Mother Jones, A Remarkable Woman in History
After watching the movie Harriet Tubman recently, I began ruminating on the strength and courage of some women. No matter how often life knocks them down, they get back up and forge ahead. Harriet faced obstacles with incredible courage and resilience. She reminded me of another woman in history.
Although there’s a magazine named after her, most people probably haven’t heard of Mother Jones. It isn’t surprising. She’s of a different era. The Industrial Revolution was in full swing, and the Robber Barons were thriving with little regard for the white slaves that worked for them. I’m astounded that a movie hasn’t been made about her. But, even today, we live in a world that values the accomplishments of men above women.
I forget when I first stumbled upon Mother Jones, but I know why I took such an interest in her. My maternal grandfather coal mined in Kentucky for 50 years, starting at the age of 14.
A Short History of Her Early Life
Born on August 1, 1837, as Mary G. Harris in Cork, Ireland, her family immigrated to Canada in North America when Mary was ten years old. This move coincided with the great potato famine that drove more than one million Irish to the new world.
Educated in Canada, Mary later moved to Michigan in the U.S. and began teaching in a convent. She eventually landed in Memphis, Tennessee, where she married George E. Jones in 1861. George was an organizer for the International Moulders and Foundry Workers Union.
Producing four children, Mary settled into the life of a housewife. In 1867 a yellow fever epidemic claimed the lives of her husband and four children, who were all under the age of five. A tragedy such as that can either break a person or make her stronger. Mary proved to be a woman made of steel.
After suffering this great loss, Mary moved to Chicago and started a thriving dressmaking business making clothes for upper-class women, but life hadn’t finished knocking her down. The 1871 Great Chicago Fire destroyed Mary’s house, dressmaking shop, and all her possessions. Never one for shying away from hard work and adversity, Mary helped to rebuild…