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Mary Harris (Mother) Jones 1837-1930 was a labor activist, organizer, speaker and teacher. Mary Harris Jones was born in Cook County Ireland to a Catholic farming family who immigrated to Canada to escape the potato famine. Most scholars believe she was born around 1837 although her birth year is not certian. She was a dressmaker and teacher during her early years in Chicago and Tennessee. She married an iron worker, George Jones, who was active in the union. They had four children who died in a yellow fever epidemic in 1867. She then moved back to Chicago to take up dressmaking. The Chicago fire burned her shop and left her nearly penniless.
Mary became involved in the Knights of Labor an organization of peaceful workers at the invitation of an iron molder from Tennessee who had known her husband and she left behind her dressmaking business when she found she had a talent for speaking and organizing.
She was barely five foot tall and a fearless fighter for workers rights. Once she was labeled the most dangerous woman in America by a district attorney. Mary rose to power as a fearless organizer for the mine workers during the first two decades of the 20th century. She was placed in more jails in more states than any union leader of the time. In 1912 she was charged with a capital offense by a military tribunal in West Virginia and held under house arrest for weeks until popular outrage and national attention forced the governor to release her. She was unique for her time welcoming African American workers and involving women and children in strikes.
Mary Jones was deeply affected by the machine gun massacre in Ludlow, CO when National Guardsmen raided a tent colony of striking miners and their families. killing 20 people mostly women and children
In June 1897 Mary addressed the railway union convention and she began be referred as Mother by the men in the union. She became Mother Jones to millions of working men and women across the country for her efforts on behalf of the miners. She was nearly everywhere the steelworkers, coal miners, textile workers were organizing a union.
She made her last appearance in Chicago in support of striking dressmakers in 1924 . She died in Silver Spring MD and was buried in the Union Miners cemetery in Mount Olive , Ill.
From Jauflione Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution