Today in Labor History: Fighting Mary and Mother Jones

On November 30, 1854, “Fighting Mary” Eliza McDowell, also known as the “Angel of the Stockyards,” was born in Chicago. McDowell began a lifetime of social reform at Hull House, under the guidance of pioneering social worker Jane Addams. Among her many accomplishments for the benefit of poor working class families living “back of the yards,” McDowell helped organize the first women’s local union of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters in 1902. Membership grew to more than 1,000, comprised predominantly of the low-paid women working in packinghouse canning and labeling operations.

Mary Harris “Mother” Jones died November 30, 1930. An Irish-American schoolteacher and dressmaker, she became a labor and community organizer. She helped coordinate major strikes and co-founded the Industrial Workers of the World. Mother Jones died at the Burgess Farm in Adelphi, Md. She is known for this quote “I’m not a lady, I’m a hell-raiser!”

The book Mother Jones Speaks: Speeches and Writings, edited by Philip S. Foner, is a comprehensive collection of her speeches, letters, articles, interviews and testimony before Congressional committees. In her own words, this brave and determined heroine to millions of workers, active from the end of the Civil War until shortly before her death, explains her life, her mission and her passion on behalf of working people.

Workday Minnesota, and Wikipedia contributed to this story.

Photo: Mother Jones, Wikimedia Commons


Joelle Fishman
Joelle Fishman

Joelle Fishman chairs the Connecticut Communist Party USA. She is a Commissioner on the City of New Haven Peace Commission, serves on the executive board of the Alliance of Retired Americans in Connecticut and is an active member of many economic rights and social justice organizations. She was a candidate for Congress from 1973 to 1982, maintaining minor-party ballot status for the Communist Party in Connecticut's Third Congressional District. As chair of the CPUSA Political Action Commission, she has played an active role in the broad labor and people's alliance that defeated the ultra-right in the 2008 elections and continues to mobilize for health care, worker rights and peace.