Aunt Molly Jackson (1880–1960)

Updated: March 01, 2011

Traditional protest singer and songwriter.

During the 1930s, Mary Magdalene Garland “Aunt Molly” Jackson was a prominent activist in the struggle for the unionization of the Appalachian coalfields. Her performances at labor rallies featured original protest songs closely modeled on traditional mountain music.

The daughter of miner, preacher, and union activist Oliver Perry Garland and Deborah Robinson Garland, Jack- son was born in Clay County, Kentucky, in September 1880. Her mother died of tuberculosis in 1886; eleven months later, her father married Elizabeth Lucas, with whom he had an additional eleven children, including union activists Sarah Ogan Gunning (1910–1983) and Jim Garland (1905–1978).

During the Great Depression, Aunt Molly Jackson presented speeches and performed songs such as “I Am a Union Woman,” “Kentucky Miner’s Wife,” and “Dreadful Memories” on behalf of the National Miners Union. In 1931 she met with a delegation sent by the National Committee for the Defense of Political Prisoners and subsequently traveled to New York City, soon appearing before an audience of twenty-one thousand people.

After spending the next five years traveling on behalf of the labor movement, Jackson and her third husband, Gustavos Stamos, moved to New York City in 1936. She died on August 31, 1960, in Sacramento, California. Jackson’s political adaptation of folk songs coupled tradition and innovation, as revealed in her own definition of folk music: “This is what a folk song really is: the folks com- poses their own songs about their own lives and their home folks that live around them.”

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"Aunt Molly Jackson," Encyclopedia of Appalachia, 2018, Encyclopedia of Appalachia. 22 Oct 2018 <>

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"Aunt Molly Jackson." (2018) In Encyclopedia of Appalachia, Retrieved October 22, 2018, from Encyclopedia of Appalachia:

Aunt Molly Jackson