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Mother Jones

Her Other Battles 1913–1919

The Colorado Coal War 1913–1915

Steel Strike 1919

The Colorado campaign was a defeat for the miners, and a defeat for the union, but Mother Jones had become famous. She continued to campaign on behalf of the miners and also testified in front of the federal commission on the violence of the mine guards and the company detectives. In addition, although the strike in Colorado had failed, Mother Jones continued to campaign on behalf of the imprisoned workers and union organizers, some of who had been accused of murder. No guardsmen were accused or detained, even though they were clearly involved in the shootings and massacres.

In February of 1915, Mother Jones continued her work with garment workers in Chicago, and in 1917 she rallied on behalf of streetcar workers in Bloomington, Illinois. Now in her eighties, she waged a campaign to urge workers to shut down the streetcars. Their efforts were successful, and management recognized the union and granted concessions to its workers. From this streetcar struggle, Mother Jones moved on to another one in Westchester, New York. She was accused of inciting riots, even though violence and rioting had occurred before her arrival.

Mother Jones continued to defend activists who had been incarcerated. One of these, Thomas J. Mooney, had been sentenced to death after a bomb exploded in San Francisco during a pro-war parade. Mooney was against the United States's entering World War I, an unpopular stance that made him unpopular in the public eye. Although the testimony against Mooney was obviously perjured, he was sentenced to death. Mother Jones continued to speak in his defense, and persuaded others to do the same. She even spoke at a meeting of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, an organization that advocated the banning of all alcoholic beverages, which she had previously criticized. Shortly before Mooney's execution, the governor of California changed his sentence to life imprisonment in 1918, and in 1939, he was finally freed.

Mother Jones returned to West Virginia in 1917. The war had increased the price of coal, and the miners used the opportunity to demand a share of the increased revenues. A no-strike clause had been imposed because of the war, but Mother Jones and many of the militants refused to honor the law. The law in question, the Lever Act, endorsed the right to collective bargaining as long as a no- strike policy was maintained. However, the living conditions in West Virginia mine towns were terrible, and Mother Jones likened them to slave huts. In these towns, there was no care for the sick, and the people lived in a condition of desolate poverty.

One of the issues that Mother Jones spoke out against was the right of women to vote, although this movement was rapidly gaining popular support. Although Mother Jones viewed the participation of women as integral to the success of the strikes, she spoke out against the women's suffrage movement, which she felt alienated working class women. Mother Jones felt that corporations bought off elected officials, which meant that women's votes would have no impact on the economic system. She saw women's suffrage as something that distracted women from the more important class struggle. She also, to a certain extent, took a very traditional view of family structure, and felt that women's primary duties were at home. Summing up her opposition to the suffrage movement, Mother Jones declared "You don't need a vote to raise hell! You need convictions and a voice!"

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