Best Monument

Mother Jones Memorial

If Mother Jones were still alive, she would probably curse the magazine that bears her name for not being radical enough. The hell-raising labor organizer is buried in Mount Olive, Ill. In 1936, six years after her death, the Progressive Mine Workers of America built a monument in her honor at the Union Miners Cemetery on the outskirts of this small Illinois town about a 45-minute drive northeast of St. Louis on Interstate 55. More than 50,000 people attended the dedication ceremonies, which were carried live on KMOX-AM. The monument stands 22 feet tall and is made of 80 tons of pink Minnesota granite. To this day, the site remains hallowed ground among supporters of organized labor. No one in the annals of labor history, including Joe Hill, the legendary Wobbly, holds higher stature than Mary Jones. Given the opportunity, however, she would likely dismiss such an accolade in short order. During her life, she simply didn't have time for such poppycock. One of her most memorable and oft-repeated slogans was "Pray for the dead, but fight like hell for the living." For more than a half-century, she lived by those words. Mary Harris was born in County Cork, Ireland, on May 1, 1830. After emigrating to the United States, she married George Jones, a Memphis ironworker, in 1861. Six years later, her husband and four children died in a yellow-fever epidemic. The loss of her family prompted her to move to Chicago, where she first became active in the labor movement in the early 1870s. Over the next several decades, Jones fought with striking workers from West Virginia to Colorado and defied the hired goons of John D. Rockefeller. At age 83, Mother Jones was tried and convicted by a military court in West Virginia for conspiring to commit murder during a strike. The governor of the state later rescinded the judgment. In addition to helping organize miners, Jones spoke out against the exploitation of child labor in textile mills. Since her death, she has been criticized for lending all her support to the male-dominated labor movement and shunning the women's-suffrage movement of her day. But on her 100th birthday, Jones told the Associated Press: "Women have great power in their hands, if they knew how to use it. But capitalists put them into women's clubs and try to make ladies out of them. Nobody wants a lady; they want women; ladies are parlor parasites."
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