The luck of the Irish women.

Mary Harris Jones, or Mother Jones, was born in Cork, Ireland. She and her husband, George Jones, had four children.

She lost George and the children to yellow fever.

Mother Jones

Mother Jones

That is how she got involved with unions. She was considered to be old when the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 burned her home and dress shop. She never again had a home.

She once told a news reporter “her address was where her shoes were.”

But with her Irish eyes a-smilin’, she reinvented herself as Mother Jones, wearing a black antique dress in public and exaggerating her age.

Most American women of the era led quiet homebound lives devoted to their families and were not supposed to have opinions — especially elderly women. If they had opinions, they were not supposed to voice them in public.

Mother Jones visited West Virginia in 1900 just as she started to be a union organizer. She came back several times after. She even organized the women with mop and broom brigades.

In 1902 she was called the most dangerous women in America because she organized miners and their families against mine owners. One of her best quotes, and she had many, was “pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”

Information and sources are From Mother Jones magazine, and Mother Jones’ biography.