Mother Jones

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Mother Jones

Mother Jones 1837~1930Social reformer and leader in the labor movement in the United States.

Labor activist Mother Jones was born Mary Harris Jones in 1830 in County Cork, Ireland. Mother Jones started out as a teacher and dressmaker and became a tireless fighter for the working class. In early years, she lived in Toronto, Canada, Michigan and Chicago, Illinois.Mother Jones experienced many great personal tragedies in the first part of her life. Jones lived in Memphis for a time, marrying George Jones, an iron worker and strong union supporter, in 1861. They had several children together, but an outbreak of yellow fever killed her husband and children in 1867. She returned to Chicago and found work as a dressmaker. But then she lost her home in the great Chicago fire of 1871. Mary’s father moved to the United States in the 1840s, and the rest of the family followed soon thereafter. In early years, she lived in Toronto, Canada, Michigan and Chicago, Illinois where her father worked Railroad construction. She knows that he didn't earn a lot. So,she start to became a tireless fighter for economic justice


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. 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, 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. But the incident brought the issue of child labor to the forefront of the public agenda.

Reform Accomplishments

-I believe that no man who holds a leader's position should ever accept favors from either side. He is then committed to show favors. A leader must stand alone.-Injustice boils in men's hearts as does steel in its cauldron, ready to pour forth, white hot, in the fullness of time.-I'm not a humanitarian, I'm a hell-raiser.-I have never had a vote, and I have raised hell all over this country. You don't need a vote to raise hell! You need convictions and a voice!

She moved to Chicago to explore the possibilities of becoming a professional dressmaker, but, at age 30, returned to teaching, this time in Memphis, Tennessee. Work was plentiful in Tennessee, and for a time the family enjoyed a modest prosperity. But in 1867 a sudden yellow fever epidemic swept through Memphis, taking the lives of Mary's husband and all of her children. At 37, Mary Jones's life was devastated and she was completely on her own. She returned to Chicago and worked as a dressmaker, but her bad luck continued when her dressmaking business was destroyed in the Chicago Fire of 1871. Homeless and penniless, she turned to her deceased husband's fellow union members for help. Their compassion towards her touched her heart. She felt that the union had saved her life. From that time on, she pursued union organizing with an astonishing enthusiasm that made her an American legend.


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