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This month I would like to highlight a woman from Co. Cork. (the rebel co.) Mary G. Harris Jones (1837-1930) commonly known as Mother Jones. She was an Irish born schoolteacher and dressmaker who became a famous union community organizer.

The Irish had a great influence on the formation of unions in America. We are known for standing up for each other especially in the name of work. Jones was born in Co. Cork to tenant farmers. Her family were victims of the Famine. It drove the family to emigrate Canada, when Jones was ten. The family had more hardship to endure when they landed. They suffered discrimination because they were immigrants and Catholic.

Jones moved to Chicago, where she met & married George Jones a member and organizer for the Union of Iron molders. It represented workers who focused in building and repairing steam engines and mills. Jones and her husband had four children, but tragedy struck, and the children and her husband died of yellow fever, (viral infection spread by a mosquito).

Jones started her business of dressmaking, she worked for the upper class but sadly a few years later she lost her home and business due to the Great Chicago fire. After that catastrophe Jones helped to rebuild the city and organize strikes. She believed that working men deserved a wage that would allow women to stay home to care for their children. Jones is a notable person some might say controversial in any case she was inducted into the National Mining Hall of Fame in 2019. Active as an organizer and educator in strikes throughout the country at the same time involved in the Socialist party of America. She was termed the most dangerous woman in America. Jones’ ideas, approaches and interests were different from many women of her time. She didn’t push or work toward women’s right to vote. She was quoted saying, ‘you don’t need to vote to raise hell”. She opposed many of the protesters because she thought it was more important to liberate the working class itself.

Jones was known as a very effective speaker, occasionally using props and visual aids for effect.

Jones fought for children, she fought child labor laws. She organized children who were working in mills and mines to participate in a “children’s crusade”. They walked with a banner that read, “We want to go to school and not the mines”

Jones remained a union organizer and continued to speak on union affairs until she died. Jones died in Maryland. Her burial site and monument is at the Union Miners Cemetery in Mount Olive, Illinois. Jones left a legacy; her fearless actions changed working conditions and pay checks for countless men and women.

Jones was criticized by the government as “grandmother of all agitators” her reply, I hope to live long enough to be the great-grandmother of all agitators’! There is a magazine called, Mother Jones, it became the largest selling radical magazine of the decade. There is a school in Maryland named after Jones. If you would like to learn more about Jones there is a documentary titled, Americas most dangerous woman. I wrote this in May for “Mother’s Day” in the memory of Mother Jones. Thank you, Mother Jones, for all your hard work, persistence and dedication to the working men and women! Questions, 708) 425-7021.

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