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Issue of October 22, 2014

A hope note
A hope note
Dr. Wayne Willis reflects on life and hope.

Mother Jones

October 10, 2012 | 10:17 AM

The magazine Mother Jones is currently making news because it released a surreptitiously recorded conversation presidential candidate Mitt Romney had with wealthy donors.

One hundred years ago, what was newsworthy was Mother Jones herself. This past summer Cork, Ireland, had a three-day festival to mark the 175th anniversary of her birth.

When Mary Harris Jones was 87 years old, Teddy Roosevelt called her "the most dangerous woman in America." Carl Sandburg once said that the "she" in "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain" was a reference to Mother Jones' unionizing work with Appalachian miners.

As a teenager, Mary moved with her family to North America. In 1867, yellow fever took the lives of her husband and four children. In 1871, she lost a successful dressmaking business to the Great Chicago Fire.

What do you do when twice you've lost everything? Mary Harris Jones became a passionate advocate for miners and young children laboring in the mines. In 1903, she organized a Children's March from Philadelphia to President Theodore Roosevelt's house in Oyster Bay, N.Y. Children carried banners proclaiming: "We Want to Go to School and Not the Mines!"

In an audience Mother Jones negotiated with John D. Rockefeller Jr., she described conditions in Colorado mines. Rockefeller, a conservationist, was personally moved enough to visit the mines and introduce long-needed reforms.

Tireless, outspoken, indomitable Mother Jones once said in a labor union meeting: "I asked a man in prison how he happened to be there, and he said he had stolen a pair of shoes. I said, if he had stolen a railroad, he would be a United States Senator."

Mother Jones died at age 93 and is buried in a miners' cemetery in Illinois. She earned her epitaph the day she said: "Whatever the fight, don't be ladylike."

Dr. Wayne Willis

  1. print email
    October 19, 2012 | 10:37 AM

    Mother Jones aka Commie Mommy Jones

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