Woody Guthrie

On Aunt Molly Jackson:

Aunt Molly was born in the mountains around Harlan, Kentucky. Some Cherokee and English blood in her veins. She grew up to be herb doctor, mid wife, and best ballad singer in the whole country.

In 1929 the coal strike hit the mountains. Men worked all of the time but couldn't make enough money to feed their kids and raise a family. Couldn't pay for a doctor when a baby was born. Aunt Molly took the place of several doctors. She done the best she knew how, and helped to bring over a hundred little babies into the world.

When she saw these little babies starving to death like flies all around her, Aunt Molly got interested in good wages for their dads. She got up in front of the miners, sung them songs, made them speeches, yelled at them to lay down their tools and wait till the boss raised the pay. She tells of the meetings they had. How the winchester rifle bullets use [sic] to kick the gravel up in your face while you was out making a talk about the rich coal operators and the poor hungry miners. In a year Aunt Molly told more truth than the politicians could bear to hear, so it got too hot for her down in Kentucky.

She lives in NewYork City now. Over on the east side. In the slums and tenements. Where filth and starvation and disease is just as bad, only thicker, than anywhere in Kentucky. She's still one of the nation's best ballad singers and can say for herself, "I can sing all day and all night every day for a month, and never sing the same song twicet [sic]." (All ballad singers can.)

I know Molly well. She's strong and she's good, and she aint [sic] afraid of the police. She says what she thinks when she thinks it. The big guys call her a red. Well, Molly, it looks like if you always say just exactly what you think is right, they'll jump on you and say you're a red.

Some folks just aint quite got the nerve to say what they think is right. But some day they'll wish they had. You aint scared of nobody, Molly. I know it. I've been around you long enough to know that. And you can't stay around Molly for even a few minutes, but what she'll speak out something that is so good, so true, and so honest, that it'll stick in your head as long as you live.


Guthrie, Woodie. Hard Hitting Songs for Hard-Hit People.1967. Ed. Alan Lomax and Pete Seeger. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999, p. 139.


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Aunt Molly's friend, protest singer Woody Guthrie. Source: My Song Is My Weapon.