Molly Maguires: White or Black Hats?

by Molly Matthews


  

Child laborers known as “breaker boys” — one of many injustices of 19th Century coal mining.

Child laborers known as “breaker boys” — one of many injustices of 19th Century coal mining.

I struggled when writing Irish Luck, Chinese Medicine, about how to depict the vigilante group, the Molly Maguires.  Were they downtrodden miners who had no option but to fight back against despotic mine owners and corrupt politicians? Yes. Were they men who perpetrated violence, murder, and committed terrorist acts? Yes.

What was it like to descend into a dark mine six out of seven days, frantic to fill seven coal wagons (or you owe money to the company store.) The “breaker boys” depicted the book watch the miners eat sandwiches covered in coal dust, too tired and hungry to wash. The coal dust coated their stomachs and their lungs. What is it like to get sick from ingesting coal dust…or slowly suffocate with black lung? 

But what about the mine boss who loses his life when the bridge he crosses each day blows up one morning?  What if you are the wife or child of that man who is brutally killed?

It was a divided time, like our country is now. This is not a political blog but when author, Brenne Brown, was asked about how to mend our divided society, her answer resonated. She said, “assume positive intention.” 

I wonder if we can bring positive intention in areas of conflict in our world, society, community, family, and relationships?

Next time I’m tempting to judge, what if I assume positive intention?