Updated as of January 24th,2009
She always worked either for or with the working people, and often she was at odds with union leaders. "Her skill was the invaluable but incalculable one of tending to men's spirits, of buoying them, of goading them to fight even though the battle seemed hopeless."
A dedication to Mother Jones
One of the boys said I was looking well. Of course I am. There is going to be a racket and I am going to be in it!
Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living!
spite of oppressors, in spite of false leaders, in spite of
labor's own lack of understanding of its needs, the cause of the
worker continues onward. Slowly his hours are shortened, giving
him leisure to read and to think. Slowly his standard of living
rises to include some of the good and beautiful things of the
world. Slowly the cause of his children becomes the cause of all.
His boy is taken from the breaker, his girl from the mill. slowly
those who create the wealth of the world are permitted to share
it. The future is in labor's strong, rough hands."
Mother Jones with the miners children
I met a little trapper boy one day. He was so small that his dinner bucket dragged on the ground.
"How old are you, lad!" I asked him.
"Twelve," he growled as he spat tobacco on the ground.
"Say son," I said, "I'm Mother Jones. You know me, don't you! I know you told the mine foreman you were twelve, but what did you tell the union!"
He looked at me with keen, sage eyes. Life had taught him suspicion and caution.
"Oh, the union’s different. I'm ten come Christmas."
"'Why don't you go to school!"
"Gee," he said-though it was really something stronger – "I ain't lost no leg!" He looked proudly at his little legs.
I knew what he meant: that lads went to school when they were incapacitated by accidents.
And you scarcely blamed the children for preferring mills and mines. The schools were wretched, poorly taught, the lessons dull.
Through the ceaseless efforts of the unions, through continual agitation, we have done away with the most outstanding evils of child labor in the mines. Pennsylvania has passed better and better laws. More and more children are going to school. Better schools have come to the mining districts. We have yet a long way to go. Fourteen years of age is still too young to begin the life of the breaker boy. There is still too little joy and beauty in the miner's life but one who like myself has watched the long, long struggle knows that the end is not yet.
"The governor can stop a strike any time. If I were the governor I would stop a strike by simply saying, "These men have a grievance and demand redress from you. Come and discuss these questions with the miners on the fair soil of America like intelligent, law-abiding citizens. If you refuse I will close up your mines. I will have the state operate mines for the benefit of the nation." It is not right for public officials to bring scabs and gunmen into any state. I am directly opposed to it myself, but if it is a question of strike or you go into slavery, then I say strike until the last one of us drop into our graves."
I did not stay long in one place. As soon as one showed interest in or sympathy for the children, she was suspected, and laid off. Then, too, the jobs went to grown-ups that could bring children. I left Alabama for South Carolina, working in many mills.
"The story of coal is always the same. It is a dark story. For a second's more sunlight, men must fight like tigers. For the privilege of seeing the color of their children's eyes by the light of the sun, fathers must fight like beasts in the jungle. That life may have something of decency, something of beauty -- a picture, a new dress, a bit of cheap lace fluttering in the window -- for this, men who work down in the mines must struggle and lose, struggle and win."
"When we come to consider that the American capitalists are investing in China with the idea of crushing out the unions of America it is time for use to wake from our slumbers. it is not alone in China they are doing this, but across our borders in Mexico you will find a $50,000,000 steel plant and a million dollar smelter. All along the line they are making moves. They do not go there to establish schools to make good mechanics. Modern ingenuity has made it possible for a child to run some of the machines and the child will get the job while the men must tramp. There are two forces in this and in every other nation of the world today. One force is the taker and the other force is the maker. The taker manufactures criminals and destroys womanhood and manhood.
More on Mother Jones on these sites:
Don't Forget The Union Label
by Thomas H. West ©1901 Thomas H. West
From American Labor Songs of the Nineteenth Century, Foner. Dedicated to the Woman's International Union Label League
from Women's History About. COM
19th century women's suffrage advocates:
20th century women's suffrage advocates:
Copyright © 2009; All rights Reserved Marianne C. Rafferty