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Mary Harris Jones

Jones, Mary Harris, 1830–1930, American labor agitator, called Mother Jones, b. Ireland. Interested in the labor movement for many years, she became active in it after the death of her husband and four children (1867) from yellow fever. She won fame as an effective speaker and by 1880 was a prominent figure in the movement. One of the founders of the Social Democratic party (1898) and the Industrial Workers of the World (1905), she was active in organizing miners, garment workers, and streetcar workers. In 1913, her organizing activities were blamed for violence in West Virginia coal fields and she was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder. The sentence was commuted, and in 1914 her graphic description of the massacre of 20 people by machine-gun fire during a Ludlow, Colo., miner's strike convinced President Wilson to try to mediate the dispute. A long-time champion of laws to end child labor, she continued as a union organizer and agitator into her nineties. She wrote an autobiography in 1925, which contains some factual inaccuracies.

See biographies by D. Fetherling (1974) and E. J. Gorn (2001).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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