WE NEVER FORGET
Joe Hill's Ashes
At Joe Hill's funeral, sashes were worn by many in attendance with "WE NEVER FORGET" written on them in big bold capital letters. This slogan was also written on the program for the day's events. A year later, the ashes were handed out to IWW delegates from every state of the USA (except Utah) and from countries all around the world. The envelopes also carried this slogan. The Labor Martyrs Project uses this slogan to honor all of our Labor Martyrs, quite certain that Fellow Worker Joe Hill would not mind.
The Labor Martyrs Project
By way of explaination, I'll give the simple "what-when-where-&-who" first. "Why" is a bit harder to explain, and a lot more personal.
When: 1877 through 1937.
Where: the United States. I wanted to include Canada and Mexico, but the more I learned, the more I realized that just the task of covering the labor martyrs of the USA was an immense project, probably beyond what any one person can accomplish. For example, some sources claim that there were more than 200 workers who died in labor conflicts just in year 1934 alone. Each and every one of them deserves to have their name recorded for history.
Who: that would be us, the working class. These are our martyrs who died in the struggle to give us and our children a better life.
At The Ludlow Monument
It all started when I picked up a book called Labor's Untold Story. That was the first I ever heard of the Ludlow Massacre. I think this might have been about 1986. I didn't have a car at that time, so I took a Greyhound bus out to Colorado. The bus driver didn't want to drop me off at Ludlow because it wasn't a scheduled stop, but I talked him into it. Took me 3 hours to walk back to Walsenburg, but that's alright, I had a lot to think about. It is difficult to describe the feeling that I had standing at the foot of the Ludlow Monument. Just a few days ago, I came by this poem written by our very own Richard Myers (RIP), I could not describe the experience any better:
Helen and Gust of Ludlow
Of heroes that he could not save,
And it was Gust that drove the dray
Collecting children for the grave.”
I left. I went alone that night
Where miners and their families died.
I searched for answers in the pits
Where helpless children tried to hide.
I raged at phantoms on the hill
Whence gunfire 'cross the plain had swept,
And then before the monument
I knelt down on the ground and wept.
I went back again for the 75th commemoration. That was on June 10, 1989, and of that date I am certain since Zeese Papanikolas was there and kindly signed my copy of Buried Unsung with the date and location (Ludlow.) I made that trip by Greyhound also, but that time I packed up my mountain bike, so I was able to get around a bit better. A very kind family put me up for the night, fed me, and we had a great visit. I loved all the folks I met in Walsenburg and Trinidad. The woman who ran the little history museum in Walsenburg was an incredible help. She directed me to the exact location where Mother Jones was held in the underground cell. I was able to go there and stand there for a little while. It had been turned into someone's office, but no one seemed to mind me stopping by. A very kind shopkeeper boxed up my bike and even delivered it to the bus stop for my return trip home. I was only asking for a box, but he offered to take care of everything, and wouldn't take any payment.
Well, this is turning into a ramble, but it is all part of how I became obsessed with Labor Martyrs. While in Trinidad on that visit, I rode my bike up to the cemetery. Again standing there where the martyrs are buried changed me. That I could be a working class union woman, and a Socialist to boot, and yet reach my 30s without ever hearing of them and what they went through upset me in a way that I can not describe. They deserve better from us than to be forgotten.
And from there I ate, slept, and dreamed labor history. Reading, taking notes. I never knew for sure what I would do with all those notes, boxes full of notes arranged mostly in chronological order, but they sure do come in handy now.
So the "Why" boils down to this: our labor martyrs deserve to be remembered by us. Each and every one. And remembered, at minimum, by their names and ages.
Memory and Class Consciousness
The Monument reads:
In Memory of
The men, women and children
Who lost their lives
In Freedoms's Cause
At Ludlow, Colorado
April 20, 1914
Erected by the
United Mine Workers of America
"Tell the boys I died for my class."
The Unknown Worker Tag
Being somewhat of a perfectionist, I kept researching and avoided actually publishing anything, hoping to find missing names. However, if I were to stick with that plan, the Project would never be published. Some names will probably never be found. And so I've created the Unknown Worker Tag. These Labor Martyrs will be honored by whatever information I can find about them . For example, in this diary, I could say that one was Puerto Rican and the other was an English "lad." Here's hoping that others will take this information and search further. Perhaps, their names can yet be discovered! When there names are found, the tag can be removed from that diary.
What Makes a Labor Martyr?
d. Nov 10, 1912
But what of workers driven to suicide through persecution? Or the lawyer who worked himself into an early grave with a bleeding ulcer on behalf of his unjustly convicted union clients? The old man kept in the same cold cellar cell as Mother Jones who got sick there and died soon after release? The young man, a neighbor to the Ludlow Tent Colony, who caught a stray bullet and was killed? Reasonable people can disagree on these questions. The answer as to who should be considered a Labor Martyr is not always completely clear.
"You ought to be out raising hell."
Hellraisers Journal will cover the period 1897 to (but not including) 1922, covering the life and times of Mother Jones. This will take 10 years (God willing and creek don't rise.) These were the most active years of Mother Jones. This will cover 25 years of the 51 years that I want to eventually cover for the Labor Martyrs Project. And these are the years that I know the best, so, for me, that's a good place to start.
Today's Hellraisers Journal: "Mother Jones Remembers Virden Martyrs at Union Miners' Cemetery in Mt Olive."
Something's gotta give!
And so, some of the readers of Hellraisers may have noticed that I've stopped covering modern day events. This is regrettable, but unavoidable if I'm going to keep up with the Labor Martyrs Project. A lot goes into research, reviewing, comparing sources, compiling and integrating my notes, etc. There are books on the shelf that need to be read, and many more books on my list to buy. As well as books I've already read that need to be reviewed as I write. Therefore, I've made the decision to focus exclusively on the Labor Martyrs Project which includes both Hellraisers Journal and WE NEVER FORGET.
I own the domain name WE NEVER FORGET as dot com and as dot org & a few others also. Eventually, I hope to republish everything to one of them (probably dot org.) This is way off in the future as I have zero expertise in web site building.
I want to thank everyone who has read my diaries, tipped & rec'd them, repub'd them, and invited me to join groups so that I can repub them myself. Special thanks to gooderservice, Brae, and ruleoflaw, Big Al, and others who visit every day or almost every day.
I Am a Union Woman-Leenya Rideout
Joe Hill's Ashes:
Names of Ludlow Martyrs by Kossack MKSinSA,
for which I am eternally grateful!
The Ludlow Monument (with larger view):
Julius A Wayland:
Entire Poem by Richard Myers here:
Labor's Untold Story
-by Richard O. Boyer & Herbert M. Morais
United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America, 1979)
Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre
-by Zeese Papanikolas
U of Utah Press, 1982
Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 11:09 AM PT: Photo of front of envelope containing Joe Hill's ashes added. So sorry that this was not originally published with diary, I ran out of time trying to make it come out right.