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Mother Jones

Mother Jones. 1902

“I asked a man in prison once how he happened to be there, and he said he had stolen a loaf of bread. I told him if he had stolen a railroad, he’d be a U.S. Senator.”

Mother Jones (1837-1930) was socialist and one of the greatest labor organizers the US has seen. She co-founded the Industrial Workers of the World (AKA the Wobblies) and was instrumental in bringing the issues of child labor and mine safety to the country. She organized miners in West Virginia, thousands of them. A local prosecutor called her “the most dangerous woman in America.” She was denounced on the floor of the US Senate as the “grandmother of all agitators” to which she famously replied “”I hope to live long enough to be the great-grandmother of all agitators.”

Mother Jones Museum has started an archive about her and Wikipedia has a useful bio about her.

[Poet] Carl Sandburg, in The American Songbag, suggests that the “she” in “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain” was a reference to Mother Jones and her travels to Appalachian mountain coal mining camps promoting the unionization of the miners.

More Mother Jones quotes

“Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”

“My friends, it is solidarity of labor we want. We do not want to find fault with each other, but to solidify our forces and say to each other: “We must be together; our masters are joined together and we must do the same thing.”

“I am not afraid of the pen, or the scaffold, or the sword. I will tell the truth wherever I please.”

“I believe that no man who holds a leader’s position should ever accept favors from either side. He is then committed to show favors. A leader must stand alone.”

“The miners lost because they had only the constitution. The other side had bayonets. In the end, bayonets always win.”

“My address is like my shoes. It travels with me. I abide where there is a fight against wrong.”

“If they want to hang me, let them. And on the scaffold I will shout Freedom for the working class!”

“I’m not a humanitarian, I’m a hell-raiser.”

May one thousand Mother Jones’ bloom.

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