I’ve Endured: Women in Old-Time Music

Close-Up on Women in Old-Time Music

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Aunt Molly Jackson

Photo of Aunt Molly Jackson
Album cover courtesy of David Winship


Clay County, Kentucky

Date of Birth


Date of Death

September 1, 1960

Aunt Molly Jackson – born Mary Magdalene Garland – was a union organizer, community midwife (from the age of 12), and songwriter. While there are quite a few self-told and carried-on embellished tales about her, Aunt Molly’s life was certainly filled with hardship, sorrow, righteous indignation, and a strong desire for justice – from losing several family members in the mines and her time on the picket lines to stepping in to care for her siblings after her mother passed and watching children die young as a midwife. All of these experiences were reflected in her songs, such as “I Am a Union Woman,” “Poor Miner’s Farewell,” “Dreadful Memories,” and her beautiful reworking of the ballad of Robin Hood in “The Birth of Robin Hood.” 

In 1931 Aunt Molly traveled to New York City to help raise money for coal miners striking in Harlan County, Kentucky. She stayed on in New York for several years, becoming part of the urban folk revival and meeting folklorists and songcatchers like Alan Lomax and Mary Elizabeth Barnicle who recorded Aunt Molly for the Library of Congress Archive of American Folk Song. Woody Guthrie even called her “one of America’s best native ballad singers.”

Take a Listen

Select Discography

  • The Songs and Stories of Aunt Molly Jackson (Folkways Records)
  • Library of Congress Recordings of Aunt Molly Jackson (Library of Congress)

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