events women reviews events contact

The March of the Mill Children
A Speech by Mother Jones
Adapted and performed by Betsey Means
Directed by Eileen Vorbach

"Stick together and be loyal to each other.
Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living."

About Mother Jones
"I was born in revolution," Mary Harris Jones often said. As a child in Ireland in the 1830s she witnessed deadly clashes between British soldiers and peasant farmers, including her own family. Later, after immigrating to the United States, she watched helplessly as her husband and four children died of yellow fever. Out of these sorrows, a fierce compassion for the downtrodden grew in her.

Mother Jones became a labor leader. She was a spectacular, controversial woman in an occupation—and a time—filled with danger. Beginning in the 1870s and continuing for over fifty years, Mother Jones went to coal mines, trainyards, factories and logging camps to meet with workers and help them fight against conditions that amounted to slavery.

By the turn of the century, almost two million children under the age of sixteen worked in mills, factories and mines. Images of the child worker Mother Jones had seen stayed with her—particularly, the torn, bleeding fingers of the "breaker boys" and the sight of the mill children living living on coffee and stale bread.

On May 29, 1903, 100,000 workers including 16,000 children left their jobs at 600 mills in the Philadelphia area. Mother Jones considered child labor the worst of industrial sins. She seized upon the idea of marching the mill children from Kensington, Pennsylvania to President Roosevelt's home at Oyster Bay in Long Island some 125 miles away. Mother Jones wanted to publicize the unspeakable crime of child labor.



Mother Jones' Noteworthy Admirers
"Mother Jones is a wonder"
—Carl Sandburg

"A modern day Joan of Arc"
—Clarence Darrow

"She had force, she had wit, above all she had the fire of indignation.
She was the walking wrath of God."

—Upton Sinclair

Related Web Sites
The Autobiography of Mother Jones
A good overview of Mother Jones' life and work from the Illinois Labor History Society
Home page for Mother Jones Magazine


<< back to The Women of WomanLore