Today in labor history: Mother Jones leads march of miners’ children

Labor organizer Mother Jones “led a march of miners’ children through the streets of Charleston, W.Va., to illustrate the effects of poverty,” Sept. 21, 1912, amidst the fierce Paint Creek-Cabin Creek 1912-13 coal miners’ strike in that state. Jones had organized a “Children’s Crusade” nine years earlier in 1903, marching from Philadelphia, Pa. to President Theodore Roosevelt’s home in New York demanding child labor laws.

During the Paint Creek strike, Jones spoke and organized through a shooting war between United Mine Workers members and the private army of the mine owners. Martial law in the area was declared and rescinded twice before Jones was arrested on February 13, 1913, brought before a military court. Accused to conspiring to commit murder among other charges, she refused to recognize the legitimacy of her court martial. She was sentenced to twenty years in the state penitentiary. During house arrest at Mrs. Carney’s Boarding House, she acquired a dangerous case of pneumonia. After 85 days of confinement, her release coincided with Indiana Senator John Worth Kern initiating a Senate investigation into the conditions in the local coal mines. Mary Lee Settle paints an accurate and compelling portrait of Jones at this time in her novel The Scapegoat (1978).

A few months later Jones was in Colorado, helping to organize the coal miners there. Once again she was arrested, served some time in prison and was escorted from the state in the months leading up to the Ludlow Massacre.

This trial of an 83-year-old labor agitator who had become known as “the Miners’ Angel” caused such tumult that the United States Senate investigated labor conditions in the coalfields of West Virginia. Historians of labor relations consider the trial a major event in the movement, from the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth century, to protect laborers against low wages, long hours, and dangerous working conditions.

Photo: Mother Jones (Wikipedia)



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Special to People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.