Mother Jones Speaks to Striking Coal Miners
August 15, 1912
“I live in the Untied States, but I do not know exactly where. My address is wherever there is a fight against oppression…. My address is like my shoes: it travels with me.… I abide where there is a fight against wrong,” remarked Mary Jones in her infamous speech, “Mother Jones Speaks to Striking Coal Miners”, on August 15, 1912 as she addressed William E. Glasscock, Governor of the State of West Virginia (Jones 69). Mary Harris Jones, benevolently known as Mother Jones, dedicated her life to the inequalities that coal miners and children faced during this era. Despite her many hardships she took a stand for making a progressive change. Mother Jones, a motivation speaker and activist, inspired others to take a stand for transformation. Jones’ life work arose from the ashes when she became involved with the Knights of Labor. Her career as union pest, wandering wherever workers needed organizing, renewed commitment, or publicity, began with a Pittsburg railroad strike in 1877 (Jones 286). She was born less than 50 years after the end of the American Revolution. She was alive when Andrew Jackson was president, and she sometimes quoted from speeches she heard Lincoln make (Jones 5). As an orator, she was loved and respected by many. However, her fearless and stubbornness caused her hardships along the way. Within “Mother Jones Speaks to Striking Coal Miners” her use of repetition and metaphors emphasizes and simplifies her points as she addresses her supporters. Her use of repetition throughout her speech provided assurance in motivation to the intimidated coal miners. She continued to fight for the cause and motivate the demoralized until a transformation occurred. Mother Jones was born May 1, 1830, in Cork, Ireland and she was a descendant of Irish freedom fighters (Jones 286). She experienced many hardships throughout her life. In 1867, her husband (an iron molder and union organizer) and four children perished in a yellow fever epidemic (Jones 286). Tragedy again intervened: The Chicago fire destroyed her business in 1871 (Jones 286).
a. Mary eagerly supported her husband’s union work (Jones 3).
b. “I’m not a humanitarian,” she said. “I’m a hell-raiser.” (Jones 2)
B. Although disorganized and inaccurate in details and chronology, Jones provides readers with graphic personal reminiscences of most major labor upheavals of her era and reveals her genius for dramatic strategies to publicize her cause (Jones 287).
Analysis of Historical content
Mary Harris Jones was primarily an activist and orator; her recorded speeches and testimony before congressional committees reveal the power of her unminced words and florid metaphors (Jones 286).
1. Mother Jones defied categorization. She was an outrageously irreverent Catholic, a conservative radical, a gregarious individualist, and an ascetic who eschewed the very comforts she sought for her “boys” (Jones 8).
2. She expended her greatest efforts on behalf of miners, particularly in the bitter struggles in West Virginia and Ludlow, Colorado, where she was jailed for organizing work (Jones 286).
She had no consistent philosophy, except altruisms and economic betterment (Jones 8).
1. She helped establish the Radical Labor Publication “An Appeal to Reason” in 1895 and the Industrial workers of the world in 1905, supported the Mexican Revolution in 1910, and spoke at the first Pan American Labor Conference in 1921 (Jones 286).
2. She also exposed abusive child labor, conducting undercover investigations in southern mills and organizing a march of child strikers (Jones 286).
C. Story/background of occasion of speech/letter (if applicable)
1. Mary Harris Jones
2. For: William E. Glasscock, Governor of the State of West Virginia.
3. August 15, 1912
4. In Paint Creek District in West Virginia
5. Coal miners were being beaten, abused, and killed by guards.
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