Author: Mother Jones

Mother Jones, by Bertha Howell, 1902

Mary Harris “Mother” Jones (1837­­­–1930) was a prominent labor and community activist, once called “the most dangerous woman in America” for her success in organizing workers and their families against the powerful. Misfortunes scarred her early life. She lost her husband and four children to the yellow fever epidemic and her dressmaking business to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. After the fire, Jones began to travel across the country as a full-time labor organizer, helping to found the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in 1905. She became known as “Mother Jones” for her matronly black dresses and her fond habit of calling the workers she fought for “her boys.”

The March of the Mill Children

Mother Jones

In this excerpt from her autobiography (1925), Mother Jones recounts her 1903 “Children’s Crusade,” in which she led child laborers in a march from Philadelphia to Oyster Bay, New York, where then-President Theodore Roosevelt lived. Though Jones and “her boys” did not meet with the president, the publicity the march received brought much needed attention to the working conditions of America’s child laborers.