April 19 Daughters of Mother Jones

April 19, 2017

On this day in labor history, the year was 1989.

That was the day Edna Sauls and 38 women walked into the Virginia headquarters of the Pittston Coal Group, sat down in the lobby and sang “We Shall Not Be Moved.”

Their occupation lasted 36 hours.

The women were mostly relatives and friends of 1,700 UMWA miners, then on strike against Pittston.

The women, when questioned by police and the media, refused to give up their names.

They called themselves the Daughters of Mother Jones.

Though Sauls had never worked in the mines, six of her brothers and two of her sisters had.

She and many family members would sit down in front of Moss 3 Preparation plant just weeks later.

As the strike wore on, her husband Doug would be one of the UMW strikers who took over and occupied Pittston’s Moss 3 plant later that fall.

Sauls noted the high personal stakes at Pittston stating,  “My husband is 42 years old.

He’s worked in the mines for 24 years. Who’s going to hire him for another job?”

Sauls also rose to local fame during the strike when she began writing strike solidarity songs.

One such song was “Let Me In,” also referred to as the Camo Song, for the strikers who wore camouflage.

Sauls composed the song after she found a child crying whose striking grandfather had been jailed.

In the song, the child asks to go to jail too.

The Daughters picketed Pittston offices twice a week and organized strike support that included housing, food drives and fundraising.

Their role inspired miners to occupy the mines and roads, persevere throughout the winter and eventually win back health benefits.

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