Marry Harris Jones

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Marry Harris Jones

Marry Harris Jones "Mother Jones"

Effort to effect change

Historical Context

Personal Motivation

Mother Jones was involved in many significant strikes, such as the American Railway Union's Pullman strike, and the United Coal Mine Workers Strike. She fought for worker's rights and to abolish child labor. Jones was arrested multiple times for her protests, but would not end her efforts. Jones did not agree with poor working conditions, low pay and long working hours for both miners and children. She led the March of The Million Children whose slogan was "We want to go to school and to the mines". Jones said, " Someday the workers will take possession of your city hall, and when we do, no child will be sacrificed on the altar of profit."

Mother Jones' full name was Mary Harris Jones, who developed the name Mother Jones, because she became the mother of hundreds of thousands of miners and child laborers, due to her efforts to end unfair working conditions for miners and children. Jones was born on May 1st, 1830 in Cork Ireland. Her family left Ireland and immegrated to Cananda after the devastation of the potato famine. As the only person in her family to graduate high school, Jones attended a teachers college, which was progressive for an Irish immigrant. She later became a seemstress, and dressmaker. She married George Jones and had four children; George and the children died of the yellow fever epidemic in 1867. She died on November 30, 1930 and is burried at Union Miners Cemetary in Mount Olive IL with "her boys", the miners she fought so tirelessly to protect.

Mother Jones was motivated to fight for worker's rights and end child labor, because she believed that Americans had to work together to be free from poverty and powerlessness. Jones was convinced that America's gap between the rich and the poor were intolerable. After she helped rebuild Chicago from the Great Fire of 1871, Jones joined the Knights of Labor. She knew that working conditions were dangerous and that the mine owners were profiting from unfair conditions. Jones was driven by the fact that laborers could not support their families and had no choice but to accept these unfavorable working practices. She understood what it felt like to struggle because she had survived a potato famine, immigrated to a new country, lost her husband and four children to yellow fever and witnessed her store consumed by a devastating fire. This started a burning passion in Jones to help the middle class so that they would not have to experience similar injustices.

During this time period, workers had very few rights and children were doing dangerous work that only adults should do. Workers worked 12-14 hours a day with very low wages, and an unsafe and unsanitary working environment. Workers did not have enough money to support their families, so children were sent to work creating child labor.


Marry Harris Jones had a stong impact on the American Industrial Era. Although it took many years, Mother Jones brought workers rights to the forefont of America. She saw the Senate conduct hearings regarding the saftey conditions for miners and not long after her death, in 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act that established minimum wage and overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment standards for full and part-time private and federal workers.


"Join the union, boys."Her war cry: "Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.""I'm not a humanitarian, I'm a hell-raiser".On her 100th birthday and in her last interview, Mother Jones said, "And I long to see the day when labor will have the destinies of the nation in her own hands and she will stand a united force and show the world what workers can do... if they want to hang me, let them. And on the scaffold, I will shout, 'Freedom for the working class'."

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