Labor scholar will headline Mother Jones dinner Oct. 14



Illinois Correspondent

Springfield, IL – A University of Illinois Labor scholar, Dr. Stephanie Seawell Fortado, will discuss “The Lessons of Mary Harris Jones and Lucy Parsons Applied Today.” at the 32nd Annual Mother Jones Dinner Saturday, Oct. 14, at Erin’s Pavilion in Southwind Park on the south side of Springfield.

The evening will begin with a social hour at 5 p.m., followed by dinner at 6 p.m. and the program at 7 p.m.


Fortado studied working-class history and the African-American social movement in earning her doctorate at Illinois and now serves as a lecturer in the school’s Labor Center, providing workshops and training for the general public throughout the state. She is also assistant director of annual Regina V. Polk Women’s Labor Leadership Conference.

Fortado is now working on her first book, with the working title of Race, Recreation and Rebellion, about the struggle over open space in Cleveland, OH during the civil rights movement. She was previously the executive director of the Illinois Labor History Society and now serves on its board. She is union steward and organizing chair for the American Federation of Teachers Local 6546 non-tenure faculty coalition, and previously was president of AFT Local 6300, the graduate employees’ organization and served on the Champaign County Labor Council.

At the dinner, the Mother Jones Foundation will accept donations of books on Labor or funds to buy books for a project initiated by the late Mike Walsh for donation to a school library.



In addition to discussing the great Labor leader Mary Harris “Mother Jones,” Fortado will talk about the less-known but equally fiery Lucy Eldine Gonzalez Parsons, a native Texan who became a Labor organizer, a powerful orator and writer and a radical socialist-anarchist, born in 1853 and living until 1942. She was a founder of Industrial Workers of the World.

Parsons’ ancestors are believed to have included African-Americans, Native Americans and Mexicans, and it is thought that she may have been born a slave. She married former Confederate soldier Albert Parsons in 1871 and they fled to Chicago because of reactions against their interracial marriage.

The couple became leaders in the Labor Movement and campaigned on behalf of the homeless, women, people of color and political prisoners. Albert Parsons was arrested, tried and executed in 1887 on charges he conspired to organize the Haymarket Riot. Lucy Parsons continued as an activist, writer and speech-maker until her death in a house fire.


Tickets for the dinner are $35 or $350 for a table of 10. Orders with checks may be sent to Mother Jones Foundation, P.O. Box 20412, Springfield, IL 62708-0412. Special contributions of $50 or more will be welcomed and listed in the program. For more information, contact Al Pieper at (217) 522-4688 or Terry Reed at (217) 491-1298.

To reach the park, drive north on I-55 and take exit 90 west on Toronto Road. Turn right (north) on S. 2nd Street and look for the pavilion on the left (west) side.



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