Mother Jones and her Army of Mill Children

  • Words by Jonah Winter.
  • Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. 
  • Published by Schwartz & Wade Books. New York 2020

This book for Children tells the story of the March of the Mill Children led by Mother Jones during July 1903 from Philadelphia to President Roosevelt’s summer mansion in Long Island, New York.

Using many quotes from Mother Jones herself, author Winter  describes it as a “true story that will excite budding young activists and pint-sized agitators alike” to fight for social justice.

Mother Jones speaks directly to children in an outraged tone, when describing the exploitative conditions of young children in the mines, mills and factories of the American Industrial revolution at the beginning of the 20th Century.

The language is blunt, forceful and engage with children’s natural empathy with their oppressed predecessors who were unable to go to school as they worked long hours in terrible conditions.

The illustrations by Nancy Carpenter are first class, with Mother Jones standing out in her dark attire presenting a striking impact in many of the books colourful pages.

“ In her own way, Mother Jones is as important as Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. By law, American children must now go to school and are barred from working in factories – thanks in large part to Mother Jones.”

Jonah Winter

Yet there remain countries where children still work in factories, an estimated 150 – 200 million children, instead of receiving an education, many are still in factories producing clothes for America and Europe in unacceptable conditions. Mother Jones would remain very active today.   

Mother Jones Visits Shandon, before Christmas 1920.

We imagine, if Mother Jones, visited Shandon, before Christmas 1920. During this time, Ireland’s War of Independence was raging, and much of Patrick’s Street in Cork had been recently burned down by the Auxiliaries. The funeral of Terence McSwiney, Lord Mayor of Cork, who died after a 74 day hunger strike in Brixton prison had taken place, through the streets of Cork, a few weeks earlier. Mother Jones, (Joan Goggin) visits her former home near Shandon and walks around the deserted streets, where she played as a child (Aoife Delaney). She recalls her childhood memories, where she, her mother (Eadaoin Delaney) and her family, had once been happy, prior to the Great Famine, and the emigration of her family to Canada.

The funeral of Mother Jones

90 years ago on Monday 8th December 1930 at 10am, Mother Jones was buried at the Union Cemetery, Mount Olive, Illinois.

Earlier on Sunday afternoon Father John Maguire in his funeral oration at the funeral of Mother Jones. 

“Today in gorgeous mahogany furnished and carefully guarded offices in distant capitals, wealthy mine owners and capitalists are breathing sighs of relief. Today among the plains of Illinois, the hillsides and valleys of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, In California, Colorado and British Columbia, strong men and toil worn women are weeping tears of bitter grief. The reason for this contrasting relief and sorrow is the same. Mother Jones is dead!”

Father John Maguire

The photos below from the Illinois Labour History Society give an indication of the impressive burial ceremony .

They show the scene outside St. Gabriel’s Catholic Church in Washington. Among those included at the casket of Mother Jones is William Doak, US Secretary of Labour.

Other photos show the massed ranks of organised labour honouring Mother Jones at Mount Olive