Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

March of the Mill Children

Mother Jones

photograph of Mother Jones at an old age

Mary Harris “Mother” Jones was a relentless champion of workers’ rights and led the fight against child labor. (Library of Congress)

Library of Congress

Born in 1837 in County Cork, Ireland, Mary Harris immigrated as a teenager to Canada and, later, to the United States. She found work as a schoolteacher and then as a dressmaker. During her time in Memphis, Tennessee, she married George Jones and gained the last name that became part of her legacy. After her husband and their four children were lost to yellow fever, Jones lost her dress shop to the Great Chicago Fire. The tragedy spurred her to political action. Jones joined the Knights of Labor, precursor to the Industrial Workers of the World, and began staging strikes and protests on behalf of laborers. A devout Catholic, Jones believed good wages for working men would allow women to stay home with their children, who should be in school and not forced to work in factories. Jones is remembered for her fight against child labor, particularly the Children’s Crusade march of children who worked in mills and mines. Though Jones was not able to arrange a meeting with President Theodore Roosevelt as part of the march, it brought attention to child labor conditions, and Roosevelt referred to “Mother” Jones as “the most dangerous woman in America.” Jones, shown here in her later years, died in 1930 at age 93 and was buried in a miners cemetery, alongside miners who were killed in strike-related violence.

2 Comments Comments

  1. This was a nice read. How did she get to Canada and then the US though? Walking, bus, a car?

    Home Staging Posted May 22, 2015 at 11:49 am
  2. She was a true inspiration to us all.

    Orlando painters Posted April 26, 2016 at 10:59 pm

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