Daniel Mulhall, Ireland’s Ambassador to the United States, was in St. Louis last week. An unexpected break in his schedule allowed an opportunity, arranged by Brian O’Brien, Ireland’s Consul General to the Midwest, to visit the Mother Jones Monument in Mt. Olive Illinois, about an hour’s drive from St. Louis. It was a brief meeting, only about an hour, but it packed a punch!
Mulhall’s mission was to learn more about the history of this renowned figure and the special place where she is buried. I was honored to host him at the site, and even more pleased with his commitment to passing along the story and promoting our project’s mission. O’Brien had previously graced us with his presence at the monument and at the dedication of our marker on I-55 (near Route 66)
Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, 1837-1930, was born in Cork, Ireland and was once known as the “most dangerous woman in America” as she fought for labor rights.
Ambassador Mulhall was impressed with the personal story of Mary Harris Jones, and of her role in United States history. He remarked that he had been unfamiliar with her before the visit, but found her a truly extraordinary figure. “It’s hard for us to contemplate the suffering” Jones endured as she experienced the Great Hunger, then further hardships as an immigrant in the United States. It’s important to see that she did not give up, he suggested, and seemed to have an “indefatigable spirit.”
Consul General O’Brien and Ambassador Mulhall started brainstorming at the site about how they could help us bring more attention to this remarkable woman. Mulhall asked, “Your organization has applied for a grant from the Embassy, I understand?” I replied, “Yes we have.” He then casually announced, without skipping a beat: “Well I’m telling you right now that we have awarded that grant.” We were surprised and delighted; we learned later that O’Brien had in part set up the meeting to enable this announcement. The grant will include placing the Republic of Ireland as a sponsor for our next historical marker on northbound I-55.
Mulhall attended University College Cork where he received a Masters degree in history. He was the first-generation in his family to attend college. We heard his story of becoming a union organizer in the Foreign Service. Below is an excerpt of that.
Mulhall was not aware of the Cork Spirit of Mother Jones Festival which started in 2012, but expressed interest in taking part in it in the future.
Mulhall regularly blogs to de-mystify the job of Ambassador and to educate about the culture and history of Ireland. He tweets poetry and comments on history and literary works with ease. He said that he would contribute a blog or tweet about his visit. We will post it to our social media.
Ed Becker, President of Union Miners Cemetery board presented Mulhall with the Miners’ Angel CD he produced of Mother Jones songs. Mulhall was truly enthused by the CD, recognizing some of the artists such as Andy Irvine, who performed at the 2012 inaugural Cork Spirit of Mother Jones Festival. He told Becker that this is exactly the sort of items he loves to receive from his visits.
Also present at the meeting were: Judy Simpson, board member of the Mother Jones Heritage Project; and Kate Klimut, project volunteer; Mike Katchmar, treasurer of the cemetery board. Simpson remarked that the visit was an unforgettable emotional touchstone for her.
Mayor Skertich arranged a visit to the small Mt. Olive Mother Jones Museum. There Mulhall took much interest in the boards currently on display that were from Cork’s Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.