because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mary Harris “Mother” Jones

What does a woman do when her husband and four children all die of yellow fever and her dressmaking workshop burns to the ground?  It depends on what kind of woman she is, doesn't it?  When all this happened to Mary Harris Jones in the 1870's, she just shook it off and became a hard core, in-your-face labor union organizer.  Born in Ireland and emigrating with her birth family first to Canada and then to the U.S. in her teens,  Mary's marriage to an iron worker who organized for his union introduced her to the importance of workers uniting to stand up for themselves.

So when all other doors suddenly seemed to close, instead of sitting in a corner feeling sorry for herself,  Jones simply joined an early predecessor of the International Workers of the World, involving herself later with the United Mine Workers and the Socialist Party of America.  Hollering "You don't need the vote to raise hell!" and using humor, profanity, name-calling and wit, Jones caused so much upheaval for the corporate Powers-That-Be that she was called at one point "the most dangerous woman in America."  And as she reached the age of sixty, she started wearing the black dresses and little black hats she became known for, calling herself "Mother" Jones and calling the workers she rabble-roused "her boys" -- all to move those masses.  Today, one of the most highly respected and long-standing radical magazines in the world is called Mother Jones.  Its motto, like its namesake's, is "Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living!"

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