Memorial to Mother Jones at Route 66

A memorial will be unveiled today just off America’s iconic Route 66 in memory of a Cork woman who became one of the most celebrated trade unionists in US history.

Cork's historic activist Mary Harris.

Mary Harris was born in Cork in 1837 and survived the famine before emigrating to Canada with her family.

She went on to become one of the most renowned union leaders in the US.

Harris campaigned fiercely against child labour and was a passionate defender of miners and the rights of workers.

She later became widely known as ‘Mother Jones’.

A new memorial, in the form of a large road sign detailing the story and achievements of Harris, is to be unveiled just off Route 66 near the I-55 Southbound Coalfield Roadway in the state of Illinois.

It is a rest stop which caters for more than 1m travellers every year.

The large marker, which has been placed with the cooperation of the Illinois Department of Transportation, will be unveiled today by Brian O’Brien, Ireland’s consulate general in Chicago.

The marker is located about 30km north of Mount Oval Cemetery where Mother Jones is buried.

“I know of nobody else from Cork who has had a sign that has been specially erected in their honour so close to one of the most famous highways in America,” said Ger O’Mahony, of Cork Mother Jones Committee.

“It shows the increasing interest in the story of Mother Jones on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Mr O’Mahony is currently making preparations for the 2018 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.

An annual event in the heart of Cork City, it is due to take place in Shandon next August.

James Nolan, also part of the Cork Mother Jones Committee, said: “We are delighted to congratulate the Mother Jones Heritage Project committee in Illinois for their enormous work to ensure that Mary Harris/Mother Jones is never forgotten.

“We especially wish to thank Professor Rosemary Feurer who has brought this project to fruition in Illinois.

“She has supported and inspired the Spirit of Mother Jones festival in Cork over the past six years and has spoken at it twice.”

In addition to the Irish Consulate, representatives from the Illinois AFL-CIO, Illinois Labour History Society, the United Mine Workers of America, the Irish American Heritage Centre, the Route 66 Association, and many others will attend the historic unveiling of the Mother Jones Marker.

The Coalfield rest area where the marker is placed receives more than 1m visitors each year.

The new marker is the brainchild of the Mother Jones Heritage Project which established a museum near Mount Olive where she is buried.

The marker will highlight the importance of union coal miners in Illinois and US history, as well as the remarkable historical figure Mother Jones.

Mary Jones Harris was born in Cork and baptised at the North Cathedral, on August 1, 1837, by Fr John O’Mahony.

Her parents were Ellen Cotter, a native of Inchigeelagh, and Richard Harris.

Ellen Cotter, born in 1816, was aged 18 when she married.

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