Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mother Jones

Today’s WOD is Mary Harris "Mother" Jones (August 1, 1837 – November 30, 1930), born in Cork, Ireland. She was a dressmaker until her Husband, all four children died of Yellow fever, and her workshop was destroyed by fire in 1871. She set out on a new career as labor organizer at the age of 50.

She began working as an organizer for the Knights of Labor and the United Mine Workers union. She traveled constantly, often living without permanent home or income, moving from one industrial area to the next, wherever she was needed although she was primarily concerned with the plight of children working in the textile mills in the East and that of the coal miners in the West. A  group of  oppressed mine workers and their families eventually revolted  against mine owners in 1890. While the miners went on strike, it was Mother Jones who encouraged the men to allow let their wives to fight alongside their husbands in a series of “mop and broom” brigades. 

In 1903, upset about the lax enforcement of the child labour laws in the Pennsylvania mines and silk mills, she organized a Children's March from Philadelphia to the home of then president Theodore Roosevelt in New York. She spent the last 50 years of her life in a crusade to organize the workers, to support strike efforts, and to bring public attention to the cause. She was dubbed as “the most dangerous woman in America” at the ripe age of 60.

In the 1989-90 Pittston Coal strike the wives and daughters of the miners organized themselves as the "Daughters of Mother Jones" and represented the strikers to the press.

Experts also speculate that the American classic “She’ll be Coming Around the Mountain” is in fact about Mother Jones and her travels promoting unionization of the Appalachian coal miners.
The magazine Mother Jones, established in 1970, is named after her.

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