Kate Klimut & Jim Schoppman Bring Talent, Commitment & Heritage To Mother Jones Museum Project

Early this year, Marc Albrecht, an old friend from St. Louis and an Illinois Education Association representative for Mt. Olive, contacted me to suggest I contact Kate Klimut and Jim Schoppman, who I knew mainly though Marc when we all lived in St. Louis. Little could I have imagined what has resulted from renewing an acquaintance with these two.

The museum board is now proud to announce that Kate and Jim have joined our creative team and that Kate has joined our board. They both bring a passion for this history, direct family connections to the story, and multiple talents.

Both of their family’s histories are connected to Mother Jones and mining in Southern Illinois. They grew up hearing about Mother Jones and knowing that miners had played an important role in organizing the union movement in the United States.

Kate remembers being taught about Mother Jones, the work of women in coal mining conflicts, and the Battle of Virden in Carlinville schools, where teachers instilled a sense that miners and their families, including the women and children, had been a force in history. She also learned to think of the home in Carlinville that was an important part of the Underground Railroad, and for her, this communicated a sense that ordinary people could be a force in history.  Keep in mind, she says, little labor history was then—or now—usually taught in the schools. Not so in this area of the country, where the miners culture built the first teachers unions as well.

Left: Kate Klimut, 2015

Kate’s family were Ukrainian and Hungarian immigrants who came to the US in the early part of the twentieth century. “My maternal grandfather, John Hurzon, first came to Pennsylvania but migrated to the West Frankfort area of Illinois,” where immigrant militancy was part of daily life. Her grandfather, she says with a chuckle, “was a Commie” in Benld, where various strains of radicalism coexisted with devotion to church and ethnic organizations.  “My daddy, a union airline pilot, taught me never to cross a picket line,” a direct result from his miners’ heritage and his own experience. She treasures other values she learned from her family. Kate remembers as a young girl driving to Missouri with her maternal grandmother Helen Klimut, who lived in a small village of Hettick Illinois in Macoupin County. Helen made it a point to show Kate a segregated drinking fountain, pointed to it, and told her “that is so wrong!”

When Kate met Jim at her workplace years ago, and she learned he was connected to a mining family in the Mt. Olive area, she knew he was a “good guy” with working class roots. Both of them still think of themselves as “an extended part of the Mount Olive community and want to give back by honoring the global message of Mother Jones acting as a fighter who loved humanity. We believe in being open in our assistance with this project.”