidden to leave town without permit, forbidden to hold meetings. Nevertheless I slipped through the ranks of the soldiers without their knowing who i was-just an old woman going to a missionary meeting knit mittens for the heathen of Africa! I went down to rockton, rob a mining camp, with William Malley and held a meeting. Coming back on the train the conductor recognized. Mother Jones, he said, did you hold a meeting in Rockton?
you call this strike off immediately. If you dont do it, i shall. Governor, said douglas, i cant call off strike until the men get the concessions that they struck for. Then I will call out the militia, said. Then what in hell do you think we will be doing while you are getting the militia ready? The governor knew then he had a fight on, for douglas was a heroic fighter; a fine, open character whom the governor himself respected.
I was gone from the eastern coal fields for eight years. Meanwhile i was busy, waging the old struggle in various fields. I went West and took part in the strike of the machinists the southern Pacific railroad, the corporation that swung California by its golden tail, that controlled its legislature, its farmers, its preachers, its workers. Then I went to Alabama. In 1904 and 05 there were great strikes in and around Birmingham. The workers of the louisville and Nashville railroad were on strike. Jay gould owned the railroad and thought he owned the workers along with the ties and locomotives and rolling stock.
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Chapter xiv child Labor, i have always advised men to read. All my life i have told them to study the remote works of those great authors who have been interested in making this world a happier place for those who do its drudgery. When there were no strikes, i held educational meetings and after the meetings I would sell the book, merrie england, which told in simple fashion of the workers struggle for a more abundant life. Boys, i would say, listen. Instead of going to the pool and gambling rooms, go up to the mountain and read this book. Sit under the trees, listen to the birds and take a lesson from those little feathered creatures who do not exploit one another, nor betray one another, nor put their own little ones to work digging worms before their time. You will hear them sing while they work. The best you can do is swear and smoke.