On the eve of the Labor Day Weekend, I would like to introduce you to Mary Harris Jones, more commonly referred to as Mother Jones.  Mother Jones was a fearless union organizer.  At one time she was called the most dangerous woman in America.  It is thought that the American Classic song,”She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain” was written to honor her and to this day there is a magazine that investigates and reports injustice titled Mother Jones.
 Mary Harris Jones, or “Mother Jones”, was born to a tenant farmer in Cork, Ireland, in 1837. Her family fled the potato famine when she was just 10, resettling in Toronto. She trained to be a teacher and took a job in Memphis, where on the eve of the Civil War she married a union foundry worker and started a family. But in 1867, a yellow fever epidemic swept through the city, taking the lives of her husband and all four children. A widow at 30, she moved to Chicago and built a successful dressmaking business – only to lose everything in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Jones then threw herself into the city’s bustling labor movement, where she worked in obscurity for the next 20 years. By the turn of the century, she emerged as a charismatic speaker and one of the country’s leading labor organizers, co-founding the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

She traveled the country to wherever there was labor struggle, sometimes evading company security by wading the riverbed into town, earning her the nickname “The Miner’s Angel.” She used storytelling, the Bible, humor, and even coarse language to reach a crowd. She said: “I asked a man in prison once how he happened to be there and he said he had stolen a pair of shoes. I said if he had stolen a railroad, he would be a United States Senator.” Jones also had little patience for hesitation, volunteering to lead a strike “if there were no men present.” A passionate critic of child labor, she organized a children’s march from Philadelphia to the home of Theodore Roosevelt in Oyster Bay, New York with banners reading, “We want to go to school and not the mines!” At the age of 88, she published a first-person account of her time in the labor movement called The Autobiography of Mother Jones (1925). She died at the age of 93 and is buried at a miners’ cemetery in Mt. Olive, Illinois.
She said: “Whatever the fight, don’t be ladylike.”



The information in this post first appeared in the The Writer’s Almanac.

I invite you to share a link to your story of an inspiring woman.

About Bernadette

I live in the small town of Haddonfield, NJ. I am at an age in my life when I seem to spend time thinking and musing about life. These musings are usually stimulated by my walks through Haddonfield, my reading of books and fellow bloggers, and my interaction with my group of fabulous family and friends.

27 Responses

  1. Bernadette, thank you for this post – what an inspiring, formidable lady! I felt so for her and the loss of her entire family when young and then her whole business, she must have felt like giving up by then but instead persevered to help so many across the whole country. A fantastic entry for your Friday Feminist series! Wishing you peaceful weekend! 😀❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bernadette, I can at first only utter…WOW, to your tale about this wonderful lady ‘ Mary Harris Jones’. What a rich and strong life! The courage and clarity in all she does.
    It is so much greater when you hear about her dramatic sorrows and misfortunes.

    You, Bernadette and Mary Harris has inspired me this morning.
    Thank you
    Miriam 😊🦋

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reading that actually made me shiver. Shiver with sadness for what Mother Jones endured in her early life – imagine moving from Cork to Toronto, let alone then going to Memphis and raising four children only to lose them all to Yellow Fever (not to mention your husband too). But the shiver of sadness turns to a shiver of overwhelming admiration for one woman who simply would not give up. That she channeled her emotion into the good of others makes me weep with joy. Mother Jones is a reminder to us all that we can if we will and that the only thing holding us back is ourself. Thank you Bernadette … you have lifted up my day with gratitude.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you thank you. I’m reading this first thing on a Friday morning and first of all ashamed that I never knew really who Mother Jones was. Second of all then I got angry that this woman and her work were never taught in either my history classes nor my children’s. Third, I’m thankful to you for educating us all about this incredible woman. Inner and outer strength. Wow ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Wow, Bernadette. What a life of tragedy, strength, and determination. I read Mother Jones magazine and knew a little about her from that but not the personal details. Her fight continues beyond her death. Thanks for sharing Mary’s story.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Debbie Wolschina

    What a wonderful lesson of the story of Mother Jones. The great truth is, and always has been, we are all created equal. No matter who you are , a man or woman, where you come from, how rich or poor you are , what your religion is , all people on earth are EQUAL. The frustrating question is …Why is this so hard for humans to believe in equality? As John Lennon said so beautifully ….”Imagine”…..


  7. It ‘s nice to hear of those who fought against child labor. I love her quote, “I asked a man in prison once how he happened to be there and he said he had stolen a pair of shoes. I said if he had stolen a railroad, he would be a United States Senator” powerful, with a tinge of humor. Love it! Thank you for sharing her story Bernadette.

    Liked by 1 person

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