A labor historian says there’s a lot of labor history that the public doesn’t know. Rosemary Feurer is a history professor at Northern Illinois University, and it wasn’t until her formal education was complete that she came across the Mother Jones monument in Mount Olive.
“It was only after I had graduated from college and learned a little history that I came across the monument, which is about 15 minutes away from where I went to college. And there I learned this history that had been hidden from me from grade one all the way through college,” she said.
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Feurer is now an expert on Mother Jones – Mary Harris Jones – who organized coal miners and fought for laws against child labor a century ago. Mother Jones died in 1930, and is buried at the Union Miners’ Cemetery in Mount Olive, alongside miners who died in the 1898 Battle of Virden. Feurer says from 1870 to 1930, more than 1,000 workers were killed in labor conflicts in the United States, a history that few know.
Feurer says Mother Jones was successful in getting better wages for miners in Illinois, but less so in other states.