Mary Harris "Mother" Jones

Activist

Born: 1 August 1837
Died: 30 November 1930
Birthplace: Cork, Ireland
Best known as: Labor leader known as the "grandmother of agitators"
Mary Harris Jones, known as "Mother" Jones, was a social reformer and leader in the labor movement in the United States from the 1870s until her death in 1930. A native of Ireland, she grew up in Toronto, Canada and Michigan and Illinois, and married an iron worker in Tennessee in 1861. Her husband and four children died of yellow fever in 1867 and she made her way to Chicago, where she worked as a dressmaker until the famous fire of 1871 destroyed her property. After that she spent five decades as an itinerant organizer, agitator and advocate for the rights of workers and their families. A fiery orator with a flair for publicity, "Mother" Jones was nationally famous for bringing to the public's attention issues such as forced child labor and worker safety. She has since been called "the grandmother of all agitators" -- the story goes she was called that in the U.S. Senate (and not in a nice way). As a labor leader she was strongly associated with the United Mine Workers (she spent nearly three months in a West Virginia prison in 1913 for her role in violent demonstrations), the International Workers of the World and the Socialist Party of America.
Extra credit: Most sources, and her grave site, give her birthdate as 1 May 1830, based on Jones's own word. Recent scholarship, however, suggests Jones fudged the year to seem more grandmotherly and the date to match International Workers' Day... The magazine Mother Jones, started in 1976, is named for her.

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