On the way home from Chicago Erin and I stopped off in a little town named Mount Olive. I have seen the sign for the Mother Jones Monument
a number of times on I55 and wanted to know more about it. Interestingly she played a key roll in the unionization of labor in the US. The Kent Law site
has a lot of info about Mother Jones. Wikipedia says:
Two major turning points in her career were, first, the deaths of her husband and four children during a yellow fever epidemic in Tennessee in 1867, and secondly, the loss of her property in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Forced to support herself, she became involved in the labor movement and joined the Knights of Labor, a predecessor to the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or "Wobblies"), which she helped found in 1905.
Active as an organizer and educator in strikes throughout the country at the time, she was particularly involved with the United Mine Workers (UMW) and the Socialist Party of America. As a union organizer, she gained prominence for organizing the wives and children of striking workers in demonstrations on their behalf.
She became known as "the most dangerous woman in America", a phrase coined by a West Virginia District Attorney named Reese Blizzard in 1902, when she was arrested for ignoring an injunction banning meetings by striking miners. "There sits the most dangerous woman in America", announced Blizzard. "She crooks her finger—twenty thousand contented men lay down."
Interesting to me, it seems she had a part in the Virden Miners Riot in 1898, a town in which I have some family. Here is an archive
of a New York Times article dated October 13 1898.
MINERS SHOT DOWN IN A LABOR RIOT; Virden, Ill., the Scene of a Desperate Battle. MOB ATTACKS NEGROES Engages in a Fierce Fight with Their Armed Guards. TEN LIVES ARE LOST List of Wounded Includes More Than a Score -- The Town Now in the Hands of the Military Authorities.
More info about the riot can be found here
. I also found this
, which seems to have a good synopsis of the riot.
On October 12, 1898, Illinois miners at Virden, Illinois, confronted armed guards in a battle that became one of the bloodiest class conflicts in American history. This battle, part of the longer struggle to organize miners into an economic and political force, shaped the views of a generation of workers in Illinois and across the nation. It was the reason that Mary Harris "Mother" Jones, the famous labor heroine, is buried in Mt. Olive, along with the "martyrs" who were killed in what became known as the "Virden Massacre." In making the request to be buried with "her boys," Mother Jones sought to acknowledge that their deaths had helped to establish Illinois as one of the "strongest labor states" in the country. The mine workers of Illinois became known as some of the most radical and contentious unionists in the country. But the heroic struggle also reinforced deep racial divisions.
It's pretty interesting what you can find out about just by making a pit stop.