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Miners' Wives in the Coal Strike

Extracts from The Century Magazine
Freda Kirchwey

"By coming close to the lives of the women on strike I learned more, I believe, of the meaning of the industrial struggle in West Virginia than a mile of statistics and a year of research could have taught me."


RS. SOAMES had been "set out." With her furniture and 11 children she had been moved out of the company house where she had lived for eight years and had been dumped beside the road. I found her living in a tent several miles up the valley. Three other evicted families occupied tents nearby, and in the four families there were 30 children.

"If them sons of thought they could throw a scare into us by settin' us out, they guessed real bad. This is my third time in a tent, an' I like it fine. Soames an' I got two tents for the 13 of us, but Mrs. Lightfoot, next door there, she's got 9 all in If


But it don't sour us none. we don't live real good or eat real good, we know what we're doing it for, an' we'll stick as long as we got to. We eat fat meat an' corn-bread mostly, an' some days we don't eat nothin'; but we know why, don't we, Sis?"

"I'm afraid those babies don't know why," I said, "when they get hun

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as well be dead. They ain't going to be no security for him, nor for any of us, if they kill our union, like they're settin' out to do. Every man an' woman of us is as helpless as this baby without we band together an' fight together. My babies may be hungry now while the trouble is on -it ain't easy to send 'em to bed with nothin' only a piece of dry corncake in their hands-but if we don't fight now, they'll be hungry all their lives; an' if we lose, they'll die, like as not."

I heard the story of the march into Logan County, when an army of miners crossed the mountains to put the fear of the union into the operators' hearts.

"That was an army," said Mrs. Soames, "union men every one of 'em. If they hadn't of stopped for talk, they ain't nothin' these boys couldn't of done. They'd of cleaned the gunmen an' the dirty scabs right plumb out of Logan County. They oughtn't never to have stopped, not for President Harding nor nobody. Logan County could be a right decent place for folks to live in if the boys had gone ahead an' finished the job. It was a black, stinkin' place then, an' it still is. If they hadn't of stopped, they could of cleaned it out right.'

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"It was hard before the baby come," she said. "Because first there wasn't no work, an' then, soon as they got workin', seems like, the strike come along. The baby come four weeks ago. I had a rea: hard time-seems like I Gught not to, don't it, with the second? -an' then when baby was 12 days old, Tom left me. I can't make it out. He seemed to care about me. Says he was goin' to see a sick uncle, but his uncle'd have to be real sick to be sicker'n what I was. This week the union sent me two dollars, an' last week a dollar fifty; that's the first money come into the house since the baby come a month ago. They say they'll send it right along now even if Tom has lit out. I reckon Tom thinks he'll come back some time when things ain't so hard round here. I thought it was awful when he went, but now I don't care if he don't show up. Things may go easier if he stays away-some ways. If I had money, I'd pick up the babies and go to my people, an' I'd never in the world come back. But I ain't got much left out of that three fifty I've took in this month, so I reckon I'll set right here an' see what happens."


"The children don't get enough to eat,' said Mrs. Wilson, without any rancor, "but I tells 'em they mustn't make no fuss. 'Tain't goin' to las', I tells 'em. Union boun' to win. But you knows yourself you ain't goin' to git no two-year-ol' to take no stock in that. But I feeds 'em pretty good. Po'k an' meal we gits off'n the union, an' I cooks 'em up greens off'n the hill what I picks. Young an' ol' they all eat greens; to suit 'em real well. Ain't got no clo'es on'y what's on 'em. Come winter, an' I don't know what we all will do. Didn't have no shoes las' winter, an' I reckon we won't have no nothin' by nex'. 'Still, 'tain't so bad,' I says to my man. 'Might's well go hungry fer to strike as go hungry fer to be out of work. They ain't nothing you can do about it neither way, They's some hollers at the bosses, an' they's some hollers at the union, an' they's some as jus' gen'ally makes moan; but we gits along jus' as bad as they does without half the pain.''

Mrs. Rathom told me about the months of unemployment before the strike came, and of the hunger that had made the winter before a nightmare.

"If things had gone on as they was before the strike, like we'd 'a' died. They ain't nothin' to do up this valley only dig coal, an' when that stops, we stop. When the strike come, we begun to get rations. They ain't so much, meal an' sow-belly an' a poke of flour

once a week; but they can be et. Sometimes I set an' think how they's folks right outside the valley eats fresh meat every day, an' corn an' a pie or a cake.

"A strike ain't all good," she went on, and she spat a stream of tobacco-juice over the edge of the porch. "It's got to be, and it's got to be won; but it lights heavy on the women. You see the men settin' along the ties a-talkin' an' a-spittin'; men holdin' meetin's an' makin' speeches; men throwin' horseshoes an' a-layin' on their backs; an' up in them hills men makin' whisky to set themselves crazy. There's no good in an idle man.

"It ain't like that with the women; the less work fer the men, the more we work. It's us has to put the children off till next day without food. It's us has to hold rags together to cover our bodies and our men's and babies'. It's us has to cook meals with nothin' fit to cook. The men set an' jaw while we work our arms loose; that's what a strike means. The other day I walks up ar' says to a bunch a men a-settin' over yonder: 'I sure am goin' to get me some goose eggs so's you all can hatch me out some goslin's while you're a-settin' there. Might's well make yourselves useful.'

"You think I look pretty porely, don't you now? An' old like. Well, I ain't forty-two yet. That ain't so old. Some women's real spry when they get that old. It's hard on a woman to be lookin' like a wore-out scarecrow when she ain't forty-two an' ain't got a gray Men-" hair, seems like. She stopped short. She wanted me to understand what she couldn't say.

"I married him when I was 17; my mother got me into it. I wanted another man. Perhaps it wouldn't of made no difference. Marriage-" She stopped again. "He's no more nor less than a snake. I hated him when I married him an' I've hated him every minute since. I've always been sick like. I've had 12 children that lived. I don't rightly know just how many others. He don't care; men don't.

"It's killed me. I'm near gone." She knew she was a scarecrow, a flapping travesty of a woman. "But it ain't right for the children neither. They don't get no proper schoolin' an' no chance in life. My big boy he come back safe from the war to get shot by a mine guard acrost in Mingo County. These here children ain't got no food to make 'em grow right, an' they ain't got books. School only keeps five months, an' I reckon it ain't right good at that. What can I give to 'em now I got 'em?" Centy. M., N. '22.

Strikes Must Go to Court

Condensed from The Country Gentleman

Henry J. Allen, Governor of Kansas

1. 8,000 strikes a year. 2. Kansas points with pride to her solution.

3. Remarkable record of the Kansas Industrial Court.

4. Why labor leaders hate the Court.

5. The Kansas method will be adopted generally.

NE of the greatest needs of this

Nountry is fair and just way

of settling disputes between labor and capital so that strikes may be done away with. No class needs this more than the laborers themselves, whose leaders, pursuing the archaic methods of the strike, have brought upon them untold hardships and miseries.

In this country there is work enough for every able-bodied man, at a just wage, yet there have been 25,000 strikes in this country in the last three years-productive of enough sheer waste to pay for a comfortable home for every man who went on strike. Moreover, over 90 per cent of these strikes failed of the purposes for which they were called, and the others did not produce enough from their victory to pay back to the laboring men what it cost them to be on strike. The public, brought into grim contact with the waste of labor strikes, is demanding that these everrecurring quarrels shall be taken in charge and settled by responsible government that will give justice to all parties affected, including the public.

2. The Kansas Court of Industrial Relations is an arm of government which is settling labor disputes in


that very way. It was created out of the emergency of a coal strike, which left the people of Kansas the helpless victims of a conflict in the bringing on of which they had no part. took over the mines and called for volunteer coal diggers, and 10,000 men enrolled. In ten days the lads selected mined enough coal to relieve the emergency, and soon Kansas had a surplus to ship outside the state. But those lads did more-they proved that a state still had the power to protect its people against the dangers of a civil war, though that war might be called a "strike."

The Court of Industrial Relations is founded upon one of the oldest principles of human governmentthat the safety of the people is the supreme law. Under the common law, since ancient times, certain industries and vocations have been regarded as affected with public interest. The Kansas code declared the manufacture of food and clothing and the production of fuel to be impressed with a public interest; and it declared labor, as well as capital engaged in these three essential industries, to owe a public duty. The court consists of three judges appointed by the governor for definite terms. The presiding judge has well stated its purposes:

In case of controversy between employers and workers, in any of those three industries, if the controversy shall reach the point that it affects the general welfare, the court upon its own initiative or upon the application of either party to the dispute, or upon the complaint of ten citizen taxpayers of the locality, shall take jurisdiction and adjudicate such differences. The court may fix rules concerning hours of labor and working conditions and establish a standard of wages, all of which must be observed by both parties unless changed by agreement of the parties and approved by the court. If

either party be dissatisfied the matter may be taken directly to the supreme court. Throughout the controversy the industry must continue to operate.

It is not a court of arbitration. It is a court of justice. It is an impartial tribunal. A representative of labor is not one of its judges, neither is a representative of capital therejust as any other court of law represents neither plaintiff nor defendant. The Court represents the public. It has been called the court of the penniless man or woman. Any person may come into it without payment of a cent of cost; the state will pay the cost.

3. The Kansas Industrial Court has been in operation two years and seven months. It has made decisions in 45 cases affecting the wages and working conditions of thousands of workers in mines, packing houses, mills, railroad shops, light and power plants, and of those 45 decisions 43 have been accepted by both sides as just and fair. To give but two or three examples:

The court has made 9 different adjudications in disputes between the Illinois Traction Co. and its employees in Kansas. In the first decision wages were raised 33 per cent; in its last decision wages were reduced 11 per cent; each decision was accepted as a just decision by both company and men.

In Goodland the shopmen of the Rock Island Railway had been trying for 17 years to get the company to inclose the shop. They came before the court and it ordered the company to inclose those shops forthwith. For 25 years coal operators charged miners a discount of 10 per cent if they drew their wages before pay day. It amounted to 520 per cent per annum. The Court wiped that out in just 18 minutes. During the year prior to the establishment of the Court there was an average of 131⁄2 strikes a month in the Kansas coal fields and the average number of days a miner was employed was 141 for the year. Under the Industrial Court the number has been 256 days. The families of the miners know the difference. In three elections the Industrial Court idea has won in the industrial districts of the state.

4. Two classes fight the Industrial Court idea-one the greedy employer; the other the professional labor leader who realizes that if the government may find justice for the laboring man, then there will be no

longer any reason why laboring men should pay out of their pockets each month a share of their wages to keep going a lot of soft-handed agitators who make their living off the quarrels they foster between labor and its employers. That is why labor leaders hate it and go about the country misrepresenting it.

Being a labor leader has become an industry in America, where 150,000 paid secretaries of labor draw out of the slender purses of the workers $60,000,000 a year. Mr. Gompers says I have taken away the divine right of men in Kansas to quit work. I have not. I have merely helped to take away Mr. Gompers' divine right to order men to quit work; and we have assured the divine right of any man who wishes to keep on the job as long as he wishes, and we have provided for his protection. The law does not deprive a man of his natural right to choose his own employment and to cease it at will. It does prevent concerted action that might take the form of a conspiracy to restrict production or to close down any of the state's essential industries.

I am not preaching that industrial courts should supersede labor organizations; but that government should guarantee justice to laboring men and relieve them of the burden of bad leadership and its costs, and leave labor leadership a more benevolent purpose than it now holds.

5. In a short time the principles of the Kansas Industrial Court will be put in force in all the states of the Union. Last month the Commission on Uniform State Laws, composed of the best lawyers in the country appointed by the governors of the 48 states, voted unanimously to recommend to the states as a needed uniform law a court of industrial relations fashioned after the Kansas court. Many other facts might be cited showing that the movement is growing. It is foolish to say there is no solution for the quarrel of the laborer with his employer. Count. Gent., N. 18, '22.


A National Focus of Science

and Research

Condensed from Scribner's Magazine
George Ellery Hale

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LANKING the Lincoln Memorial in the city of Washington, another marble structure, also associated in its origin with the Civil War, is now rising. This is to be the home of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council, organized to promote the progress of science and research. In this centre the latest scientific advances of the country will be shown in exhibits. In 1919 a gift of $5,000,000 was made by the Carnegie Corporation to permit the erection of the building and to provide an endowment for its maintenance. An entire city block was purchased for the site by friends of the Academy.

One of the prime purposes of the new building is to serve as a means of keeping the public in touch with the progress of science and to demonstrate the importance of research. For example, one of the exhibition rooms will contain radio apparatus, where amateurs can study methods of construction. Moreover, demonstrations will be shown, step by step, of the various experiments made by scientists and inventors, which led up to the discovery of wireless communication.

Hitherto the United States has produced few great physicists. Is it not probable that some of these boys will be led to recognize the fundamental importance of science and to see with leaders of industry that the greatest advances arise, not merely from the direct attempt of the inventor to solve some special problem, but even more truly from the pioneer work of the scientific investigator, who discovers the phenomena and formulates the laws that underlie and render possible both invention and industry?

The phenomena of nature, the apparatus for studying them, and the means by which fundamental discoveries are applied for the public welfare will all be demonstrated in a changing exhibit, kept constantly up to date. One room will be placed at the disposal of the scientific and technical bureaus of the government, which will show in sequence the results of their latest researches. Another wil be used to illustrate the advances made in industrial research laboratories. The discoveries and progress of physics, chemistry, astronomy, zoology, botany, and of medicine, engineering, and agriculture will be demonstrated in other rooms. The National Academy will strive to popularize science, supply technical information, secure co-operation among investigators, point out new possibilities of progress, and promote the development of American industries.

2. When men like Elihu Root, Theodore Vail, and Herbert Hoover emphasize the fact that industrial development and national progress depend in great degree upon the improvement of methods and the in

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