St. Louis Public Radio covers our work with Mt. Olive Museum

Mary Delach Leonard's nice story about the new Mt. Olive museum is here. Give it a listen! Also, you can scroll down for some great photos.



Here is the written story from the website:


Jim Alderson and Nelson Grman spend hours at Union Miners Cemetery in Mount Olive, Ill., about 50 miles northeast of St. Louis, looking after the monument to Mother Jones, the fearless union organizer who crusaded for workers’ rights a century ago.


They hope that a new museum being developed in town will ensure that younger generations will know the story of Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, who was buried here in 1930 -- at her request -- next to three coal miners who died in a labor riot in 1898. Museum organizers are holding a May Day celebration on Saturday to honor her legacy.


The granite monument was erected in 1936, paid for by coal miners from across the country who chipped in to honor the woman who had marched with them to demand better wages and an eight-hour workday. It’s a National Historic Site, and there are highway markers on nearby Interstate 55 and also on a well-traveled stretch of old Route 66 that passes through town.


Grman, 77, says he’s met people from around the world while puttering at the cemetery. Some are members of labor unions traveling through the area. But many of the visitors have no idea who Mother Jones was.


“It’s a pleasure to talk to these people and tell them what the true story is. It’s hard to get anything done because about the time one group leaves another shows up. And I like to talk a little bit, too,’’ he says, as Alderson nods his head and laughs in agreement.


Grman also tells visitors how vehemently Mother Jones -- the “grandmother of all agitators” -- fought to end child labor.


“And if you look at any of the history books that tell the true story you’ll see where they had children 5 and 6 years old working in the textile mills; 10- and 11-year-olds working in the coal mines. It was a brutal part of our history that we cannot let be forgotten,’’ Grman says.

Sometimes, the men sit on the base of the 22-foot obelisk and ponder the history that surrounds them in this quiet little cemetery that was born of turbulent times.


Local members of the United Mine Workers established the cemetery in 1899 as the final resting place for three coal miners from Mount Olive who were among the victims of the violence at a coal mine in Virden, Ill., in October 1898. Other union organizers are buried at the site, including Alexander Bradley, who was known as the “general.”