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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!

Mary Harris "Mother" Jones, 1910

Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living!

" In 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

Mother Jones  with the miners children

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."
1913, Speaking to the convention of District 15, UMWA, Trinidad Colorado
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.

In one mill, I got a day-shift job. On my way to work I met a woman coming home from night work. She had a tiny bundle of a baby in her arms.

"How old is the baby?"

"Three days. I just went back this morning. The boss was good and saved my place."

"When did you leave?"

"The boss was good; he let me off early the night the baby was born."

"What do you do with the baby while you work?"

"Oh, the boss is good and he lets me have a little box with a pillow in it beside the loom. The baby sleeps there and when it cries, I nurse it."
"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."
From her autobiography
"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.
When I went to the federal prison in Leavenworth this spring to get some documents to carry to the President in regard to than injustice that was done the revolutionists in Mexico, I stood in the corridor with the chaplain of the institution, and before us marched 800 men from their lunch to their different posts. I said to the chaplain, "We are neither civilized nor christianized when we build an institution and support a condition that manufactures criminals." When I looked into the faces of those men I concluded that there were not forty among the whole number who could not have been made good citizens under a proper civilization. You remember that when France turned over her criminals to DeLesseps he was told, "Kill those devils in the trench! Don't let one of them come back alive.!" DeLesseps took the chain off the prisoners and said, "Men, you are in a new world under new conditions; you will have no master, and I will give you four dollars a day. All I ask of you is to be men." In four weeks the earnings of those men were going home through the post office to their children,. It is a wrong form of government we are living under, and we, the workers stand for the overthrow of the whole damnable institution."
Speech to the UMWA, 1910
More on Mother Jones on these sites:
The Autobiography of Mother Jones
Chapters 1-13;;; Chapters 14-19;;; Chapters 20-27

Mother Jones: The Miners' Angel;

by Mary Lou Hawse


Don't Forget The Union Label

A song by Thomas H. West ©1901 Thomas H. West

There's a precious little emblem that's familiar to you all
It's a tried and true protector, come what may
And where labor is united in response to duty's call
There this brilliant little star lights up the way
For its mission is to bring about the brotherhood of man
There is nothing can your rights so well defend
So help it on with deed and word in every way you can
Don't forget the union label, it's your friend

It will make improved conditions, better homes, a better wage
And your aid to its advancement you should lend
It will make your country better. It will will brighten history's page
Don't forget the union label, it's your friend

Though apparently so silent yet it speaks thro'out the land
For the noble cause it's striving to uphold
And to free the sweat shop slaves the union label takes a stand
From their wretchedness and miseries untold
It will educate the people to the evils that exist
And success will crown its efforts in the end
Help it on its noble mission it will win if you persist
Don't forget the union label it's your friend

From American Labor Songs of the Nineteenth Century, Foner. Dedicated to the Woman's International Union Label League

Pictures of Women's Suffrage Movement

 from Women's History About. COM

19th century women's suffrage advocates:

Susan B. Anthony
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Lucretia Mott
Sojourner Truth
Lucy Stone
Julia Ward Howe

20th century women's suffrage advocates:

Alice Paul
Lucy Burns
Carrie Chapman Catt
Jeannette Rankin
Alice Duer Miller
Maud Younger
Caroline Severence

Copyright © 2009; All rights Reserved Marianne C. Rafferty