Mary Harris Jones Biography

(Irish-born American Schoolteacher and Activist)

Birthday: May 1, 1830 (Taurus)

Born In: Cork, Ireland

Mary Harris ‘Mother’ Jones was a courageous fighter for the rights of the workers and organizer of workers’ strikes in the first two decades of the 20th century. She was an inspiring figure for the distressed strikers and used to clad herself in typical black Victorian dresses, which made her look older than she actually. She used to refer to the striking miners as ‘her boys’, which is why she gained popularity as ‘Mother Jones’. For her great ability to bring people together and motivate them to fight for their rights, she was once called by a U.S. district attorney as ‘the most dangerous woman in America’. Jones was born in Ireland but migrated to Canada after the Irish famine ruined her family’s farms. After she faced personal tragedies like: losing her husband and children to yellow fever and losing her possessions in the Great Chicago Fire, she dedicated her life to fight for the cause of better working conditions for laborers and abolition of child labor. She was the organizer of the famous ‘Children’s Crusade’ in which she marched, with child laborers, from Philadelphia to New York to meet President Roosevelt and discuss the evils of child labor. She faced prison a few times in her life and died at the age of around 93 in Maryland.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Mary G. Harris, Mary G. Harris Jones

Died At Age: 100


Spouse/Ex-: George E. Jones

father: Richard Harris

mother: Ellen (née Cotter)

siblings: Father William Richard Harris

Born Country: Ireland

Quotes By Mary Harris Jones Educators

political ideology: Social Democratic Party, Socialist Party of America

Died on: November 30, 1930

place of death: Silver Spring, Maryland, United States

City: Cork, Ireland

  • 1

    Why is Mary Harris Jones known as "Mother Jones?"

    Mary Harris Jones is known as "Mother Jones" because of her role as a prominent labor organizer and advocate for workers' rights, especially in the coal mining industry.

  • 2

    What were some of the major labor strikes that Mary Harris Jones was involved in?

    Mary Harris Jones was involved in major labor strikes such as the 1902 coal strike in Pennsylvania, the 1913-1914 Colorado coal strike, and the 1919 steel strike.

  • 3

    What impact did Mary Harris Jones have on the labor movement in the United States?

    Mary Harris Jones had a significant impact on the labor movement in the United States by organizing and leading strikes, advocating for better working conditions, and helping to establish labor unions.

  • 4

    How did Mary Harris Jones use her influence to advocate for child labor laws?

    Mary Harris Jones used her influence and platform to advocate for the abolition of child labor, highlighting the harsh working conditions and exploitation faced by children in factories and mines.

  • 5

    What legacy has Mary Harris Jones left in the history of labor rights activism?

    Mary Harris Jones has left a lasting legacy in the history of labor rights activism as a fearless advocate for workers' rights, particularly in the coal mining industry, and as a symbol of resilience and solidarity in the fight for social justice.

Childhood & Early Life
Mother Jones was born as Mary Harris in Cork County, Ireland, to Ellen and Richard Harris. Her father was a farmer and the whole family migrated to Canada during her adolescence to escape the Irish famine of that time.
She spent her formative years studying in Toronto and then moved to Chicago to become a dressmaker. She got married and lived in Memphis with her family there. But in the yellow fever epidemic of 1867, she lost all her family.
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After losing her family to yellow fever epidemic, Jones returned back to Chicago to her dressmaking business. But within next 4 years, she lost all her hard earned money, possessions and house to the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.
After practically losing everything, she devoted her life to bigger causes. She supported the labor movement and became a part of the ‘Knights of Labor’ and gave inspiring speeches to the striking workers.
From 1873-1877, Jones actively supported laborers in achieving their demands. She used to travel to various strike sites and instill more passion into their strikes. She helped the coal miners’ strike in Pennsylvania and railroad workers.
After the Haymarket Riot of 1886, ‘Knights of Labor’ started to breakdown and Jones became associated with the ‘United Mine Workers’. During her ‘United Mine Workers’ days, she encouraged strikers to face the militias and strike-breakers with courage.
By 1887, she was called ‘Mother Jones’ by everyone, for her mother like image. She was around 60 years old by this time and worked vigorously to help male workers achieve their motives and encouraged the women to stay at home to look after the children.
Female workers in Pennsylvania’s silk mills went on strike in 1901 and Jones was summoned to organize them into systematic strikers. After striking for a long time, demanding to be paid adult wages, the workers came to a settlement with the mill owners.
In 1902, at her trial in West Virginia court for ignoring an order to ban the meetings by striking miners, the district attorney addressed her as ‘the most dangerous women in America’, for she was a great influence on the workers all over.
Jones was against child labor and fought against it all her life. In 1903, she organized ‘Children’s Crusade’, a march from Philadelphia to New York, consisting of child laborers, with banners demanding ‘We want to go to School and not the mine!’
In 1912, Jones became a part of the ‘Paint Creek-Cabin Creek Strike’ in West Virginia. Jones was arrested during the strike, which had turned violent, and was accused of conspiring to murder. She was sentenced to 20 years in the state penitentiary.
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Jones was released in 3 months and she went to Colorado to help the miners organize a strike. She again went to the prison for a few months but met with the head of the Rockefeller family, who brought reforms in the mines in 1914.
In 1924, she was prosecuted again on the charges of libel, slander and sedition but nothing came of it. Her last strike appearance was in Chicago; she supported the dressmakers’ strike. By now, she had turned old and could not do much.
She came out with her autobiography, ‘The Autobiography of Mother Jones’ in 1925, in which she talked in detail about her experiences in the labor movement and the ideologies that she believed in and fought for.
Personal Life & Legacy
Jones got married to George Jones, an iron worker and strong union supporter, in 1861 and had four children with him. She lost her husband and all the children to the yellow fever epidemic in Memphis, Tennessee.
In 1930, she celebrated her self-proclaimed 100th birthday. She was living with her friends Walter and Lillie May Burgess in Adelphi, Maryland, and died in the same year. She is buried in the Union Miners Cemetery, Illinois.
Facts About Mary Harris Jones

Mary Harris Jones, also known as "Mother Jones," was a fierce advocate for workers' rights and played a significant role in the labor movement in the early 20th century.

Despite facing many challenges and setbacks, Mother Jones never wavered in her commitment to fighting for social and economic justice for working-class individuals.

Mother Jones was known for her fiery spirit and powerful speeches, which inspired many to join the labor movement and fight for better working conditions.

See the events in life of Mary Harris Jones in Chronological Order

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