Patricia Hull, of Juneau, accompanied by Jon Hays, performs as “The Most Dangerous Woman in America” at the 45th annual Alaska Folk Festival at Centennial Hall on Monday, April 8, 2019. The two are also the duo behind “Mother Jones in Heaven.” (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Patricia Hull, of Juneau, accompanied by Jon Hays, performs as “The Most Dangerous Woman in America” at the 45th annual Alaska Folk Festival at Centennial Hall on Monday, April 8, 2019. The two are also the duo behind “Mother Jones in Heaven.” (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

One-woman show shares workers’ rights icon’s story

‘Mother Jones in Heaven’ playing Juneau through Sunday

Mary Harris “Mother” Jones died in 1930, but she’s back in Juneau for the second time this decade.

A production of “Mother Jones in Heaven,” a one-woman show starring Juneau resident Patricia Hull and written by North Carolinian Si Kahn is underway in the capital city after first making its premier in Juneau back in 2014.

“I think this show was very fulfilling for me the first time around,” Hull said. “Walking down the streets in Juneau, people would stop me who had been in the audience, who I didn’t even know, and say, ‘Thank you for doing this. It really made me think about my union. It really made me appreciate what I have.’”

The show depicts Jones in her version of heaven — an Irish pub — where the famous labor organizer from Ireland is able to hold court and tell stories. Jon Hays provides piano accompaniment during the show.

Hull became involved in the project after a chance encounter with Kahn at Alaska Folk Festival 2013. Kahn, of Charlotte, North Carolina, was that year’s guest artist, and Hull was spotted performing a Roma song in character.

Patricia Hull, of Juneau, accompanied by Jon Hays, performs as “The Most Dangerous Woman in America” at the 45th annual Alaska Folk Festival at Centennial Hall on Monday, April 8, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Patricia Hull, of Juneau, accompanied by Jon Hays, performs as “The Most Dangerous Woman in America” at the 45th annual Alaska Folk Festival at Centennial Hall on Monday, April 8, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

This year, Hull is back in the role of Mother Jones in preparation for an annual labor organization event put together by Stand Up Guys and Gals of Alaska for Labor Education which holds an annual International Workers’ Day event.

[Opinion: “Mother Jones in Heaven” is worth a watch]

“I figured if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it in Juneau, too,” Hull said. “And I’m also going to do it down in Sitka.”

Proceeds from the Juneau and Sitka shows will be donated to the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association.

The Sitka performance will be Saturday, May 4, at 7:30 p.m. at Mean Queen. The cost for tickets is $25 for adults and $20 for students and seniors. Tickets may be purchased online at www.jahc.org or at the door. All proceeds from the performance will be donated to the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association.

“The reason is they provide safety education for commercial fisherman,” Hull said. “I just thought Mother Jones would really approve of that. Commercial fishing in Alaska is the No. 1 most dangerous trade in the world.”

Jones was born in County Cork, Ireland in 1830, according to Biography.com. Her family left Ireland amid the Irish Potato Family and moved to Canada and then Chicago.

She lost family members to a yellow fever outbreak and her home to the Great Chicago Fire.

“This woman lost everything time and time again,” Hull said.

However, Hull said instead of becoming beaten down Jones channeled her rage into being an impassioned, incendiary and iconoclastic activist who helped found the Social Democratic Party and championed workers’ rights.

[Folk Fest brings songwriter home]

Hull said a lot of what Jones fought for remains topical, and used recent strikes by Uber and Lyft drivers as an example.

She said the show’s title character would likely be disappointed about the amount of progress related to workers’ rights that has been made over the past eight or nine decades.

“I think if Mother Jones came back to today, she would be appalled that we are still working 40-hour weeks five days a week with all the labor-saving devices we have today.”

Know & Go

What: “Mother Jones in Heaven”

Where: McPhetres Hall, 325 Gold St.

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday

Admission: $25 for general admission or $20 for students and seniors. Tickets are available through jahc.org or at the door.


• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.


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