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Autobiography of Mother Jones

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Autobiography of Mother Jones
By Mary Harris Jones. Edited by Mary Field Parton. Introduction by Clarence Darrow. (Dover Publications, Mineola, New York: 2004. Pg. 150. Photographs.) ISBN: 0-486-43645-4.

Reviewed by Simone Bonim - January 5, 2005

Mary Harris Jones was only thirty years old when her husband and all four of her children died in a yellow fever epidemic. Left alone, she eventually became a tireless labor leader, a crusader for workers rights, and a vocal spokeswoman against child labor. Known as Mother Jones, she was a pivotal figure in numerous strikes by coal miners and steel workers. She also helped to form the United Mine Workers Union (UMW) and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) she also led the famed 1903 children's march against child labor.

The Autobiography of Mother Jones, by Mary Harris Jones is a forceful and readable account of Mother Jones life and work. It is also a riveting account of the life of this remarkable woman who served as a role model for countless feminist and labor organizers. This Dover edition, which was edited by Mary Field Parton, is an unabridged republication of the original, 1925 edition of this book, which was published by the Charles H. Kerr & Company in Chicago. The four photographs that appeared in the original book are also included in this edition. As with the original edition, this edition also includes the original introduction to the book, which was written by Clarence Darrow.

Mother Jones was born in Ireland in 1830, and immigrated to the United States in when she was a young child. She married in 1861 and lost her family to yellow fever in 1867. After her family died, she moved to Chicago and opened a dress shop, only to lose it to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. It was shortly after the fire that her interest in the labor movement really began to take hold. However, it was the Haymarket Tragedy of 1886 that served as the catalyst that trigger her overriding passion for agitating for workers rights. From then on, she was unstoppable.

To the owners, she was the Devil in a skirt and to the workers she was, and still remains, a saint. Mother Jones died in 1930, but her legacy lives on. The Autobiography of Mother Jones is a slim volume, yet through its pages she speaks volumes about the American labor movement and one woman's crusade to better the lives of workers throughout the country. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in American history, the labor movement, and to anyone wanting to learn more about this remarkable woman.


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