Birth of a Hell-Raiser: May 1, 1837
The following text comes from our high school book, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. We offer it in commemoration of the birth of the labor activist, Mother Mary Jones. Though herself active in the public sphere, Mother Jones opposed women’s suffrage. The second excerpt offered here (following the asterisks) gives her reasons why. To see sample chapters of this book, go here. For ordering information on Lands of Hope and Promise and our other texts, please click here.
One of the more colorful of the labor leaders of this period was a woman, Mary “Mother” Jones. In Ireland, Mary Jones’ grandfather had fought against British rule and was hanged for it. Forced to flee to America to escape punishment for his own revolutionary activities, Mary’s father brought her to Toronto, where, as a young woman, she taught in a convent school. Upon mov-ing to Chicago, Mary Jones worked as a sempstress. She moved again to Memphis Tennessee in 1861, where she married an iron worker who was a stalwart member of the Iron Moulder’s Union.
In 1867, tragedy struck. Mary Jones lost her husband and their four young children to Yellow Fever. And tragedy continued to dog her. Having returned to Chicago, she lost all her possessions to the Great Fire of 1871 that destroyed over three square miles of the city. She again took work as a sempstress and became involved with the Knights of Labor. Thenceforth, union activism remained the chief occupation of her life. (more…)