Women's History: Mother Jones

Mary Harris "Mother" Jones (May 1, 1830 or August 1, 1837 – November 30, 1930), born in Cork, Ireland, was a prominent American labor and community organizer, a Wobbly, and a Socialist.
In 1903 Jones organized children working in mills and mines in the "Children's Crusade", a march from Kensington, Pennsylvania to Oyster Bay, New York, the home of President Theodore Roosevelt with banners demanding "We want to go to School and not the mines!" Though the President refused to meet with the marchers, the incident brought the issue of child labor to the forefront of the public agenda. In 1913, during the Paint Creek-Cabin Creek strike in West Virginia, Mother Jones was charged and kept under house arrest in the nearby town of Pratt and subsequently convicted with other union organizers of conspiring to commit murder, after organizing another children's march. Her arrest raised an uproar and she was soon released from prison, after which the United States Senate ordered an investigation into the conditions in the local coal mines. A few months later she was in Colorado, helping to organize the coal miners there. Once again she was arrested, served some time in prison, and was escorted from the state in the months leading up to the 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.

During her lifetime, Mother Jones was known to working folk as "The Miners' Angel." Persevering in her efforts despite the many tragic events she witnessed, her fierce determination was vividly expressed in her famous declaration, "Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living." When she was denounced on the Senate floor as the "grandmother of all agitators," she replied in typical fashion, "I hope to live long enough to be the great-grandmother of all agitators."
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Learn more about Mother Jones at the Mother Jones Online Museum and at FemBio.

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