Labor Organizer Mary "Mother Jones" Harris Part 2

About the labor organizer Mary Harris aka Mother Jones her biography and place in United States history as a social reformer.

MARY "Mother Jones" HARRIS (1830-1930).

Labor organizer.

During the Ludlow strike, Mother Jones was pulled off a train by guardsmen and then held incommunicado for 9 weeks. She headed right back to the scene of danger as soon as she was released, a move which ended with her illegal arrest and imprisonment. Of this, she said: "I was put in the cellar under the court house. It was a cold, terrible place, without heat, damp and dark. I slept in my clothes by day, and at night I fought great sewer rats with a beer bottle." There she languished for 26 days. But this time the miners won better conditions, although collective bargaining was still not achieved.

In Arnot, Pa., this redoubtable senior citizen attracted national attention when she led a march of women who, armed with brooms and mops, sent strikebreakers fleeing in all directions. These women stood guard at the mines day and night, to see that no scabs went in. Under one arm, each carried a broom or a mop. In the other arm, each cradled a baby wrapped in little blankets. The heroism of their mothers, inspired by Mother Jones, ensured these babies a better future. This thought must have offered some consolation to Mother Jones, who had lost her own 4 small children in the yellow fever epidemic which swept Memphis, Tenn., in 1867. The epidemic had also claimed the life of her husband.

Mother Jones worked in Alabama textile mills to see whether the gruesome tales of child labor were true. She saw 6-year-olds, who looked gaunt and aged, working 8-hour shifts for 10 cent a day, and 4-year-olds who had been brought in to help the older children without pay. In a factory in Tuscaloosa, run entirely by child labor, she saw the fragile bodies of 6- and 7-year-old children crawling inside and under dangerous machinery, oiling and cleaning. Many times a hand was crushed or a finger was snapped off. Sometimes these children fell asleep and then cold water was dashed in their faces.

Mother Jones boarded with a family in Selma. Their 11-year-old daughter, who worked in the mill, died when her hair got caught in some machinery and her scalp was torn off. On Sunday, the day before the accident, the youngster had been invited to go on an outing with a group of mill children. She had refused, saying, "I'm so tired. I just want to sleep forever."

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