Today in Labor History: Fighting Mary and Mother Jones

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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, dclabor.org and Wikipedia contributed to this story.

Photo: Mother Jones, Wikimedia Commons

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