Fight Like Hell
The Testimony of Mother Jones
Mother Jones, a fiery orator and fearless organizer for workers' rights, known as "the protector of children," and "the miners' angel," in a riveting performance by Lee.
Directed by Ian Cheney
Produced by Martha Gregory, Ian Cheney
Writer: Kaiulani Lee
Director of Photography: Taylor Gentry
Original Music: Martin Crane
Adapted from the play "Can't Scare Me: The Story of Mother Jones" by Kaiulani Lee
Starring Kaiulani Lee as Mother Jones
A Wicked Delicate Films Production
[Note: Community screenings of FIGHT LIKE HELL can be booked at Bullfrog Communities.]
"A gut-punch...The hopes and tragedies of America's working people, then and now, are alive in this film." Elliot Gorn, Chair, American Urban History, Loyola Univ Chicago
We were never supposed to know her name. She was a poor Irish immigrant who survived famine and war, fire and plague. Unable to save her husband or their four small children, she dedicated her life to saving working families everywhere. The robber barons called her "the most dangerous woman in America," but workers called her "Mother Jones."
Upton Sinclair said of her, "She had force, she had wit, she had the fire of indignation; she was the walking wrath of god." Mother Jones said of herself "I'm not a humanitarian, I'm a hellraiser." Most famously, she told her followers to, "pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living." She educated, agitated, and organized the dispossessed and showed America what it could be.
With the gap between the rich and poor growing wider by the day, the just and democratic society Mother Jones fought for is under attack. Her hour has come again.
Drawn from her autobiography, letters, speeches, and interviews, this one-shot film was adapted from Obie Award-winning actress Kaiulani Lee's one-woman play "Can't Scare Me," and produced by the same team as A Sense of Wonder with Kaiulani Lee as Rachel Carson and directed by Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Ian Cheney
Grade Level: 10 - 12, Colleges, Adults
US Release Date: 2023
Copyright Date: 2022
DVD ISBN: 1-948745-99-2
"A most timely film! Indeed, now is the time to recall the courage of the great and inspiring labor organizer Mother Jones - a woman who not only recognized the exploitation and oppression of the Gilded Age, but also the imperative of challenging it from the bottom up. In this performance, we hear 'first-hand' from her about how she mobilized the anger, hopes, energies, and aspirations of a generation of American working people - men, women, and children - to join in solidarity, challenge the corporate bosses, and demand government action. Now, in this Second Gilded Age, when working people are organizing anew, we should not fail to appreciate struggles of the past."
Harvey J. Kaye, Professor Emeritus of Democracy and Justice Studies, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
"Fight Like Hell will motivate the unorganized to organize and the organized to do more!"
Chris Smalls, President/Founder, Amazon Labor Union
"Fight Like Hell is the untold American history of a nation built by immigrants and a working class that suffered incredible atrocities by the corporate class and had no option but to fight for the nation history books claimed we had already won. As with any story about real people, there are triumphant moments of joy and laughter mixed with gut wrenching tragedy and heroic strength in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds against those in desperate conditions. The authenticity of this film, captured in one seamless shot, is captivating and life changing. This is our untold history and it brings clarity to the existential threats we face today."
Sara Nelson, President, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO
"Fight Like Hell is nothing short of awe-inspiring. This film reminds us that history indeed repeats itself, telling the tale of the struggles and battles of American workers. From her first line, to her last, 'Buckle on your armor. Don't be afraid. We will stand together. It's a fighting age,' Kaiulani Lee is Mother Jones."
Cecil E. Roberts, International President, United Mine Workers of America
"A moving tribute, worthy of the legacy of Mother Jones."
Liz Schuler, President, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)
"I am a long-time fan of Kaiulani Lee's portrayal of Mother Jones and this film takes her portrayal to new heights as only film can do! Fight Like Hell is a must-see for every generation who knows we must 'Mourn for the dead and fight like hell for the living!'"
Elise Bryant, Executive Director, Labor Heritage Foundation
"Fight Like Hell is a gut-punch. Kaiulani Lee's Mother Jones IS the living, breathing old warrior for the rights of workers everywhere. We absolutely believe it is Mother Jones herself we are watching on the screen, as she tells her story with both heartbreak and humor. The hopes and tragedies of America's working people, then and now, are alive in this film, and you'll come away not just knowing the history, but feeling how it reaches into our own times."
Elliot Gorn, Joseph A. Gagliano Chair in American Urban History, Loyola University Chicago, Author, Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America
"In Fight Like Hell, Mary Harris Jones is brought to life with a thrilling performance by Kaiulani Lee. The film provides substance and depth to the life story of Mother Jones, from her formative years amid the horrors of the 1830s potato famine in Ireland to her fiercest battles for workers' rights and welfare in America from the late nineteenth through the early twentieth century. Fight Like Hell also showcases the people Jones fought for and against, from those often left off the pages of history to the U.S. presidents and business leaders with whom she went head-to-head. Educators, organizers, and community leaders will find this film generates lively discussion and encourages reflections on what we have inherited from the past and what we owe to the future."
Joey Fink, Assistant Professor of History, High Point University
"Fight Like Hell: The Testimony of Mother Jones will move hearts and open minds. Kaiulani Lee's one woman show powerfully conveys the real sorrow of child labor in the industrial revolution, and reminds viewers of the courage and love that are needed to stand up to--and end--exploitation. Highly recommended for use by schools, colleges, and community groups."
Elizabeth Cobbs, Professor of American History, Texas AandM University, Author, Fearless Women: Feminist Patriots from Abigail Adams to Beyonce
"This is a moving portrait of Mother Jones, one of America's most consequential labor advocates. Kaiulani Lee's powerful performance captures the triumph and tragedy of Mother Jones's remarkable life and her commitment to the working class. The film will have many possible uses as an educational tool amid a resurgence in working-class activism and militancy."
Bob Bussel, Professor Emeritus of History, Labor Education and Research Center, University of Oregon
"Riveting...Fight Like Hell is a superb look at the life of one of America's most indomitable labor organizers, Mother Jones. Audiences will hear of the dignity of working people who fought an uphill battle, often against armed guards and unsympathetic politicians. This account is timeless and still relevant today, when labor history often gets short shrift in most education curriculum, and as working people fight for dignity and economic justice during the height of America's second 'Gilded Age.'"
William Hal Gorby, Associate Professor of History, West Virginia University, Author, Wheeling's Polonia: Reconstructing Polish Community in a West Virginia Steel Town
"Fight Like Hell: The Testimony of Mother Jones is a revelation. Kaiulani Lee breathes new, vibrant life into the labor icon's words...Here, Lee channels the fighting spirit of Mary 'Mother Jones' Harris, the Irish immigrant dressmaker turned 'most dangerous woman in America' and reminds us all that we must keep fighting like hell for the world we deserve. As Mother Jones herself once told us, 'Educate yourself for the coming conflicts.' I can think of no better introduction to her life, her battles, and her hellraising heart than this."
Kim Kelly, Independent Journalist, Organizer, Author of Fight Like Hell: The Untold History of American Labor
"Absolutely captivating...A stunning performance that you won't be able to take your eyes off as she brings a dark era of history to life."
Maryland Theater Guide
"Kaiulani Lee's remarkable performance returns legendary labor crusader Mother Jones to us in all her fierce passion and righteous anger. This is a stirring saga of a woman who faced down hostile CEOs, US Presidents, and army machine guns to defend the rights of workers. Fight Like Hell is a perfect introduction to some of America's most gripping labor battles: from the 1903 march of striking mill children, to the 1914 uprising in the Rockefeller-owned Colorado mines, to the 1921 stand-off in the West Virginia coalfields, one of the deadliest strikes in American history."
Dorothy Sue Cobble, Distinguished Professor Emerita, History and Labor Studies, Rutgers University
"Fight like Hell relays the compelling story of some of the most important, yet largely unchronicled, moments in the history of 'the war between the classes.' From textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts to miners in Ludlow, Colorado, early twentieth century labor struggles are simply, yet vividly, told through the voice and words of organizer, Mother Jones."
Kate Bronfenbrenner, Director of Labor Education Research, Senior Lecturer of Industrial and Labor Relations, Co-Director of the Worker Empowerment Research Project, Cornell University
DVDs include public performance rights.
DVD includes SDH captions for the deaf and hard of hearing, and scene selection
Awards and Festivals
Best Women's Film, Washington DC International Cinema Festival
Best Actress in a Feature Film, Crown Point International Film Festival
Best Actress, Toronto International Women Film Festival
Chicago Irish Film Festival
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"An engaging addition to supplement studies of labor, unions, the Gilded Age, and women's history."
Maggie Knapp, School Library Journal
"Convincing and moving...Well-acted, well-written, and well-researched...For high school students and beyond it would be a great accompaniment to a study of American labor history, and one they would probably remember for a long time...Recommended for any collection supporting labor history or American history."
Alexander Rolfe, George Fox University, Educational Media Reviews Online