Mother Jones and the Wobblies
There sits the most dangerous woman in America. 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.
-- Reese Blizzard, West Virginia District Attorney 1902
Born: August 1, 1837?
Died: November, 30 1930
Mother Jones claimed May 1,1830 as her birth date.
Born Mary Harris in County Cork, Ireland, was the daughter of Mary & Robert Harris. Her father worked as a hired hand and the family lived on the estate where he worked. The family followed Robert Harris to America, where he had fled after taking part in a revolt against the landowners.
Coming to America
Once in America the family moved to Canada. Jones became a schoolteacher first in Canada, where as a Roman Catholic she could only teach in the parochial schools. Jones moved to Maine to teach as a private tutor, then to Michigan where she taught in a convent. She then moved to Chicago where she worked as a dressmaker for two years. Her Marriage to George She moved to Memphis to teach and met George Jones in 1861. They married and had four children. George was an iron molder and union organizer.
A Time of Tragedy
A yellow fever outbreak claimed her husband and four children in September and October of 1867. Soon after Jones returned to Chicago, however, tragedy struck again when she lost her home, shop, and belongings in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 (1).
About that time she connected with the secretive worker's organization, the Knights of Labor, and became active in speaking for the group and organizing. By the mid-1880's she left the Knights of Labor because she felt they were too conservative. By 1890, she was involved in more radical organizing speaking at strike locations around the country. It was then she appeared in newspapers as Mother Jones, the white-haired radical labor organizer who wore her signature black-dress and plain head covering.
United Mine Workers
Unofficially, Mother Jones was connected to the United Mine Workers. She helped organize striker's wives. She was often ordered to stay away from the miners which she refused to do, daring the armed guards to shoot her. In 1903 Mother Jones led a children's march from Kensington, Pennsylvania to New York to protest child labor to President Roosevelt. In 1905, she helped found the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, the "Wobblies").
By the 1920's her health started to decline as rheumatism made it more difficult for her to get around. Mother Jones made her last public appearance on May 1,1930 where she claimed she was 100 years old.
She died on November 30 of that year and was buried in Mount Olive, Illinois at her request because it was the only cemetery owned by a union(2).
- Lewis-Johnson, Jone, "Mother Jones: Labor Organizer and Agitator, Source: www.womenshistory.about.com, December 7, 2016, Dated Accessed February 14,2017.
- Ibid. pg 1.