Special Collections & University Archives
Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Mary  Harris "Mother" Jones

1921 was a tumultuous  year for the United States as President Warren Harding tried to guide the nation back to “normalcy" and the Panic of 1921 created problems  for industrial leaders and the labor force.  Strikes also highlighted  the events of the year with the West Virginia coal fields as a major battleground. The leaders of the District  17 of the United Mine Workers realized that to continue organizing the state’s coal miners they had to gain access to Logan and Mingo counties. "Mother" Mary Harris Jones and Bill Blizzard played major roles in pushing unionization.

Photograph of Mother Jones from Library of Congress Website

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“Mother” Jones viewed the episode as a major battle in the ongoing struggle between the producers and the parasites. She asserted that the outcome of the conflict would determine the future of coal miners and their families and communities.  More broadly,  the nation’s future hinged on who would triumph.  To create the good society, which she sought, required that workers prepare themselves for with education to produce a just and free society.  



She complimented John Brophy, President of UMWA District # 2, on his efforts to promote labor education.  These initiatives  would continue and grow as District 2 hosted speakers, published a newspaper and conducted a Labor Chautauqua. “Mother” Jones indicated that she had other invitations to be a Labor Day speaker, including requests from West Virginia miners.  However, her first preference was to be in District  2 for the occasion.  Her motivation included her admiration for Brophy, her respect for William Wilson, a former District 2 leader and U.S. Secretary of Labor and her remembrance of Arnot  where she helped to turn defeat into victory in the memorable Arnot Coal Strike of 1899.

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Thus, it was a memorable occasion for the people of Indiana County, especially for numerous coal miners, when “Mother” Jones came to the area in 1921 to deliver a Labor Day address in the same year that she would  travel to Mexico City to participate in a Pan American Labor Convention.

Correspondence from Mother Jones to John Brophy relating to her visit to Indiana is available in the Special Collections and Archives Section of Stapleton Library in Manuscript Group 52. Images of letters and telegrams can be viewed by clicking on the following links:

Letter July 25, 1921

Telegram  August 10, 1921

Telegram August 27, 1921

Letter August 23, 2005 (page 1)  (page 2)

Undated Letter 1

Letter September 21, 1921

For more information from our website:

That Magnificent Fight for Unionism

Coal Dust: The Early Mining Industry of Indiana County

UMWA District 2 Papers

Other Information from the Internet

Autobiography of Mother Jones

Miner's Angel Mother Jones Collection

Mother Jones: The Woman

Books in Our Collection Include:

Primary Sources 
Children’s Books 
Other Secondary Sources
Page created by Theresa McDevitt, Last updated by Harrison Wick on July 7, 2015.