June 11, 1912
Interview with Mother Jones
I am simply a social revolutionist. I believe in collective ownership of the means of wealth. At this time the natural commodities of this country are cornered in the hands of a few. The man who owns the means of wealth gets the major profit, and the worker, who produces the wealth from the means in the hands of the capitalist, takes what he can get. Sooner or later, and perhaps sooner than we think, evolution and revolution will have accomplished the overturning of the system under which we now live, and the worker will have gained his own.
This change will come as the result of education. My life work has been to try to educate the worker to a sense of the wrongs he has had to suffer, and does suffer-and to stir up the oppressed to a point of getting off their knees and demanding that which I believe to be rightfully theirs. When force is used to hinder the worker in his efforts to obtain the thing which are his he has the right to meet force with force. He has the right to strike for what is his due, and he has no right to be satisfied with less. The people want to do right , but they have been hoodwinked for ages. They are now awakening, and the day of their enfranchisement is near at hand.
Mother Jones gave this interview shortly after her arrival in Charleston. She came by train from Butte, Montana where she had been working with the copper miners of the Western Federation of Miners. Now, she was in West Virginia to assist the the striking miners of the United Mine Workers of America. The miners of Paint Creek were striking for renewal of their contract. The operators were refusing to sign a new contract preferring instead to bust the Union. At issue were all of the usual grievances: dangerous conditions, short weights, payment in company scrip, poor housing, low wages, blacklisting, poor medical care, and never-ending debt. But above all, the miners hated the brutal company-guard system.
To break the strike, the operators had contracted with the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency which supplied them with three hundred gun-thugs who began a campaign of terror against the miners and their families. Even before Mother Jones arrived, there had been clashes with the company guards, and loss of life on both sides. The guards had more weapons, including machine guns, but the miners had more men, seven thousand by some accounts.