Aunt Molly Jackson is one of the most overlooked, yet influential, figures in American folk music. Not only was she a contemporary of Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly, she was also a major influence on Pete Seeger.
Unfortunately her recorded output consists of one single, recorded in the early '30s. Born Mary Magdalene Garland in 1880 in the coal mining country of Kentucky, she married in her early teens and became a certified midwife by the time she was 18. Since Jackson was so young when she delivered her first baby, instead of following the custom of the times by calling midwives "Grandma," she insisted being called "Aunt Molly" instead. Jackson was the wife of a miner in the Kentucky coal fields. When the miners decided to strike for better pay and working conditions, she wrote her first song about the experience. In the midst of the strike, a group of writers led by Theodore Dreiser and John Dos Passos came to Kentucky on a fact-finding tour. Among the interviewed miners and family members, Jackson sang her song, "Hungry Ragged Blues." The impressed committee convinced her to go to New York City and use her singing to raise funds for the strikers, which she did. After the strike was settled, Jackson stayed on in New York City and continued as an activist and singer, where she became known among the folk and radical communities. Her earliest compositions to impress listeners in the radical movement were "Miner's Hungry Ragged Blues" and "Poor Miner's Farewell." By 1960 Jackson was impoverished but nevertheless was working on an LP of original material when she died suddenly. During the 1970s, some of those songs were released on a Rounder anthology. ~ Al Campbell, Rovi