"I Am A Union Woman"

by Aunt Molly Jackson

Below the lyrics is her testimony before the Dreiser Committee. NMU stands for National Miners Union.

I am a union woman
Just as Brave as I can be
I do not like the bosses
And the bosses don't like me.

Join the NMU, Join the NMU

I was raised in Old Kentucky
Kentucky born and bred,
But when I joined the union,
They called me a Russian Red.

Join the NMU...

This is the worst time on earth
That I have ever saw,
To get killed out by gun thugs
And framed up by the law.

Join the NMU...

If you want to join a union,
As strong as one can be
Join the dear old NMU
And come along with me.

Join the NMU...

We are many thousand strong,
And I am glad to say
We are getting stronger
And stronger every day.

Join the NMU...

The bosses ride fine horses
While we walk in the mud,
Their banner is the dollar sign,
Ours is striped with blood.

Join the NMU...

Testimony of Aunt Molly Jackson

before the National Committee for the Defense of Political Prisoners

Straight Creek, Kentucky, November 7, 1931

Q1 What is your name?

A: Aunt Molly Jackson.

Q2 What do you do?

A: I am a nurse.

Q3 A graduate nurse?

A: Yes.

Q4 Can you tell us something about the condition of the people in this hollow?

A: The people in this country are destitute of anything that is truly nourishing to the body. That is the truth. Even the babies have lost their lives, and we have buried from four to seven a week all along during warm weather.

Q5 Due to lack of food?

A: Yes, on account of cholera, famine, flux, stomach trouble brought on by undernourishment. Their food is very bad, such as beans and harsh foods fried in this lard that is so hard to digest. It is impossible for a little baby's stomach to digest them. The digestive organs are not strong enough to digest this food.

Q6 Is that the only food they have, if they have that?

A: They can only get beans. Their parents have been out of work this summer. Families have had to depend on the Red Cross. The Red Cross put out some beans and corn.

Q7 Did they supply any proper food for the babies such as milk?

A: No milk at all.

Q8 Were there many families that depended on the Red Cross?

A: I believe there is a lot of families that depended on the Red Cross. I didn't. Those families could tell you more about the Red Cross. There is a family by the name of Lechard; he is a working man and had a large family. Now Thea Bennett could tell you about the Red Cross, what they are allowed a week.

Q9 Was it enough to keep them?

A: No, it was a small amount.

Q10 What did it consist of?

A: Just beans and potatoes.

Q11 Do they give to every one that asks?

A: No the Red Cross does not give to every one. I always thought they was selfish; they didn't have the right kind of heart.

Q12 Do they give to members of the National Miner's Union?

A: No, they stop it when they know a man belongs to the union.

Q13 What did they say about it?

A: The Red Cross is against a man who is trying to better conditions. They are for the operators, and they want the mines to be going so they won't give anything to a man unless he does what the operators want him to. For instance, I will explain this. My husband took pneumonia and flux for three months. He has not been able to work since this strike. I have to carry back something for my husband to eat from the soup kitchen. The Red Cross won't give anything. We are really in destitution. I talked to the Red Cross lady over at Pineville.

Q14 Do you know her name?

A: No, I don't. I said, "There is a lot of little children in destitution. Their feet are on the ground. They have come so far. They are going to get pneumonia and flux this winter that will kill the children off."

Q15 Did she offer to give you any relief?

A: No, because they was members of the National Miners Union. They said, "We are not responsible for those men out on strike. They should go back to work and work for any price that they will taken them for." That was last week.

Q16 How many children die a month or a year under these conditions?

A: Now in the summer, it would be three to seven each week up and down this creek.

Q17 Did they have any insurance to take care of the funeral or burial expenses?

A: No, sir. They cut off the men's wages to bury them. But all the miners buries their own dead. They cut two dollars a month, and you cannot get this money.

Q18 Do they cut for doctor?

A: Yes.

Q19 Can you get him when you call him in sickness?

A: This Dr. Stacy in Pineville, you can call him -- the men pay two dollars for him a month -- and then you will call, and sometimes four or five days later he will come to see you. That is the service we get.

Q20 Are these houses sanitary and healthful to live in?

A: Therse houses bring grip, flu and pneumonia.

Q21 Is this a company house?

A: Yes.

Q22 Does the company fix it?

A: They do not fix it. Just plainly speaking they are no more interested in the men, in the miners, they have not got the sympathy that people has for stock, for the mules.

Q23 Much less, because a man who owns stock knows he must take care of it or he loses money. They don't feel that way about the miners, I believe you.

A: If I had a milk cow or a horse I certainly would be more interested in them than the coal operators is in these people.

Is your husband a member of the N.M.U.?

A: My husband is a member of the National Miners Union, and I am too, and I have never stopped, brother, since I know of this work for the N.M.U. I think it is one of the greatest things that has ever come into this world.

Q25 Who are the operators of this mine?

A: O.L. Goodman. They highly insulted me.

Q26 He is the owner?

A: Yes.

Q27 What did he say?

A: My son that is at home, he advised the young man to go and ask for a job at the same rate. Goodman said, "Well, Joe, if you will leave home and not put any support of them for the benefit of your parents, and get you a new boarding house, I will work you...."

Q28 Is that what he said, "work you"--that's the proper expression?

A: Yes, he said that; "get you a new boarding house," he says, "for your parents have taken too much interest in this union." And he says, "Your mother spoke to about 300 people and exposed me, so I don't want no more to do with her." He says, "If that is the chance for a job for me, I won't go to work." He says, "You haven't got any work for me then."

Mr. Walker Questions

Q29 You know all the people in this village are suffering from lack of food?

A: Yes, they are destitute of food and clothing.

Q30 You have been a nurse in this community?

A: Yes, just charity.

Q31 You have brought children into this world?

A: Yes sir, 65. My poor husband, he did all he could do. They took their wagons and they would beg for these pumpkins and corn and that would be all they would get without any seasoning and many days they had nothing but those pumpkins. It's all right if we had the other things to fix the pumpkins up but we had nothing and it is very hard to digest that way.

Q32 What do they do with the pumpkins?

A: They feed their hogs. If you had the flavoring, you could fix up something good.


Harlan Miners Speak: Report on Terrorism in the Kentucky Coal Fields. 1932. New York: Da Capo, 1970, pp. 279-282.

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