- About Us | MotherJonesMuseum
About Us Who We Are Get to Know Us Who We Are Our Board, Statue Committee, Contributors Load More Mother Jones Museum is the website of the Mother Jones Heritage Project, a 501-c-3 non-profit. We are guided by the philosophy & model of Mother Jones, whose base was in Chicago, but who went across the US to organize and fight for justice. So while we have traditional museum exhibits, we take Mother Jones on the road, create ways for people to experience her continuing relevance and the weight of the past on the present. We are currently sponsoring a campaign to put her on a statue in Chicago. There is no statue of Mother Jones in the United States, the founding mother of the U.S. labor movement. Our project originated in 2014, inspired by the Cork Spirit of Mother Jones Festival. This website originated in 2008, as a project to revive Mother Jones and the early history of the activist labor and immigrant movement. We are proud to work with partners across the U.S. and the globe.
- History Museum | Mother Jones Museum
Learn More Who was Mother Jones? When Mother Jones was mocked as the “grandmother of all agitators,” in the U.S. Senate, she replied that she would someday like to be called “the great-grandmother of all agitators.” Born Mary Harris in Cork Ireland in 1837, she was an immigrant refugee who lost her entire family in a pandemic, then lost everything in the Chicago Fire of 1871. She became a rebel for justice, and became known simply as "Mother Jones," the mother of the working class. An icon of labor history, she organized against child labor, for workers rights, and helped to shape a spirit of civil disobedience in the cause of justice. Mother Jones believed that a workers movement would replace “this moneyed civilization with a higher and grander civilization for the ages to come.” To learn more, including a short documentary about her, see : Who was Mother Jones? Chicago Mother Jones Statue Campaign Statue Campaign Recent Blogs
- Statue Campaign | MotherJonesMuseum
Mother Jones Chicago Statue Campaign Why a Mother Jones Statue Donate to the Statue Campaign Meet our Team Why A Mother Jones Chicago Statue The government of Ireland seeded this project with $36,000 grant. We need to raise a total of $200,000. Please give generously. We have applied for locations on Wacker, near Michigan, but have not officially been granted a permit. We have support from Alderman Brendan Reilly for this project. Imagine, "Let's meet at the Mother Jones statue!" There are no major statues of women historical figures in the city of Chicago. Let's put this iconic Irish immigrant refugee and founder of the American labor movement--the Mother of the working class--on a statue in the city she called home. Make a Tax Deductible Donation to the Statue Campaign We are a 501-c-3, so your donation is charitable. Target amount: $200,000 Checks: Mother Jones Statue Fund, Wintrust Bank, 4343 W. Peterson Avenue, Chicago IL 60646 Checks: Mother Jones Statue Fund, Wintrust Bank, 4343 W. Peterson Avenue, Chicago IL 60646 Checks with correspondence: send to Mother Jones Statue Fund, 630 Joanne Lane, DeKalb, Illinois, 60115. Meet our Sculptors Meet our sculptors, Kathleen Farrell and Kathleen Scarboro, who are partnering to produce a statue that will convey the power of Mother Jones. Learn about their approach and past projects. Meet our Honorary Co-Chairs Meet our Statue Committee Members
- Who Was Mother Jones? | MotherJonesMuseum
Watch a video about Mother Jones Hear Mother Jones Speak Read a short essay about Jones Mother Jones Mary Harris “Mother” Jones was a fearless fighter for workers’ rights. When she was mocked as the “grandmother of all agitators,” in the U.S. Senate, Mother Jones replied that she would someday like to be called “the great-grandmother of all agitators.” She helped to shape a spirit of civil disobedience in the cause of justice. Mother Jones deeply believed that a workers' movement would replace “this moneyed civilization with a higher and grander civilization for the ages to come.” Early Life Mary Harris’ early life was shaped by struggles that she viewed as part of a system of class injustice. She was born in 1837 in Cork, Ireland, enduring the Great Hunger where she witnessed starved corpses carted off while food was taken to the ports of the River Lee to be exported. Harris emigrated to Canada and then the U.S., earning a living as a teacher and seamstress, then moved to Memphis where she married union iron molder George Jones and started a family. But when yellow fever struck the city, “the rich and the well-to-do fled the city”, while workers like her husband perished from it. “One by one my four little children sickened and died. . . I sat alone through nights of grief. No one came to me. No one could.” Jones then moved to Chicago, where she sewed for the wealthy until the Great Fire of 1871 made her homeless. Jones emerged from these struggles indomitable, inspired by the birth of a new labor and socialist movement that contested these injustices. When asked to state her address, Jones often replied that her home was “wherever there was a fight.” From the 1890s through the 1920s she was on the road, and played a role in many strikes and demonstrations. Many commentators and newspapers called her a “folk hero” and “most well-known woman” in the United States. On this website, we are building a map that shows the breadth of her involvement. Activism Jones emerged as an activist as part of the unemployed movement of the 1890s, which in style was similar to the Occupy Wall Street movement–occupation and encouragement of militant direct action. This movement became connected to the new industrial unions of the era, the American Railway Union organized by Eugene Debs, and the United Mine Workers of America, which launched major strikes in mid-1894. While these movements were crushed and ridiculed, out of these experiences Jones and others sought to create a movement that mobilized communities of struggle. e in the coal fields. Jones was a strategic part of the union since that time. For her, it was more than about union contract. She argued that ordinary miners should direct their economic destiny and that the public should own the coal and natural resources, not corporations. She believed in organizing at the community level to demonstrate workers capacity for managing their destiny. She believed that the so-called unskilled worker, immigrants and African-Americans should be the base of the new movement. She put women and children at the center of struggles in the coal fields, making a family-based movement. In 1897, the United Mine Workers launched a strike for a living wag One of the Jones’ key contributions was building workers’ commitment to unionism that bridged racial and ethnic divisions. She condemned white supremacists in the union movement, and argued for instance that the black miners of West Virginia were the best trade unionists. In the Southwest, she argued Mexicans and Italians should be the base for the movement. When an African-American woman, impressed with Mother Jones commitment to their cause, suggested she would kiss Jones’ skirt hem in gratitude, Jones replied, “Not in the dust, sister, to me, but here on my breast, heart to heart.” A friend observed that Jones “is above and beyond all, one of the working class… Wherever she goes she enters into the lives of the toilers and becomes a part of them.” Jones 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. When she traveled to Mexico in 1921, workers threw red carnations and blue violets around Jones, who they called "Madre Juanita". Much has been written about Mother Jones, and this site provides a window to appreciative and critical works on her. She was called the “miner’s angel” but she rejected that label, saying, “I’m no angel.” Legacy We think her life opens a window to understanding how ordinary people responded and rebelled against growing inequality in the late 19th and early 20th century. Her story covers a wide swath of history that is often forgotten. Her dream and the dreams of ordinary workers who considered her a folk hero were not realized in her time, but these ideas allow us to think of labor and human rights with a new appreciation for difficulties and promises. Today, a resurgence of economic inequality has caused a renewed interest in her life. In 2012, Mother Jones was honored with the l, bringing her to life in the city of her birth. Her story, they felt, deserves a new audience. We couldn’t agree more. Cork Mother Jones Festiva (24 minutes) is available from our shop for a donation. It is in English and Spanish. We will soon have the Spanish version available here. Mother Jones, America's Most Dangerous Woman on DVD Get DVD Who Was Mother Jones? This short essay, pubished in Illinois Heritage, can be printed. The only existing recording of Mother Jones, in 1930. Excerpted from Mother Jones, American's Most Dangerous Woman, available at our shop.
- Tours | MotherJonesMuseum
Tours Tours Learn about the Mother Jones Monument and Virden Mine War sites, and the controversies that surrounded them. These tours can be accessed from your computer as a virtual tour. At the sites, these can be an assist for class and group tours. You can download the Vamonde app version of these tours for use on your smart phone, IPAD etc. Once you download the app, search Mother Jones Monument or Virden Mine War to access the tour. Each of these tours include dozens of photos, songs, poems, performances by actress Vivian Nesbitt, and source documents.
- Stories | MotherJonesMuseum
Stories Stories from the Past Culture of Mother Jones Spirit of Mother Jones Stories from the Past Culture of Mother Jones Spirit of Mother Jones
- Mapping Mother Jones | MotherJonesMuseum
Mapping Mother Jones This map opens a window onto Mother Jones’ activities and reach. These are just a fraction of the places Mother Jones travelled and organized. Click on each one to find a story. Mother Jones’ life was a whirlwind that connected to many struggles across the globe.
- Exhibits | MotherJonesMuseum
Exhibits Hover over or tap for a description, then click on any of these to access an in-depth view of the exhibit.
- Bloomington 1917 Strike | MotherJonesMuseum
Bloomington's Wildest Union Night Sites & Stories / / Stories Bloomington's Wildest Union By: Mike Matejka Bloomington, Illinois had its wildest labor night a century ago, July 5, 1917, with famed labor organizer Mary “Mother Jones” (1837-1930) stoking striking transit workers. A night of mayhem brought 1,400 National Guard troops to town, but also won a contract for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 752, which still represents these workers in Bloomington today. Before the automotive age, people walked to work or rode electric trolleys or streetcars. The Bloomington & Normal Street Railway (B&N), which began as a horse-drawn railway in 1867, carried passengers on 26 route miles through Bloomington & Normal. Transit workers had formed a union in 1902, lost it after a six-month strike in 1904, and came back in 1917 to organize again. In 1917, the B&N was owned by U.S. Congressman William McKinley (1856-1926). McKinley controlled the streetcar systems in Champaign, Peoria, Galesburg and Danville, along with the Illinois Traction System, an electric interurban railroad that connected St. Louis with Peoria, Danville, Springfield, Champaign, Decatur and Bloomington. Thanks to its electric generating capacity, this eventually became the Illinois Power Company, today’s Ameren. Although the streetcar system meant a modern city a century ago, it was tough on workers. David Law (1852-1916) began work on the horse cars, standing on an open platform, exposed to the weather, for a fifteen-and-a-half-hour day. He said, “I have stood on this platform with the thermometer twenty-four to thirty degrees below zero, and I have made my way through mountainous snow drifts, and when the rails were a glare of ice, as well as through beating rains and burning suns. No, we haven’t a soft job and we literally earn our bread by the sweat of our brow.” The transit workers labored seven days a week for $50 per month. To get a day off, they pooled their funds so they could buy a replacement for one day off per month. Law noted that on that one day month off, his children asked, “who is that strange man in the house.” By 1917, the trolley workers made $2.25 a day, for a nine-and-a-half-hour workday. On May 17, 1917, 50 workers met in a midnight mass meeting, with the assistance of Jerry Burnette from Peoria Local 416 of the Amalgamated Association of Street & Electric Railway Men (today’s ATU – Amalgamated Transit Union). At first the company refused a pay increase, but eventually offered 20 cents per day. The workers wanted more – union recognition. The company refused. On May 28, the strike began. Half the workers, satisfied with the pay raise, stayed with the company. The workers made clear their goal – union recognition. “The strike of the Bloomington street car employees has been called for the reason that the company denies us the right which millions of workingmen all over the United States are exercising, and have been exercising for years – the right to organize. “We believe our cause is just and we ask for the support of the public in asserting our rights as citizens of a free country.” The strikers, and the Bloomington Trades & Labor Assembly, both asked Mayor E.E. Jones to mediate. The company refused the mayor’s offer. The workers asked the public to boycott the cars and support the strike. On June 9, at the company’s request, Judge Sain Welty issued a sweeping court injunction, which basically forbade almost all strike activities and public outreach. The court injunction forbade the union and its members from congregating on street corners, distributing hand bills, sending out any communication or asking people to boycott. On June 11, a strike rally was held, with speeches by Illinois Federation of President John Walker, a coal miner, and Bloomington & Normal Trades & Labor Assembly President John Lennon. The strikers were encouraged to refrain from violence and to win the public’s approval. That night, the streetcar company’s powerhouse workers walked out in a sympathy strike. After a month on strike, with the streetcars running and a repressive court injunction limiting strike activity, the situation was becoming desperate. To rally their cause, they turned to a famous worker advocate, Mary “Mother” Jones. Jones was an Irish immigrant, a child refugee from the potato famine. She lost her husband and children to a yellow fever epidemic in 1867. She came to Chicago, working as a dressmaker for wealthy families. As she neared her sixties, she became a living symbol of labor outrage. Labeled “the most dangerous woman in America,” by the early 1900s she was tramping across the United States, organizing coal miners, fighting against child labor, and finding herself thrown in and out of jail cells. On July 5, 1917, she addressed a packed audience at the Eagle’s Hall. What survived from her speech was her final admonition, to “go out get ‘em.” Leaving the Eagle’s Hall, the excited crowd attacked an approaching streetcar, beating the strikebreakers. They then marched on the Courthouse Square, where a strike breaker, Thomas Huett, fired a pistol into the crowd, grazing railroad worker Emmett Maloney. Huett was spirited away by police. A streetcar approaching from Miller Park was attacked and the strikebreakers taken away, for their own safety, but the police. Above: Second Illinois artillery machine gun emplacements, McLean County Courthouse. Credit: McLean Co. Museum of History Below: Illinois National Guard troops surround Bloomington’s courthouse square, July 6-8, 1917, after a speech by famed labor orgnaizer Mary “Mother” Jones Credit: McLean Co. Museum of History Left: Headline blamed Mother Jones for the strife. Decatur_Herald, July 6, 1917. Hoping to shut down the system’s electric power, the crowd surged down Main and Madison Streets to the B&N’s electric powerhouse. The Mayor, police chief and police were guarding the doors. Stones and bricks were thrown through windows. The Pantagraph reported, “Several women reported to be wives of the street car men sought to incite the men to action. With waving of arms and handkerchiefs and their shrill voices, they created much sympathy.” The streetcar workers’ President, John Nitzel, told the mayor the crowd would stop if the power was shut off. After Nitzel and the Mayor inspected the plant, it was shut down. The crowd returned to the courthouse square, confronted by police, with warning shots fired. Finally, Mayor Jones agreed to try and mediate again. The next morning, July 6, the Mayor convened a mediation. Looking at the striking workers, Daniel W. Snyder, the B&N’s superintendent, said, “I cannot recognize the car men’s union.” He then walked out the door. As this took place, Illinois National Guard troops arrived, encamping at the B&N’s power plant and the Courthouse, where they pitched camp and set up machine gun emplacements. Bloomington’s largest employer in 1917 was the Chicago & Alton Railroad, with its extensive repair shops on the west side. During lunch, almost 1,200 Shops’ workers laid down their tools, marching on city hall. The Mayor reached out to B&N Superintendent Snyder’s boss, the Illinois Traction System’s H.E. Chubback, and also the company’s owner, Congressman McKinley. The two agreed to talk. Congressman McKinley telegraphed back, “I recognize the right of men to organize.” On Monday, July 9, the mediation conference began. After four-and-a-half hours of negotiation, the union was recognized, the strikers reinstated to their jobs. The workers won a 35-cents a day increase and their work day was decreased from 9 and-a-half hours to nine. Thus, Amalgamated Association of Street and Electric Railway Men Local 752, today’s Amalgamated Transit Union Local 752, won their first contract, after a bitter strike, facing court injunctions and company refusal. Thanks to a fiery 80-year-old woman and union solidarity, a small band of transit workers built a union, which survives and thrives a century later.
- Workers Education Center St. Louis | MotherJonesMuseum
Labor Rights Are Human Rights Exhibit, Workers Education Society, St. Louis Sites & Stories / / Exhibits Labor Rights