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Mary Harris Jones

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Subject: Westmoreland County coal strike of 1910–11, National Women's Hall of Fame, Andy Irvine (musician), A People's History of the United States, Appeal to Reason (newspaper)
Collection: 1837 Births, 1930 Deaths, 19Th-Century Irish People, 20Th-Century American Writers, 20Th-Century Women Writers, Activists from Pennsylvania, Activists from West Virginia, American Activists, American Christian Socialists, American Labor Leaders, American Labor Unionists, American Memoirists, American People of Irish Descent, American Schoolteachers, Burials in Illinois, Child Labor in the United States, Children's Rights Activists, Coal Miner Organizers, Community Activists, Date of Birth Unknown, Democratic Socialists, Industrial Workers of the World Leaders, Irish Activists, Irish Emigrants to the United States (Before 1923), Irish Women, Liberalism in the United States, Members of the Socialist Party of America, People from County Cork, People from Monroe, Michigan, Progressive Era in the United States, United Mine Workers People, Women Memoirists
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Mary Harris Jones

Mary Harris Jones
Mother Jones in 1902
Born Mary Harris
1 May 1837 (baptized 1 August 1837)
Cork City, County Cork, Ireland
Died 30 November 1930 (aged 93)
Adelphi, Maryland, U.S.
Occupation community organizer
Political party Social Democratic Party
Socialist Party of America

Mary Harris "Mother" Jones (1837[1][2] – 30 November 1930) was an Irish-American Industrial Workers of the World.

Jones worked as a teacher and dressmaker, but after her husband and four children all died of Theodore Roosevelt in New York. Mother Jones magazine, established in 1970, is named for her.


  • Early life 1
  • Formative years 2
  • "Children's Crusade" 3
  • Later years 4
  • Death 5
  • Legacy 6
    • Music and the arts 6.1
  • Notes 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Early life

Mary Harris Jones was born on the north side of Cork City, Ireland, the daughter of Roman Catholic tenant farmers Richard Harris and Ellen (née Cotter) Harris.[3] She was born on 1 May 1837 and she was baptized on 1 August 1837.[1][1] Mary Harris and her family fell victim, as did many other Irish families, to the great Irish famine. This famine drove more than a million families, including the Harrises, to emigrate to North America. With the deaths from starvation and the massive emigration Ireland's population fell approximately 20-25%. The date of 1 May was chosen to represent the national labor holiday and anniversary of the Haymarket affair, and the year (1830) to imply centenarian status.

Formative years

Mary was a teenager when her family emigrated to Canada.[4] In both Canada and the United States the Harris family fell victim to persecution due to their immigrant status as well as their Catholic beliefs. She received an education in

  • DVD and virtual museum about Mother Jones
  • Mother Jones: biography by Sarah K. Horsley
  • Mother Jones Speaks: Speeches and Writings of a Working-Class Fighter
  • Free eBook of The Autobiography of Mother Jones
  • Works by Mary Harris Jones at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
  • Mother Jones at Find-A-Grave
  • Mother Jones Monument at GuidepostUSA
  • Mother Jones Plaque in Adelphi, MD
  • Mother Jones Festival, Cork, Ireland

External links


  1. ^ a b c
  2. ^
  3. ^ Day by Day in Cork, Sean Beecher, Collins Press, Cork, 1992
  4. ^ a b c d e Arnesen, Eric. "A Tarnished Icon", Reviews in American History 30, no. 1 (2002): 89
  5. ^ Gorn 2002, p. 33.
  6. ^ Religion and Radical Politics: An Alternative Christian Tradition in the United States, Robert H. Craig, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1992
  7. ^ a b Russell E. Smith, "March of the Mill Children", The Social Service Review 41, no. 3 (1967): 299
  8. ^ Ric Arnesen, "A Tarnished Icon", Reviews in American History 30, no. 1 (2002): 89
  9. ^ Gorn 2002, p. 45.
  10. ^ Dreher, Rod (5 June 2006) All-American Anarchists, The American Conservative
  11. ^ Gorn 2002, p. 97.
  12. ^ Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America by Elliott Gorn
  13. ^
  14. ^ Russell E. Smith, "March of the Mill Children", The Social Service Review 41, no. 3 (1967): 298
  15. ^ a b Mari Boor Tonn, "Militant Motherhood: Labor's Mary Harris 'Mother' Jones", Quarterly Journal of Speech 81, no. 1 (1996): 2
  16. ^ Gorn, Elliot J. (2001). Mother Jones, The Most Dangerous Woman in America. New York: Hill and Wang p.81
  17. ^ Gorn, Elliot J. (2001) Mother Jones, The Most Dangerous Woman in America. New York: Hill and Wang p. 74
  18. ^ a b Bonnie Stepenoff, "Keeping it in the Family: Mother Jones and the Pennsylvania Silk Strike of 1900–1901”, Labor History 38, no. 4 (1997): 446
  19. ^ a b Bonnie Stepenoff, "Keeping it in the Family: Mother Jones and the Pennsylvania Silk Strike of 1900–1901”, Labor History 38, no. 4 (1997): 448
  20. ^ Russell E. Smith, "March of the Mill Children", The Social Service Review 41, no. 3 (1967): 300
  21. ^ Russell E. Smith, "March of the Mill Children", The Social Service Review 41, no. 3 (1967): 303
  22. ^
  23. ^ Death Notice for Mother Mary Jones, The Washington Post, 2 December 1930, pg. 3.
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Service Tomorrow for Mother Jones," The Washington Post, 2 December 1930, pg. 12.
  26. ^ Gravesite:
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ "The Pittston Coal Strike" at
  31. ^ Scully, Michael Andrew. "Would Mother Jones Buy 'Mother Jones'?", Public Interest 53, (1978): 100
  32. ^ Mary Harris "Mother" Jones Elementary School webpage
  33. ^ Service and Social Justice ministry webpage
  34. ^
  35. ^ coverage of the Cork Mother Jones Commemorative CommitteeIrish Times
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^ Sandburg, Carl, The American Songbag, 1st edition. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1927.
  40. ^ RE: "The Charge on Mother Jones"
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^


  • "Never Call Me a Lady"[45] (Brooklyn Publishers) is a 10-minute monologue by playwright Rusty Harding, in which Mother Jones recounts her life to a fellow traveler in a Chicago train station.
  • The play The Kentucky Cycle: Fire in the hole portrays Jones as an inspirational figure one of the other characters knew and was inspired by to go and create unions in other coal towns.
  • Jones is the "woman" in Tom Russell's song "The Most Dangerous Woman in America," a commentary on the troubles of striking miners that appeared on his 2009 album Blood and Candle Smoke on the Shout! Factory label.
  • The title track of folk-roots duo Wishing Chair and Kara Barnard's 2002 album Dishpan Brigade[42] is about Jones and her role in the 1899–1900 miners' strike in Arnot, Pennsylvania.[43]
  • "The Spirit of Mother Jones" is a track on the 2010 Abocurragh album by Irish singer-songwriter Andy Irvine.[41]
  • "The most dangerous woman," a spoken-word performance by indie folk singer/spoken word performer Utah Phillips with music and backing vocals added to it by indie folk artist Ani Difranco, can be found on their collaborative album Fellow Workers. The title refers to the moniker that President Theodore Roosevelt gave to Mother Jones, referring to her as "the most dangerous woman in America." Utah Phillips performed the song "The Charge on Mother Jones." This folk song was written by William M. Rogers.[40]
  • "Union Maid", a song written by Woody Guthrie, calls for women to emulate Mother Jones by fighting for women's and workers' rights.

Music and the arts

  • To coincide with International Women's Day on 8 March 2010 a proposal from Councillor Ted Tynan for a plaque to be erected in Mary Harris Jones' native Cork City was passed by the Cork City Council.[34] Members of the Cork Mother Jones Commemorative Committee unveiled the plaque[35] on 1 August 2012 to mark the 175th anniversary of her birth. The Cork Mother Jones Festival was held in the Shandon area of the city, close to her birthplace, with numerous guest speakers.[36] The festival now takes place annually around the anniversary and has led to growing awareness of Mother Jones' legacy and links between admirers in Ireland and the US.[37] A new documentary, Mother Jones and her children, has been produced by Cork-based Frameworks Films [38] and premiered at the Cork festival in 2014.
  • Mother Jones was established in the 1970s and quickly became "the largest selling radical magazine of the decade."[31]
  • During the bitter 1989–90 Pittston Coal strike in Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky, the wives and daughters of striking coal miners, inspired by the still-surviving tales of Jones' legendary work among an earlier generation of the region's coal miners, dubbed themselves the "Daughters of Mother Jones". They played a crucial role on the picket lines and in presenting the miners' case to the press and public.[30]
  • Jones uttered words still invoked by union supporters more than a century later: "Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living."[29] Already known as "the miners' angel" when she was denounced on the floor of the United States Senate as the "grandmother of all agitators," she replied:
    I hope to live long enough to be the great-grandmother of all agitators.


She is buried in the Union Miners Cemetery in Mount Olive, Illinois, alongside miners who had died in the 1898 Battle of Virden.[25][26] She called these miners, killed in strike-related violence, "her boys".[27] After her death in 1932 about fifteen thousand Illinois mine workers gathered on Mont Olive to protest the United Mine Workers, which soon became the Progressive Mine Workers of America. Believing that they have acted in the spirit of Mother Jones, the miners decided to place a proper grave stone over her grave. By 1936 the people had saved up over sixteen thousand dollars and were able to purchase "eighty tons of Minnesota pink granite, with bronze statues of two miners flanking a twenty-foot shaft featuring a bas-relief of Mother Jones at its center".[28] On October 11, 1936, also known as miners day, fifty thousand people arrived at Mothers Jones's grave site to see the final product of Mother Jones's new grave marker. From then on October 11 is not only known as Miners day, but it is also referred to and celebrated on Mount Olive as "Mother Jones Day".

Mary Harris Jones died in Silver Spring, Maryland at age 93 on 30 November 1930.[23][24]


By 1924, Jones was in court again, this time facing charges of Walter and Lillie May Burgess on their farm in what is now Adelphi, Maryland. She celebrated her self-proclaimed 100th birthday there on 1 May 1930, and was filmed making a statement for a newsreel.

Jones was denounced on the floor of the U.S. Senate as the "grandmother of all agitators."

Later years

After 85 days of confinement, her release coincided with Indiana Senator Ludlow massacre. After the massacre she was invited to Standard Oil's headquarters at 26 Broadway to meet face-to-face with John D. Rockefeller, Jr., a meeting that prompted Rockefeller to visit the Colorado mines and introduce long-sought reforms.[22]

In the court martial. She was sentenced to twenty years in the state penitentiary. During house arrest at Mrs. Carney's Boarding House, she acquired a dangerous case of pneumonia.

As Mother Jones noted that many of the children at union headquarters had missing fingers and other disabilities, she attempted to get newspaper publicity about the conditions in Pennsylvania regarding child labor. However, the mill owners held stock in essentially all of the newspapers. When the newspaper men informed her that they could not advertise the facts about child labor because of this, she remarked "Well, I've got stock in these little children and I'll arrange a little publicity."[20] Permission to see President Roosevelt was denied by his secretary and it was suggested that Jones address a letter to the president requesting a visit with him. Even though Mother Jones wrote a letter for such permission, she never received an answer.[21] Though the President refused to meet with the marchers, the incident brought the issue of child labor to the forefront of the public agenda. Jones's Children's Crusade was described in detail in the 2003 non-fiction book, Kids on Strike!.

In 1903 Jones organized children, who were working in mills and mines at the time, to participate in the "Children's Crusade", a march from Kensington, Philadelphia to Oyster Bay, New York, the hometown of President Theodore Roosevelt with banners demanding "We want to go to School and not the mines!"

To enforce worker solidarity, she travelled to the silk mills in New Jersey and returned to Pennsylvania to report that the conditions she observed were far superior. She stated that "the child labor law is better enforced for one thing and there are more men at work than seen in the mills here." In response to the strike, mill owners also divulged their side of the story. They claimed that if the workers still insisted on a wage scale, they would not be able to do business while paying adult wages and would be forced to close down.[19] Even Jones herself encouraged the workers to accept a settlement. Although she agreed with a settlement which sent the young girls back to the mills, she continued to fight child labor for the remainder of her life.[19]

In 1901, workers in Pennsylvania's silk mills went on strike, many being young female workers demanding to be paid adult wages.[18] For in the 1900 census it was declared that one out of every six American children under the age of sixteen was employed. John Mitchell, the president of the UMWA, brought Mother Jones to north-east [18] The rich were taking away these children rights to go to school in order to be able to pay for their own children's college tuitions.

"Children's Crusade"

By age 60, she had effectively assumed the persona of "Mother Jones" by claiming to be older than she actually was, wearing outdated black dresses and referring to the male workers that she supported as "her boys". The first reference to her in print as Mother Jones was in 1897.[4]

Jones was ideologically separated from many of the other female activists of the pre-Nineteenth Amendment days due to her aversion to female suffrage. She was quoted as saying that "You don't need the vote to raise hell!"[14] Her opposition to women taking an active role in politics was based on her belief that the neglect of motherhood was a primary cause of juvenile delinquency. She became known as a charismatic and effective speaker throughout her career.[15] A passionate public speaker, she would liven her rhetoric with real and folk-tale characters, punctuated with participation from audience members, flavor it with passion, and include humor-ridden methods to rile up the crowd such as profanity, name-calling, and wit. Occasionally she would include props, visual aids, and dramatic stunts for effect.[15] Her oratory usually involved the relating of some personal tale in which she invariably “shows up” one form of authority or another. She once addressed a group of strikers who had just left a church, where the priest had sermonized that they should all return to work, and that their reward would be in Heaven. Mother Jones, addressing this same crowd in an open field, reminded them that they were striking so that they and their families could get a bit of heaven [here on earth] before they died. She disdained priests and ministers, referring to them as “sky pilots”, and declared that “labor must be its own religion”.[16] It is said Mother Jones spoke in a pleasant-sounding brogue which projected well, and that when she grew excited, rather than growing shrill—her voice dropped its pitch and her intensity became all but palpable.[17] It was due to her speeches that causes such a hold over many men but mostly women, she brought them out of the home to join together in order to stand p for what they believe are their rights. And although she declared she was agnostic, many of her followers compared her to not only the virgin mother Mary but also even Jesus Christ.

Active as an organizer and educator in strikes throughout the country at the time, she was particularly involved with the UMW and the West Virginia district attorney, Reese Blizzard, in 1902, at her trial for ignoring an injunction banning meetings by striking miners. "There sits the most dangerous woman in America", announced Blizzard. "She comes into a state where peace and prosperity reign ... crooks her finger [and] twenty thousand contented men lay down their tools and walk out."[13]

As another source of her transformation into an organizer, biographer Elliott Gorn draws out her early Roman Catholic connection, bringing to light her relationship to her brother, Father William Richard Harris, Roman Catholic teacher, writer, pastor, and Dean of the Niagara Peninsula (in St. Catharines) in the Diocese of Toronto, who was "among the best-known clerics in Ontario", but from whom she was reportedly estranged.[12] Her political views may have been strongly shaped by the 1877 railroad strike, Chicago's labor movement, and the Haymarket riot and depression of 1886.[4]

There were two turning points in her life. The first, and most tragic one, was the loss of her husband George and their four children, three girls and a boy (all under the age of five) in 1867, during a [11]

[4] Mary decided to leave the teaching profession and eventually opened a dress shop in Memphis on the eve of the Civil War.[7], in 1861, which specialized in building and repairing steam engines, mills and other manufactured goods.International Molders and Foundry Workers Union of North America later the [6]

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