Since 2015, Mother Jones has become a growing part of the Regina V. Polk Women’s Leadership Conference, one of the great educational experiences available to emerging women labor activists in Illinois, the Midwest and beyond. I was happy to be invited to be a part of this by Director Emily LaBarbera Twarog. She, along with co-director Stephanie Seawell Fortado, Judy Ancel and Leah Fried, Latisa Kindred and others bring heart and soul for this school. Emily and Stephanie have recently joined the board of the Mother Jones Heritage Project. A Polk School alumna, Judy Simpson, is also on the board of the Project.
Mother Jones calls women to see a tradition of struggle while they face the future. I was thrilled when Emily said that the Mother Jones part of the education has been consistently the highlight of the schools. This year I was able to see the women perform Mother Jones, as well as learn and reflect on her meaning for today. The event was held at the monument.
I constructed a speech from fragments of Mother Jones’ speeches pieced together. Much of it not been previously published, but the words are all from her.
This was followed by the women presenting 40 quotations from Mother Jones. Some of these are also newly discovered quotes. Mother Jones’ words, the participants agree, still resonate and call to us. Some of the others, including my favorite, “I am an organizer, an agitator, and aggravator. I act because I love humanity.” was one that I uncovered in 2014 and has become more well-known since it was placed on the monument donors’ kiosk.
The tradition of bringing wreaths to the Monument was revived by the Mother Jones Foundation in the 1980s. The one that Polk School brought is one of the loveliest and largest I’ve seen. Women wrote messages on the wreath to communicate their connections to this story.
This is a clip of what some of the women telling us what they wrote.
Here are some more photos of Mother Jones and the Polk School women.