MOTHER JONES: The Most Dangerous Woman in America by Linda Atkinson

MOTHER JONES: The Most Dangerous Woman in America

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Known details of Mary Harris Jones' early life are few but Atkinson does an excellent job of filling in with relevant social background--beginning with the peasant revolt in Ireland which led to her grandfather's hanging and her father's immigration to America. Similarly integrated are accounts of the young woman's normal-school education in Toronto, her work as a teacher and seamstress in Chicago, and the death of her union-organizer husband and all three children in a yellow-fever epidemic. The latter part of the book is partly a story of labor's fight for decent conditions, pay, and hours, with Mother Jones, now a tough, uncompromising gray-haired old woman, as a stirring personal focus. Mary was over 60 when she became an official organizer for the UMW and from then until she was past 90 she traveled constantly in support of workers and strikers, witnessing wholesale massacres of workers and their families and the maiming and premature aging of child textile workers whom she led on a futile march from Philadelphia to President Theodore Roosevelt's Oyster Bay estate. Frequently arrested, imprisoned in a cellar full of sewer rats and in an unheated cabin while suffering from pneumonia, and accused of everything from drunkenness and prostitution to being a Soviet agent: Mother Jones, outside agitator par excellence, is presented here more crisply and intelligently than in Werstein's Labor's Defiant Lady (1969).

Pub Date: May 30th, 1978
Publisher: Crown