Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Mary Harris Jones

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.

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. 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.

No comments: