"Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living."
Don’t let her grandmotherly appearance fool you – Mother Jones was a tough old broad. As a child, she emigrated with her family from Ireland to Canada to escape the Potato Famine. She grew up and moved to Memphis, where she married George Jones, an iron molder and unionist. They had four children, but in 1867, all of these children and her husband died of yellow fever. She moved to Chicago and opened a dressmaking shop. It was in Chicago that she really took interest in the union movement, observing the number of unemployed homeless in her neighborhood. After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, in which she lost everything, she began traveling around the country as an organizer for the Knights of Labor and the United Mine Worker’s Union. This was to be the start of a long and colorful career as “the most dangerous woman in America”. She went beyond the usual striking and picketing and organized the wives of the union workers on marches that sometimes turned violent. In 1903, in protest of child labor, she organized child workers on a march from Philadelphia to President Theodore Roosevelt’s house. She was thrown in jail several times, but always resumed her activities when released. She was especially known for her speaking abilities, and often included props and dramatic stunts in her speeches. She continued to speak out about union affairs until her death in 1930.
The Autobiography of Mother Jones
Mother Jones Speaks: Speeches and Writings of a Working-Class Fighter