Articles and Books:

Gorn, E. J. (2001). Mother Jones: The most dangerous woman in america. New York: Hill and Wang.

Grossman, J. (1975). The coal strike of 1902 – Turning point in U.S. policy. United States Department of Labor. Retrieved from

Jones, M. H. (1925). Autobiography of Mother Jones. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Company.

McFarland, C. (1971). Crusade for chil laborers: Mother Jones and the march of the mill children. Pennsylvania History, 38(3), 283-296. Retrieved from

Anthracite coal strike is settled. (1923, September 2). The New York Times,


Pictures and videos:

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Posted by on December 12, 2011 in Works Cited


Why the Rhetoric of Mother Jones Worked

Songs and Slogans: They help bring people together and make them active members of the movement.

Labeling: Through words, “miners” carries a positive connotation and “government” or “mill owner” carries a negative connotation.

Devils: The devils are omnipotent and omnipresent foreigners. In this case, Mother Jones makes it clear that the mill owners and the government are the ones to blame. They are the devils.
“God almighty made women and the Rockefeller gang of thieves made the ladies.” – Targeting the wealthy.
“Life comes to the miners out of their deaths, and death out of their lives.” – Showing the miners as victims.
Ridicule: It is almost impossible to counter-attack ridicule that is set up to dehumanize the opposer, or the “devils”. Mother Jones used many types of ridicule to paint the coal mine owners in a negative light, and people took her words to heart.
“In Georgia where children work day and night in the cotton mills they have just passed a bill to protect song birds. What about the little children from whom all song is gone?” – portraying inconsistencies in institutional beliefs
“I asked a man in prison once how he happened to be there and he said he had stolen a pair of shoes. I told him if he had stolen a railroad he would be a United States Senator.” – silly, trivial, comical
“I am not unaware that leaders betray, and sell out, and play false.” – getting personal and attacking the leaders

Obscenity: She used startling statements that most people would not predict would come out of an old woman’s mouth.

“I’m not a humanitarian. I’m a hell-raiser.”

Non-verbal and Symbolic Acts: The Children’s March was an excellent symbolic act. Mother Jones showed a number of children hurt from their labor, which got nation-wide exposure to the issue.

Mother Jones did an excellent job providing people with an identification: “I am not an anti to anything which will bring freedom to my class.” She made it known that they were fighting for the rights of their class, together.

“I nursed men back to sanity who were driven to despair. I solicited clothes for the ragged children, for the desperate mothers. I laid out the dead, the martyrs of the strike.” She also did a great job making it know that their group contained the victims, and that they had been wronged by the “devils”.
She uses words that play on the emotions: “Little girls and boys, barefooted, walked up and down between the endless rows of spindles, reaching thin little hands into the machinery to repair snapped threads.”
Mother Jones is an extremely persuasive woman, using many slogans and compelling quotes to gain support. She created devils and encouraged those she identified with (the working/mining class) to stand up for their rights.
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Posted by on December 12, 2011 in Successful Rhetorical Agency


The Role of Music and Slogans in the Coal Mining Strikes

Songs have a number of advantages over texts. Mother Mary Jones was a firm believer that music could bring people together during a strike. It gives protesters a license to challenge, exaggerate and pretend. Protesters become active participants, and the act of singing can enhance self-persuasion. Songs can energize and reinforce beliefs.

In the case of Mother Jones, songs also became a way to honor her leadership and persuade others to be more like her in their lives, which made them more apt to join a movement.

Slogans were also very powerful in this movement because Mother Jones had poignant quotes that people took to heart and ran with. They were mosly spontaneous slogans, words of Mother Jones that people latched onto. Certain key words, like hell-raiser and human rights showed up often.


The Children’s Crusade

“Little girls and boys, barefooted, walked up and down between the endless rows of spindles, reaching their little hands into the machinery to repair snapped threads. They crawled under machinery to oil it. They replaced spindles all day long, all day long; all night through. Tiny babies six years old with faces of sixty, did an eight hour shift for ten cents a day.”


Mother Jones travelled throughout the United States agitating against companies that hired children and women to work in hazardous conditions. In 1903 she organized children working in mills and mines in the “Children’s Crusade.” In a march from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Oyster Bay, New York, Jones and her supporters ended up at the home of President Theodore Roosevelt with banners demanding “We want to go to School and not the mines!” Though Roosevelt refused to meet with them, the marchers brought the issue of child labor into public awareness.

Many of the children were just ten years old, in spite of the 1903 Pennsylvania child labor statute which prohibited the employment of children under thirteen years of age. Statistics concerning the unlawful employment of children were staggering. In 1901 there were 1,161,524 children officially en rolled in the schools of the Keystone state, but average daily attendance was only 847,445. The other 314,079 were at work in mill and mine. 

In mid-June the fighting spirit of the textile workers was high. Prominent labor leaders like John Mitchell of the United Mine Workers and Socialist Eugene V. Debs were either in Philadelphia or reported as planning to visit the strikers in the near future. Conferences, meetings, and public gatherings had created a solidarity rare among industrial workers of that era. It was therefore possible for “Mother” Jones to turn from her customary role as an inspirational “Joan of Arc” to an active crusader against child labor. She had no difficulty finding support. On June 17, two days after her arrival, hundreds of textile workers led by machine-mangled and deformed children conducted a monster parade through the streets of Philadelphia. They carried signs which read: “We Want to Go to School” and “A Full Dinner Pail and an Hour to Empty It.”

 In 1903 Jones organized children, who were working in mills and mines at the time, to participate in the “Children’s Crusade”, a march from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Oyster Bay, New York, the home of President Theodore Roosevelt. Mother Jones noted that many of the children at union headquarters had missing deformities and disabilities, and she attempted to get newspaper publicity about the conditions in Pennsylvania regarding child labor. However, the mill owners held stock in essentially all of the newspapers. When the newspaper men informed her that they could not advertise the facts about child labor because of this, she remarked “Well, I’ve got stock in these little children and I’ll arrange a little publicity.”

Permission to see President Roosevelt was denied. It was suggested that Jones address a letter to the president requesting a visit with him, so she did just that. Even though Mother Jones wrote a letter (see other post) for such permission, she never received an answer. Though the President refused to meet with the marchers, the incident brought the issue of child labor to the forefront of the public agenda.


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Posted by on December 12, 2011 in Children's March


A Letter to the President

Dear Sir,

Being citizens of the United States of America, we, members of the textile industry, take the liberty of addressing this appeal to you. As chief executive of the United States, you are in a sense, our father and leader, and as such we look to you for advice and guidance. Perhaps the crime of child slavery has never been forcibly brought to your notice.

Yet, as father of us all, surely the smallest detail must be of interest to you. In Philadelphia, Pa., there are ninety thousand (90,000) textile workers who are on strike, asking for a reduction from sixty to fifty-five hours a week. With machinery, Mr. President, we believe that forty-eight hours is sufficient.

If the United States senate had passed the eight-hour bill, this strike might not have occurred. We also ask that the children be taken from the industrial prisons of this nation, and given their right of attending schools, that in years to come better citizens will be given to the republic.

These little children, raked by cruel toil beneath the iron wheels of greed, are starving in this country which you have declared is in the height of prosperity slaughtered, ten hours a day, every day in the week, every week in the month, every month in the year, that our manufacturing aristocracy may live to exploit more slaves as the years roll by.

We ask you, Mr. President, if our commercial greatness has not cost us too much by being built upon the quivering hearts of helpless children? We who know of these sufferings have taken up their cause and are now marching toward you in the hope that your tender heart will counsel with us to abolish this crime.

The manufacturers have threatened to starve these children and we seek to show that no child shall die of hunger at the will of any manufacturer in this fair land. The clergy, whose work this really is, are silent on the crime of ages, and so we appeal to you.

It is in the hope that the words of Christ will be more clearly understood by you when he said “Suffer little children to come unto me.” Our destination is New York City, and after that Oyster Bay. As your children, may we hope to have the pleasure of an audience? We only ask that you advise us as to the best course.

In Philadelphia alone thousands of persons will wait upon your answer, while throughout the land, wherever there is organized labor, the people will anxiously await an expression of your sentiments toward suffering child hood.

On behalf of these people, we beg that you will reply and let us know where we may expect an audience.

The reply should be addressed to Mother Jones’ Crusaders, en route according to the daily papers.

We are very respectfully yours.

Mother Jones, Chairman Committee Charles Sweeney, Edward A. Klingersmith, Emanuel Hanson, Joseph Diamond

The tone of the letter was diplomatic. “Mother” Jones did not challenge the proud Chief Executive, but tactfully asked him for advice and for an opportunity to discuss the problems of child labor.

The reaction of the press and government officials, however, was startling. Preparation for a war had been talked about to combat the strikers. It was unwarranted.

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Posted by on December 12, 2011 in Children's March


Part of Mother Jones’s Speech at the March

As she spoke, she lifted two small boys to the table and said:

“One of these little boys has had his tongue taken out by the machinery; the other has had his hand almost severed in the mills.The mansions of the rich were built on the broken bones, the quivering hearts and drooping heads of these children.”

Then she attacked the press for its failure to publicize the evil effects of child labor because the mill owners had “stock” in their newspapers.

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Posted by on December 12, 2011 in Children's March


“Christianity and the Social Crisis” (1907) -Walter Rauschenbusch

An excerpt from Christianity and the Social Crisis (1907) by Walter Rauschenbusch.

“Will the twentieth century mark for the future historian the real adolescence of humanity, the great emancipation from barbarism and from the paralysis of injustice, and the beginning of a progress in the intellectual, social, and moral life of mankind to which all past history has no parallel?”

“It will depend almost wholly on the moral forces which the Christian nations can bring to the fighting line against wrong, and the fighting energy of those moral forces will again depend on the degree to which they are inspired by religious faith and enthusiasm.”