A virtual museum and education site about the amazing labor agitator, Mother Jones

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Biographies of Mother Jones

Feurer, Rosemary. "Mother Jones:A global history of struggle and remembrance, from Cork, Ireland to Illinois" Illinois Heritage May 2013

Brief photo essay introduction to her life and context

Simon Cordery, Mother Jones: Raising Cain and Consciousness. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2010.

The latest work on Jones. This one has a different (and I think deeper) understanding of the Irish context than Gorn's book (below) and of the context of Jones' religious life, and a few new points, and it's much shorter than Gorn's, below, which can be useful. It takes the same approach on the issue of gender politics as Gorn, and is a critical but appreciative look at her.

Elliott J. Gorn, Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America. Hill and Wang, 2002. Short Excerpt from Gorn's book

The leading biography of Mother Jones, and the main historian source for our film. Gorn's analysis allows us the best understanding of how Mother Jones created herself within the context of gender norms and labor upheavals, and situates her in the context of the violent response of corporate and state authorities to the miners' search for just living conditions and free speech.

Mary Harris Jones, Autobiography of Mother Jones (Charles Kerr, 1999). On-Line edition

Mother Jones' life as dictated to Clarence Darrow's secretary. Read alongside Gorn's book it is doubly interesting, both for understanding Gorn's revising of Mother Jones' rendition of her life, but also for the issue of memory and biography itself. For high school students, this is much more engaging than Gorn's book, but students should be cautioned about the issues of biography and memory.

Wake, Dorothy L. Mother Jones, Revolutionary Leader of Labor & Social Reform (2001)

Addresses Mother Jones connections to traditions of revolutionary syndicalism, thereby also allowing us to understand her as a feminist. Revises the sometimes condescending version of her as a folksy figure who was anti-feminist.

Leslie F. Orear, ed. Mother Jones and the Union Miners Cemetery: Mt. Olive, Illinois

a compilation of articles, available from the Illinois Labor History Society

J Mikael, "Mother Mary Jones: The Labor Movement's Impious Joan of Arc," 1965 dissertation, available here.

You can see how others have drawn on this, but amended it. It's old, be careful, but since I have it on hand, might as well share.


Mother Jones Speeches and Correspondence

Philip S. Foner, Mother Jones Speaks: Speeches and Writings of a Working-Class Fighter Pathfinder Press (NY), 1995).

A collection of classic Mother Jones speeches..

Edward M. Steel, The Correspondence of Mother Jones (Univ of Pittsburgh Pr (Txt), 1985).

The introduction is a wonderful resource for those who don't have the time to read either her biography or Gorn's biography.

Edward M. Steel, ed. The Speeches and Writings of Mother Jones (Univ of Pittsburgh Pr 1988).

More comprehensive than Foner's work, a terrific compilation. The introductionof this book is a wonderful resource for those who don't have the time to read either her biography or Gorn's biography

Repression in labor disputes

Stephen H. Norwood, Strikebreaking and Intimidation: Mercenaries and Masculinity in Twentieth-Century America (The University of North Carolina Press, 2002).

This book is an excellent introduction to the history of the use of private and public police forces in American labor disputes. It is excellent companion to the movie Matewan. It discusses the use of Baldwin Felts agents as well as national guard, two issues that arise in the Mother Jones film.

Patricia Cayo Sexton. The War on Labor and the Left. (Westview Press, 1992).

This is a terrific source that places the repression of the U.S. labor movement in comparative context. For those who assume that the U.S. must have a better record on free speech and freedom of assembly for workers, this book is a definite eye-opener

Robert Michael Smith. From Blackjacks to Briefcases: A History of Commercialized Strikebreaking and Unionbusting in the United States (2003)

As the book's title suggests, this is a book that connects the use of agents such as Baldwin-Felts with a longer history of the use of private mercenaries that suppressed free speech. The main problem with the book is that it doesn't connect the private use of these with the public use. The key issue in Ludlow was the overlap between private and public use of police forces to suppress work



Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States (see also the children's version in that section)

Link to excerpt On the global issues, and if you can only read one short thing, Zinn still captures the class warfare aspect of Ludlow and Mother Jones better than all before and since.

Thomas G. Andrews. Killing for Coal: America's Deadliest Labor War (2008)

A prize winning account of the Colorado mine wars focusing on workscapes as forming human identity, in this case violence in strikes driven by the mine workscape. Argues that militancy was driven by the violence beneath the earth. Leaves out the wider context of Ludlow in the struggles of the UMWA, and the UMWA is virtually ignored in this account.

Scott Martelle, Blood Passion: The Ludlow Massacre and Class War in the American West ( 2007).

Takes journalists' so-called "neutral stance" but that often means that the book feels disembodied from the events. A fairly cursory inclusion of Mother Jones' role, in fact, it portrays her as somewhat of a nag and a bother to the events. Women's roles minimally included.

George S. McGovern and Leona Guttridgerd F. , The Great Coalfield War (University Press of Colorado, 1996).

A good narrative history, with maps, etc. Updated by Martelle on some points. Martelle struggles to point out its errors, but it remains the book that allows you to see the story unfolding.

Zeese Papanikolas, Buried Unsung: Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre (University of Nebraska Press, 1991).

Focuses on the leader of the Greek miners, a powerful story of the ethnic context

Leon Stein, Massacre at Ludlow: four reports (Arno, 1971).

These unedited primary source reprints from 1914 Ludlow investigations are extraordinarily good sources for students to plumb the context of Ludlow, the use of the national guard in Colorado and the Baldwin Felts agents.

Priscilla Long, Where the Sun Never Shines: A History of America's Bloody Coal Industry (Harcourt, 1989)

Chapter 12 of the book contains a compelling narrative of the events. Long's work is one of the best reads available to bring you into the world of the miners.

Anthony DeStefanis, "Violence and the Colorado National Gaurd: Masculinity, Race, Class and Identity in the 1913-1914 Southern Colorado Coal Strike"

p 195-212 of Mining Women: Gender in the Development of a Global Industry, 1870 to 2005 ed. Gier and Mercier. Gives good overview of the defense of the actions taken by the national guard. Read alongside Stein for more context.


West Virginia Organizing and Uprisings

William C. Blizzard, When Miners March available from http://whenminersmarch.com/

"The definitive history of the coal miners of West Virginia.  William C. Blizzard wrote the text in the early 1950s while his father, miner's hero Fearless Bill Blizzard, was still alive and able to comment.  Political realities kept the book in a box for more than half a century--unavailable to either scholars writing their own accounts of the mine wars or Union families seeking to pass on their own proud heritage."

David Corbin, Life, Work, and Rebellion in the Coal Fields: The Southern West Virginia Miners, 1880-1922 (University of Illinois Press, 1981).

The film Matewan by John Sayles neglects to mention that Mother Jones was significantly involved in organizing there. This book fills in that information

Matewan. A film directed by John Sayles. 1987

You might be inclined to think that the film is over the top as far as its portrayal of life in the towns. But read Strikebreaking and Intimidation from this list alongside this movie, and you will see that Sayles underplayed the kind of repression experienced in these mine towns. Unfortunately, Sayles left out Mother Jones from the history, and she was a vital part of organizing West Virginia from the beginning.

Robert Shogun The Battle of Blair Mountain: The Story of America's Largest Labor Uprising

The real story behind Matewan. Discusses Mother Jones and her controversial decision to help stop the march. Discusses first peacetime use of the air force to put down the uprising.

Books on Mother Jones and related topics for young readers

These books are specifically directed to young readers, but there are books in the other sections of this bibliography that are good for high-school students, in particular her autobiography.

Penny Colman, Mother Jones and the March of the Mill Children (Millbrook Press, 1994).

Ages 9-12 Sets Mother Jones march of 1903 from Pennsylvania to New York in illustrated context

Judith Pinkerton Josephson, Mother Jones: Fierce Fighter for Workers' Rights (Lerner Publications, 1996).

Listed as young adult, but probably appropriate for middle school as well.

Donna Rappaport. Trouble at the Mines

Ages 9-12. A fictionalized version of the Arnot, Pennsylvania struggle of 1899, where Mother Jones initiated her famous women's "mop and broom brigade."

Joan C. Hawxhurst, Mother Jones: Labor Crusader (American Troublemakers series) (Steck-Vaughn, 1993).

Young adult

Connie Colwell Miller, Mother Jones: Labor Leader (Capstone Press, 2006).

Listed for ages 9-12

Betsy Harvey Kraft, Mother Jones: One Woman's Fight for Labor (Diane Pub Co, 2006).

Ages 9-12 - an updated version of her biography, with interjections of some primary source material

Rosemary Laughlin, The Ludlow Massacre of 1913-14 (Morgan Reynolds Publishing, 2006).

Grades 7-10

Rachel A. Koestler-Grack, The Story of Mother Jones (Chelsea Clubhouse, 2004).

Ages 9-12

Kathlyn Gay, Mother Jones (Morgan Reynolds Publishing, 2006).

Grade 7+

Atkinson, Linda. Mother Jones, the most dangerous woman in America . New York : Crown Publishers, 1978.

Howard Zinn and Rebecca Steffoff, A Young People's History of the United States : Class Struggle to the War On Terror (Seven Stories Press, 2007)

For ages 7-10. Has a chapter that deals with Ludlow and also mentions Mother Jones, explains socialism in this era in an understandable way

Susan Campbell Bartoletti Growing Up in Coal Country

Ages 9-12, 128 pages. Pennsylvania. Stunning photographs of child miners and life in the mining camps.

Russell Freedman Kids at Work: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor

Classic photographic material from the Progressive Era muckraker

Women and Mining

Marat Moore, Women in the Mines: Stories of Life and Work (Twayne Publishers, 1996).

Stories and profiles of women across the decades, mineworkers and mining women

Ron E. Roberts and Carol Cook-Roberts. Mother Jones and Her Sisters: A Century of Women Activists in the American Coal Fields. (Kendall, 1998).

A nice collection of stories that connect workplace and community with narrative stories. Also includes women as miners

Bonnie Stepenoff, Their Fathers' Daughters: Silk Mill Workers in Northeastern Pennsylvania, 1880-1960 , Susquehanna University Press, 1999

and articles by Bonnie Stepenoff, “Keeping it in the family: Mother Jones and the Pennsylvania Silk Strike of 1900-1901,” Labor History ,  Fall, 1997; "I'm a Johnny Mitchell Man: Gender and Labor Protest in the Pennsylvania Hard Coal Uprising, 1900-1902," in Mining Women: Gender, Labor, Capital, and Community in a Global Perspective , edited by Laurie Mercier and Jaclyn Gier Viskavotoff, Palgrave/Macmillan, 2006, pp. 181-194  

Stepanoff offers a highly critical look at Mother Jones' gendered views of protest, one that I think is not sustained by the evidence. Stepanoff argues that Mother Jones reinforced gender roles as much as she challenged them, and reinforced the patriarchy of the male breadwinner. "The solution became, not a better deal for the female workers, but a better deal for the fathers, who, in Jones's view, should support them." Read alongside Dorothy Wake, Dorothy L. Mother Jones, Revolutionary Leader of Labor & Social (2001) for 2 contrasting perspectives of Mother Jones and feminism.

Camille Guerin-Gonzales, "From Ludlow to Camp Solidarity: Women, Men, and Cultures of Solidarity in U.S. Coal Communities, 1912-1990," in Mining Women: Gender in the Development of a Global Industry, 1670 to 2005 ed. Gier and Mercier

Deutsch, Sara. No Separate Refuge: Culture, Class, and Gender on an Anglo-Hispanic Frontier in the American Southwest, 1880-1940 (Oxford, 1987)

connects gender and community-based activism in the coal fields and has section on Ludlow as well


Women and the Labor Movement

Dorothy Sue Cobble, The Other Women's Movement Workplace Justice and Social Rights in Modern America

Alice Kessler-Harris, In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men, and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in 20th-Century America

more sources to come as we launch out new website!!!


"Sit Down and Read.

Educate Yourselves for the Coming Conflict."


Shoes for tent city evicted in W. Virginia

Mother Jones in Seattle

Mother Jones and Copper Miners and their families, in Calumet, Michigan strike of 1913


Mother Jones believed in organizing entire communities. She brought that style to Colorado and elsewhere .


Some Children of Ludlow Tent Colony

Mother Jones and Sid Hatfield in Center, with organizers for West Virginia

Organizers faced the forces of strikebreaking and repression in what Mother Jones called "feudal" W. Virginia.

This led to some of the most dramatic moments in U.S. labor history.



Mother Jones Monument, Mt. Olive, Illinois

Top of the Mother Jones monument, Mt. Olive Illinois




Mother Jones puppets have travelled the world to put the spotlight on violations of workers' rights.



"Old Mother Jones" under house arrest during the Paint Creek-Cabin Creek Mine wars