Mother Jones was a transnational organizer who believed in a global labor movement. By 1910 she was the most well-known U.S. figure fighting for Mexican labor revolutionaries against the Diaz dictatorship and his U.S. corporate and political supporters. The Mexican rebels were part of the same cause as American unionists, she argued.
Jones’ involvement came as part of being a transborder activist. In 1909, she witnessed the kidnapping of Mexican rebel Manuel Sarabia when she was in Douglas, Arizona in her attempt to organize copper miners. She led protests that resulted in Sarabia’s release. She sought unsuccessfully to get the Socialist Party to take up this cause of support for Mexican rebels. So she took up the organizing campaign on her own. In 1910 she testified before Congress about how private detectives in the US working on behalf of the Mexican dictator Diaz sent “his hirelings across the border to crush the constitution of our country.”
For Mother Jones, the struggle of Mexicans for freedom was part of a larger cause as she sought to unite workers across borders against capitalism and empire. When during the midst the legendary Colorado strike of 1913-1914, the United Mine Workers sent her to Texas to prevent strikebreakers from coming through Texas to break the strike, Jones went to Chihuahua Mexico to meet with “Pancho” Villa, military leader of the revolution. She concluded: “it’s the same fight those stalwart fellows are leading there (Mexico) that’s being carried on in Calumet, in Colorado, in every place where private greed has extirpated human right!”
A few months later, Jones found herself imprisoned without charge, held incommunicado because of her attempt to make speeches in the Colorado strike zone. In a show of international solidarity, Pancho Villa demanded that Pres. Wilson use his power to get “Rockefeller forces” to release Mother Jones from prison. The telegrams below were treasured by Jones.
President Wilson sent a telegram demanding that Villa release Luis Terrazas, son of a wealthy Mexican land owner whose land Villa’s army had confiscated.
Villa sent a telegram to Wilson:
“I shall comply with your request, provided you and your administration will show the same regard for humanity toward one of your own citizens, a woman past eighty years, who is being illegally deprived of her liberty, by General Chase, commander in chief of the Colorado division of the Rockefeller forces. I refer to Mother Jones, who is now held incommunicado in Trinidad, Colo. I may take the liberty to remind you that about two years ago Mother Jones made an organizing trip for the Western Federation of Miners through Mexico, under the full protection of President Madero, whom she visited at Mexico City. Will you do as much for Mother Jones?”
Jones treasured this telegram and learning of it steeled her determination. When she traveled to Mexico in 1921, workers threw red carnations and blue violets around Jones, who they called Madre Juanita, until she was covered up to her shoulders.