Mary Harris Jones


Mary Harris Jones
Mother Jones
Born August 1, 1837(1837-08-01)
Cork, County Cork, Ireland
Died November 30, 1930(1930-11-30) (aged 93)
Adelphi, Maryland, United States
Occupation Labor and community organizer
Political party Social Democratic Party and Socialist Party of America

Mary Harris "Mother" Jones (August 1, 1837 – November 30, 1930), born in Cork, Ireland, was a prominent American labor and community organizer, who helped coordinate major strikes and co-founded the Industrial Workers of the World.

She worked as a teacher and dressmaker but after her husband and four children all died of yellow fever and her workshop was destroyed in a fire in 1871 she began working as an organizer for the Knights of Labor and the United Mine Workers union.

She was a very effective speaker, punctuating her speeches with stories, audience participation, humor and dramatic stunts. From 1897 (when she was 60) she was known as Mother Jones and in 1902 she was called "the most dangerous woman in America" for her success in organizing mine workers and their families against the mine owners. In 1903, upset about the lax enforcement of the child labor 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.

The magazine Mother Jones, established in 1970, is named after her.

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.

Contents

Biography

She was born Mary Harris, the daughter of a Roman Catholic tenant farmer, Richard Harris and his wife Ellen Cotter, on the northside of Cork city, Ireland.[1] Some recent materials list her birthday as August 1, 1837, although she claimed her birthdate to be May 1, 1830. Her claims to an earlier date may have been an appeal to her grandmotherly image. The date of May 1 was possibly chosen symbolically, to represent the national labor holiday and anniversary of the Haymarket affair.[2]

Formative years

Jones emigrated with her family to Canada when she was roughly fourteen or fifteen years old.[3] The young Mary acquired a Catholic education in Toronto before her family moved to the United States.[3] She became a teacher in a convent in Monroe, Michigan. After becoming tired of her assumed profession, she moved first to Chicago and later to Memphis, where she married George E. Jones, a member and organizer of the National Union of Iron Moulders[4], later the International Molders and Foundry Workers Union of North America, in 1861.[5] She eventually opened a dress shop in Memphis on the eve of the Civil War.[3]

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 (all under the age of five) during a yellow fever epidemic in Tennessee. After her entire family succumbed to the disease, she returned to Chicago to begin another dressmaking business.[6] Then, four years later, she lost her hard-earned home, shop and possessions in the Great Chicago Fire. This second loss catalyzed an even more fundamental transformation: she turned to the nascent labor movement and joined the Knights of Labor, a predecessor to the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or "Wobblies").[7] The Haymarket Riot of 1886 and the fear of anarchism and revolution incited by union organizations led to the rapid demise of the Knights of Labor. Once the Knights ceased to exist, Mary Jones became largely affiliated with the United Mine Workers. With the UMW, she frequently led strikers in picketing and encouraged the striking workers to stay on strike when the management brought in strike-breakers and militias.[5] She strongly believed that "working men deserved a wage that would allow women to stay home to care for their kids."[8]

As another source of her transformation into an organizer, biographer Elliott Gorn draws out her early Roman Catholic connection – including bringing to light her relationship to her estranged brother, Father William Richard Harris, Roman Catholic teacher, writer, pastor, and Dean of the Niagara Peninsula (in St Catharine's) in the Diocese of Toronto, who was "among the best-known clerics in Ontario."[7] It is likely that Mary Jones’ political views were also shaped by the 1877 railroad strike, Chicago’s labor movement, and the Haymarket Riot and depression of 1886.[3] Active as an organizer and educator in strikes throughout the country at the time, she was particularly involved with the UMW and the Socialist Party of America. As a union organizer, she gained prominence for organizing the wives and children of striking workers in demonstrations on their behalf. She became known as "the most dangerous woman in America," a phrase coined by a 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 crooks her finger—twenty thousand contented men lay down."

Mary 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!”[9] 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.

Jones became known as a charismatic and effective speaker throughout her career.[10] She was a storyteller, who would liven her rhetoric with real and folk-tale characters, punctuate 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.[10] By the age of sixty, 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.[3]

Children's Crusade

In 1901, the workers who were employed in the Pennsylvania silk mills went on strike, many of them being young female workers who were demanding they be paid adult wages.[11] John Mitchell, the president of the UMWA, brought Mother Jones to north-east Pennsylvania in the months of February and September to encourage unity among the striking workers. To do so, she encouraged the wives of the workers to organize into a militia, who in turn would wield brooms, beat on tin pans and shout “Join the union!”[11] Jones believed that these wives had an important role to play as the nurturers and motivators of the striking men, but not as fellow workers. She made claim that the young girls working in the mills were being robbed and demoralized.[11] 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.”[11] 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.[12] Even Jones herself encouraged the workers to accept a settlement. Although she agreed upon a settlement which sent the young girls back to the mills, she continued to fight child labor for the remainder of her life.[12]

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, 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!" 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.”[13] 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.[14] Though the President refused to meet with the marchers, the incident brought the issue of child labor to the forefront of the public agenda. Mother Jones's Children's Crusade was described in detail in the 2003 non-fiction book, Kids on Strike!.

In the Paint Creek-Cabin Creek strike of 1912 in West Virginia, Jones arrived in June 1912, speaking and organizing through a shooting war between United Mine Workers members and the private army of the mine owners. Martial law in the area was declared and rescinded twice before Jones was arrested on February 13, 1913, brought before a military court. Accused to conspiring to commit murder among other charges, she refused to recognize the legitimacy of her 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. After 85 days of confinement, her release coincided with Indiana Senator John Worth Kern initiating a Senate investigation into the conditions in the local coal mines. Mary Lee Settle paints an accurate and compelling portrait of Jones at this time in her novel The Scapegoat (1978).

A few months later Jones 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.

Later years

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

By 1924, Mother Jones was in court again, this time facing charges of libel, slander and sedition. In 1925, Charles A. Albert, publisher of the fledgling Chicago Times, won a $350,000 judgment against the matriarch.

Mother Jones remained a union organizer for the UMW into the 1920s and continued to speak on union affairs almost until her death. She released her own account of her experiences in the labor movement as The Autobiography of Mother Jones (1925).

In her later years, Jones lived with her friends Walter and Lillie May Burgess, on their farm in what is now Adelphi, Maryland. She celebrated her self-proclaimed 100th birthday there, on May 1, 1930 and was filmed making a statement for a newsreel. She died at the age of 93 on November 30, 1930.[15]

She is buried in the Union Miners Cemetery in Mount Olive, Illinois, alongside miners who died in the Battle of Virden in 1898.[16] She called these miners, killed in strike-related violence, "her boys."[17]

Legacy

Amidst the tragic, and sometimes fatal, violence directed at early trade unionists, Mother Jones uttered words still invoked by union supporters more than a century later: "Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living." [18] Already known as "the miners' angel,"[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

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 Mother 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.[19]

The magazine Mother Jones was established in the 1970s and quickly became the largest selling underground magazine of the decade.[20] Each issue divulges information on the themes that were important to Jones herself, such as corporate corruption, political collapse, small-is-beautiful, communal living and feminism.[clarification needed]

Mary Harris "Mother" Jones Elementary School, in Adelphi, Maryland, is named in her honor.[21]

Students at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia can apply to reside in Mother Jones House, an off-campus service house. Residents perform at least ten hours of community service each week and participate in community dinners and events.[citation needed]

To coincide with International Women's Day on 8 March 2010 a proposal was made by Councillor Ted Tynan for a plaque to be erected in Mary Harris Jones' native city of Cork in Ireland. The proposal has been accepted by Cork City Council.[22]

Music and the arts

In The American Songbag, Carl Sandburg suggests that the "she" in "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain" was a reference to Mother Jones and her travels to Appalachian mountain coal mining camps promoting the unionization of the miners.[23]

"The Death of Mother Jones", a song whose authorship is unknown, was first recorded by Gene Autry in 1931, in what may have been his first recording session.[citation needed]

"Union Maid", a song by Woody Guthrie, calls for women to emulate Mother Jones by fighting for both women's rights and workers' rights.

"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", at the age of 83.

'The Spirit of Mother Jones' is a track on the 2010 'Abocurragh' album by the Irish singer/songwriter Andy Irvine.

The title track of folk-roots duo Wishing Chair and Kara Barnard's 2002 album "Dishpan Brigade"[24] is about Jones and her role in the 1899–1900 miners' strike in Arnot, Pa.[25]

She is the title "woman" in Tom Russell's song "The Most Dangerous Woman in America", a commentary on the troubles of miners, which appeared on his 2009 album "Blood and Candle Smoke"[26] on the Shout Factory[27] label.

Books

  • The Autobiography of Mother Jones. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Col, 1925.
  • Mother Jones Speaks: Speeches and Writings of a Working-Class Fighter. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1983, ISBN 0-87348-810-5
  • Mother Jones and the March of the Mill Children. Brookfield , CT: Colman, Penny. The Millbrook Press, 1994

Notes

  1. ^ Day by Day in Cork, Sean Beecher, Collins Press, Cork, 1992
  2. ^ "Haymarket Square Riot". U-s-history.com. http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h750.html. Retrieved 2010-09-06. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Eric Arnesen, "A Tarnished Icon," Reviews in American History 30, no. 1 (2002): 89
  4. ^ Religion and Radical Politics: An Alternative Christian Tradition in the United States, Robert H. Craig, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1992
  5. ^ a b Russell E. Smith, "March of the Mill Children", The Social Service Review 41, no. 3 (1967): 299
  6. ^ ric Arnesen, "A Tarnished Icon," Reviews in American History 30, no. 1 (2002): 89
  7. ^ a b Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America, Elliott Gorn
  8. ^ Dreher, Rod (2006-06-05) All-American Anarchists, The American Conservative
  9. ^ Russell E. Smith, "March of the Mill Children", The Social Service Review 41, no. 3 (1967): 298
  10. ^ a b Mari Boor Tonn, "Militant Motherhood: Labor's Mary Harris 'Mother' Jones," Quarterly Journal of Speech 81, no. 1 (1996): 2
  11. ^ a b c d Bonnie Stepenoff, "Keeping it in the Family: Mother Jones and the Pennsylvania Silk Strike of 1900–1901,” Labor History 38, no. 4 (1997): 446
  12. ^ 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
  13. ^ Russell E. Smith, "March of the Mill Children", The Social Service Review 41, no. 3 (1967): 300
  14. ^ Russell E. Smith, "March of the Mill Children", The Social Service Review 41, no. 3 (1967): 303
  15. ^ Death Notice for Mother Mary Jones, The Washington Post, Dec 2, 1930, pg. 3.
  16. ^ "Service Tomorrow for Mother Jones," The Washington Post, Dec 2, 1930, pg. 12.
  17. ^ "U.S. Department of Labor – Labor Hall of Fame – Mary Harris "Mother" Jones". Dol.gov. http://www.dol.gov/oasam/programs/laborhall/1992_jones.htm. Retrieved 2010-09-06. 
  18. ^ "Quotations from Mother Jones (#2)". http://www.poemhunter.com/quotations/famous.asp?people=Mother%20Jones. Retrieved 2011-10-14. 
  19. ^ The Pittston Coal Strike at www.ic.arizona.edu
  20. ^ Michael Andrew Scully, "Would Mother Jones Buy 'Mother Jones'?," Public Interest 53, (1978): 100
  21. ^ Mary Harris "Mother" Jones Elementary School home page
  22. ^ "Minutes Of Ordinary Meeting Of Cork City Council" (PDF). http://www.corkcity.ie/ourservices/corporateaffairs/minutesofordinarymeetings/Mins%20Council%20Meeting%2026%2004%2010.pdf. Retrieved 2010-09-06. 
  23. ^ Sandburg, Carl, The American Songbag. 1st ed. NY: Harcourt Brace, 1927.
  24. ^ http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/wishchair5
  25. ^ http://www.blossburg.org/wb_wilson/thestory_4.htm
  26. ^ http://www.tomrussell.com/merchandise.php?cat=1&id=27
  27. ^ http://www.shoutfactorystore.com/prod.aspx?pfid=5257048

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Mary Harris Jones — Mary Harris Jones, 1902 Mary Harris „Mother“ Jones (* vermutlich um den 1. August 1837, nach eigenen Angaben am 1. Mai 1830 in Cork, Irland; † 30. November 1930 in Silver Spring, Maryland) war eine prominente US am …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Mary Harris Jones — Cet article concerne la syndicaliste. Pour le magazine, voir Mother Jones. Mary Harris Jones (1er mai 1830 ou 1er août 1837 – 30 novembre 1930), plus connue sous le nom de Maman Jones (Mother Jones) était une militante syndicaliste et… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Mary Harris Jones — noun United States labor leader (born in Ireland) who helped to found the Industrial Workers of the World (1830 1930) • Syn: ↑Jones, ↑Mother Jones • Instance Hypernyms: ↑labor leader …   Useful english dictionary

  • Mary Harris — Jones, 1902 Mary Harris „Mother“ Jones (* vermutlich um den 1. August 1837, nach eigenen Angaben am 1. Mai 1830 in Cork, Irland; † 30. November 1930 in Silver Spring, Maryland) war eine prominente US amerikanisch …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Mary Harris — may refer to: Mary Styles Harris, geneticist Mary Harris Jones, community organiser Mary Harris Memorial Chapel of the Holy Trinity Mel Harris, Mary Ellen Harris, actress Mary Lee Cagle, married name Mary Harris, pastor See also Harris (surname) …   Wikipedia

  • Jones,Mary Harris — Jones, Mary Harris. Known as “Mother Jones.” 1830 1930. Irish born American labor leader and union organizer. She helped found (1905) the Industrial Workers of the World. * * * …   Universalium

  • Mary Harris — Mary Harris, más conocida como Mother Jones, (1837 – 30 de noviembre, 1930) fue una prominente agitadora sindical y comunal. Nacida en Cork, Irlanda, se trasladó con su familia a Toronto, Canadá aún joven, luego de que su abuelo fuera ahorcado… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Mary Harris — Mother Jones Mary Harris Nacimiento …   Wikipedia Español

  • Jones, Mary Harris — orig. Mary Harris known as Mother Jones born May 1, 1830, Cork, Ire. died Nov. 30, 1930, Silver Spring, Md., U.S. Irish born U.S. labour organizer. She was brought to the U.S. as a child in 1835. In 1867 she lost her children and husband (an… …   Universalium

  • Jones, Mary Harris — orig. Mary Harris llamada Madre Jones (1 may. 1830, Cork, Irlanda–30 nov. 1930, Silver Spring, Md., EE.UU.). Sindicalista estadounidense nacida en Irlanda. Fue llevada a EE.UU. en 1835 cuando era niña. En 1867, sus hijos y su marido (un… …   Enciclopedia Universal


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