Plaque, John Redmond Street
Mary Harris was an extraordinary Cork woman, nicknamed Mother Jones. She tried to get better conditions and pay for ordinary workers across America. She was once called ‘the most dangerous woman in America’.
Mary was born in Cork, probably in 1837. When she was ten she left with her family for Canada, to escape the terrible conditions in Ireland during the Famine. Mary worked as a schoolteacher, moved to Chicago, then Memphis and married George Jones. In 1867 George and their four young children died from yellow fever.
Back in Chicago alone, she set up a dress shop but lost everything in a fire in 1871. She now began helping workers to organise themselves to improve the terrible conditions in their factories and mines. She arranged strikes, when workers refused to do their jobs unless things improved. She was famous for her powerful speeches and her bravery, including in prison.
Mother Jones also helped children forced to work in factories and mines from an early age and tried to give them the chance to go to school. In 1903, she led a march of the children to the American President’s house. He refused to meet them, but the march encouraged new laws to improve children’s working conditions.
Mother Jones died in 1930. She is still remembered as a campaigner in America and here in Ireland. This Mother Jones memorial was put up in 2012.