August 3, 2021

Who was Mother Jones, the most dangerous woman in the US who supported the revolutionaries against the tyrant Porfirio Díaz?

Foto: Library of Congress

Mother Jones went wherever there was a fight against oppression

“I live in the USA, but I don’t know exactly where. My leadership is wherever there is a fight against oppression. Sometimes i’m in Washington, Then in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Texas, Minnesota, Colorado. My address is like my shoes: travel with me ”.

So he answered Mary Harris Jones, better known in union history and workers’ struggle as Mother Jones, in the Congress of the American Union for the case of the journalist kidnapped in the United States, Manuel Sarabia, opponent of the mandate of the then president of Mexico, Porfirio Diaz.

Library of Congress/Mother Jones

Eight-hour shifts, vacations, social security, benefits, are labor concepts unthinkable at the end of the 19th century, but with the persevering struggles of true labor leaders, as Mother Jones considered them, they were gradual victories for the benefit of a fairer job.

“The early days of the labor movement produced great men. They were very different from the modern labor leader. These early leaders were not seeking publicity, they were one-minded, not interested in their own glory or their own financial advancement. They did not serve labor for wages. They made great sacrifices so that the future could be a little brighter for their co-workers, ”Harris Jones recalled in his 1925 autobiography.


In 1830, in the city of Cork, Ireland, Mary Harris Jones, the most famous female labor activist of the 19th century, was born, a self proclaimed “riot” in the cause of economic justice. It was so strident that an American lawyer once called it to be “The most dangerous woman in America”, as described by the National Women´s History Museum.

At the age of five he emigrated to Toronto, Canada, with his family. She first worked as a teacher in a Catholic school in Michigan, later she was a seamstress in Chicago. He moved to Memphis for another teaching job. In 1861, she married George Jones, a member of the Iron Casters Union, with whom he had four children. In 1867, tragedy struck her when her entire family died during the yellow fever epidemic… She wore black for the rest of her life.

Back to ChicagoMary Harris resumed her activity as a seamstress, when she worked for the city’s aristocracy, “I looked out the windows and saw the poor, miserable, trembling, unemployed and hungry. The contrast of her condition with that of the comfort of the people I sewed for was painful for me. My employers didn’t seem to notice or care. “

However, his workshop was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Although years before he had already become familiar with the labor movement, it was since the fire in the city that he became more involved in the labor struggle and actively participated in the efforts of the workers to improve the conditions in which they worked and lived. “I became a member of the Knights of Labor.”


In the years to come and until 1930, the year Mother Jones passed away, it was a time of constant struggles and strikes in favor of workers in the United States, but also of child labor as was the case in a textile factory in Pennsylvania, where at least 10 thousand minors were part of the staff, as described in his autobiography.

“The workers were on strike for more wages and shorter hours. Every day the children entered the Union headquarters, some with their hands out, some with their thumbs missing. They were lean little things with round, skinny shoulders. Many of them were no more than ten years old, although state law prohibited their work before they were twelve years old. “

Years of constant struggle that not only stayed in the United States, but was even a watershed for organizations that reached other parts of the world, such as the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), which called to organize all industrial workers, and of which she was the only woman among the twenty-seven signatories of the founding manifesto.

“Mother Jones, union organizer, electrifying speaker and, as Elizabeth Gurley Flynn described her, ‘the greatest agitator of our time’”, part of the text dedicated to Mary Harris by the Party of Socialist Workers of Argentina.


Mother Jones was also a huge fan of the Mexican Revolution of 1910 and, since then, one of its main activities has been the raising of funds for that struggle and the defense of the revolutionaries arrested in the United States.

“On behalf of our own revolutionary heroes, on behalf of unborn heroes, on behalf of those whose statues are silent, I pray that this body of representatives protect these Mexican men from the tyranny and oppression of that bloody tyrant, Diaz”.


An ideology of struggle that permeates our present time to continue defending labor rights, as described by the writer and activist of the American labor movement, Kim Kelly.

“Mother Jones will never really die; the impact it had is too great. Now her legacy has found a new vital life in a group of women in the coal country of Alabama (…). You almost expect to hear Mother Jones’ exhortations to ‘keep fighting’ ringing out over the coal fields.

Funeral de Mother Jones
Library of Congress/Funeral de Mother Jones

“Despite the best efforts of Jones and generations of union organizers after her, coal mining remains a dangerous and difficult job. The industry has dwindled tremendously since the days of Mother Jones and Blair Mountain, but there are still thousands of dedicated workers, risking their lives and limbs to plunge deep into the same darkness and coal dust that greeted many of their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents ”, he highlighted Kim Kelly.

So dedicated was the life of this activist who appears in the trade union history books that the revolutionary Leon Trotsky He expressed after reading Jones’s autobiography, “What unfailing devotion to the workers, and what elemental contempt for the traitors and careerists who are among the worker ‘bosses’!”

For this reason, the workers’ struggle is not only commemorated every May 1, with a “day of rest” for some, as already mentioned, there are still thousands of workers who have not been able to improve their working conditions and continue with the struggle.