Mother Jones The most dangerous woman in America


  • Introduction to Mary Harris Jones
  • Historical Context
  • The Story


  • Mary Harris Jones
  • Born in Country Cork, Ireland.
  • Family immigrated to Canada first, then America.
  • Had a husband by the name of George E. Jones and four children
  • Faced tragedy when in 1867 the Yellow Fever outbreak killed her whole family in less than a week
  • Lost everything else she owned four years later in the great Chicago fire
  • Turned to the Knights of Labor for refuge, which started her involvement in activist works.
  • Devoted the last 50 years of her life to labor activist works.
  • Jones fought for workers rights.
  • Earning her the title of being the "Most Dangerous Woman in America"
  • Jones was known for being determined, stubborn and relentless until she won her battles. Which most of the time she did.
  • Died 7 months after her 100th birthday

"Whatever your fight, don't be ladylike." -Jones

Get it straight I am not a humanitarian I am a hell raiser - Jones

Historical Context

The 1880s were a time when the working class everywhere were in rebellion. America was in a severe economic depression. Poverty was common, creating problems and situations where the whole family had to work, including children. Children as young as 7 years old were sent to work in textiles and mines, and were expected to work power driven machinery that put their lives at risk everyday. Industrial workers including children and adults worked wildly unreasonable hours, all to make a total of $1.50 a day. Labor Unions were recurrent across America at this time, all placed to fight for their rights as labor workers. America was ran by industrial workers. The president at the time was Theodore Roosevelt, even though unions tried contacting him, they would fail in their attempts and would just be ignored.

Watch until 1:08

children protesting to end child labor

If they want to hang me, let them. And on the scaffold I will shout Freedom for the working class! - Mother Jones

Mary Harris Jones a woman just like any other, until certain events shaped her to being one of the biggest threats in union history.

Early life

Starting from the very beginning, Mary Harris Jones was born in Country Cork, Ireland but when she was a teenager her family moved to Canada, where she got her education since the tuition was free. When Jones was 23 she decided to move to America to become a teacher. She taught in a school that was in Monroe, Michigan. She did not enjoy her profession so decided to move to Chicago then to Memphis where she met her husband George E. Jones. George was a part of industrial unions which would later be an important part of Mary Jones life. Jones decided to leave her teaching profession all-together and decided to open up a dress making shop. Life was simple and good to Jones.

Hitting Rock Bottom

There were two main events that would forever shape Jones' life. In 1867 there was a yellow-fever outbreak which unfortunately killed her husband and four children all in the span of one week. Jones was devastated, she lost those she loved the most. She couldn't bare to stay in Memphis, so decided to move back to Chicago to pick back up her dress making business. When things didn't seem like they could get any worse... they did. In October 8, 1871 a giant fire broke out in her town in Chicago which then burned down Jones home and dress making business. Jones officially lost it all. She had hit rock bottom. Jones had no one, or so she thought. The union group known as the Knights of Labor took Jones in. Jones former husband was wildly involved in the union and with that connection Jones felt completely comfortable with the union. Which started all of Jones involvement with her activist works with labor unions. Jones had felt like this was her calling, so that she could keep fighting like her husband fought, and have something to live for.

Earning the title "Mother Jones"

With time Jones earned the title "Mother Jones" for the reason that she would look out for industrial workers all across America. Jones gained so much strength from her struggles, and used her pain to help out as many other people as she could. She gained the characteristics of being relentless, stubborn, and fearless. Which was her strongest weapons when it came to her activist works. Mother Jones won the majority of her battles, not right away sometimes, but that was where her characteristic of being relentless took part. She would not give up until she got the outcome she wanted. This started getting Jones attention by unions everywhere. Everyone wanted Jones to come and help them with their battles. A topic Jones was extremely devoted to was helping children who were forced to do child labor. Mother Jones organized the march of the mill children crusade which was a march that started from Philadelphia and ended in the hometown of the president at the time (Theodore Roosevelt) in New York. Even though child labor wasn't completely abolished, because of this event Child labor was brought into the light, and became an issue that would soon be addressed and fixed.

An event that showed Jones fearlessness was when Jones was 82 she got arrested at the Paint Creek–Cabin Creek strike of 1912. Jones was accused of planning to commit murder and accused of multiple other charges. Jones refused to accept the charges, and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. After 85 days in confinement, Jones was let go for reasons being that the senate was sent to investigate the conditions in the local mines. This event showed Jones fearlessness with not caring what the law did with her. As long as she made a change and caused some commotion, Jones felt like what she did was worth it.

Because of Mother Jones we today as American workers have our rights. No longer are industry owners allowed to treat their workers poorly nor are children allowed to be working at such a young age. Education is very easy to access. And since the 1900s, the United States has progressed.

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