Cover for ROMALIS: Pistol Packin' Mama: Aunt Molly Jackson and the Politics of Folksong

Pistol Packin' Mama

Aunt Molly Jackson and the Politics of Folksong

Meet Aunt Molly Jackson (1880-1960), one of American folklore's most fascinating characters.

A coal miner's daughter, she grew up in eastern Kentucky, married a miner, and became a midwife, labor activist, and songwriter. Fusing hard experience with rich Appalachian musical tradition, her songs became weapons of struggle.

In 1931, at age fifty, she was "discovered" and brought north, sponsored and befriended by an illustrious circle of left-wing intellectuals and musicians, including Theodore Dreiser, Alan Lomax, and Charles Seeger and his son Pete. Along with Sarah Ogan Gunning, Jim Garland (two of Aunt Molly's half-siblings), Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, and other folk musicians, she served as a cultural broker, linking the rural working poor to big-city left-wing activism.

Shelly Romalis draws upon interviews and archival materials to construct this portrait of an Appalachian woman who remained radical, raucous, proud, poetic, offensive, self-involved, and in spirit the "real" pistol packin' mama of the song.

"Mr. Coal operator call me anything you please, blue, green, or red, I aim to see to it that these Kentucky coalminers will not dig your coal while their little children are crying and dying for milk and bread."
-- Aunt Molly Jackson

"An excellent and highly readable book about an extraordinary character." -- Alessandro Portelli, The Journal of American History

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