Mother Jones, born Mary Harris in August of 1837 in Cork, Ireland, moved to Canada and then America after the devastation brought by the Irish Potato Famine. She became a teacher and dressmaker in Chicago.
Mary Harris then moved to Memphis where she married George Jones and had four children. This kind-hearted and tenacious woman went on in life to sew more than fabric--but rather craft a new path for American workers and children. She did all of this even though great tragedy struck her own life.
In 1867 a yellow fever epidemic struck Memphis, killing her husband George and their four children. Moving back to Chicago, she lost her home in the great Chicago fire of 1871. Her grief did not stop her though.
Seeing the mistreatment of workers, sometimes beginning for them in childhood, Mother Jones was called to make a difference in their lives--and make a difference, she did!
She was lovingly called “Mother Jones” because
of her deep caring for the wellbeing and safety of workers.
She was also known as the “miners’ angel.”
Mother Jones deeply believed that a workers' movement would replace “this moneyed civilization with a higher and grander civilization for the ages to come.”
Among her many acts of supporting the rights of workers, she began a dramatic crusade for national child labor laws leading 75,000 textile workers to strike for more pay and better working hours and conditions. 10,000 of those workers were children.
At age 82, she was arrested for her part in a West Virginia strike that turned violent. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Her supporters rallied and the governor pardoned her.
Undeterred by her arrest, she immediately began organizing workers and demanding their rights.
Mother Jones was buried in the Miners Cemetery in Mt. Olive, Illinois.
The progressive magazine Mother Jones, was founded in 1976 and continues to this day. It’s name is clearly inspired by the life and deeds of Mary Harris Jones.
May the passion each of us feels for what is dear to our hearts and serves humanity, go forth, undeterred, just like Mother Jones.