"Mother Jones Arrested in City," 1913; Jones to Terence Powderly, 1913

John Worth Kern.jpg

Senator John Worth Kern

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

     In 1911, Jones left the Socialist Party, lamenting that it seemed more focused on politics and accepting middle- and upper-class membership than on helping the common man. That same year, she returned to the United Mine Workers of America as a paid organizer, though she had been working in the role unofficially prior to that. A new strike and the rolling back of union recognition in West Virginia led Jones back there in the summer of 1912. In an August 4th speech to miners, she encouraged them to defend themselves if necessary and called upon the state government to disarm mine guards (click here to see more on this speech in the "Catholics and Industrialization" exhibit).

     In response to escalating violence in the state, Governor William Glasscock  appointed a commission to recommend a settlement between the mine operators and the union. At the same time, though, he instituted martial law in the strike zone and sent in National Guard troops to disarm both sides.   

Jones arrested.pdf

"'Mother' Jones Arrested in City"

By early 1913, the commission completed its term without accomplishing much in the way of a settlement, and troops were withdrawn. However, further violence led to the National Guard's return. This time, Jones called for a meeting with Glasscock, as she and the unionists believed that only union men were being arrested by troops and not mine guards. She led a march in Charleston to seek an audience with the governor with a petition that stated the marchers' concerns. However, biographer Elliot Gorn notes that the Charleston Daily Gazette claimed that the marchers were there to try and assassinate the governor, and practically upon arrival in the capital city, Jones and others were arrested and transported to Pratt, West Virginia, where they were indicted by a military prosecutor and imprisoned. While others were eventually released, Jones was held for three months. "Just think what the tools of the alagarchy [sic] can decend [sic] to," she wrote to Terence Powderly. "I know they are death on me for I have cost them hundreds of thousands of Dollars."

     Though in jail, Jones still found a way to make a difference. Her correspondence to Indiana Senator John Worth Kern bolstered his demand for a Senate investigation into labor violations in West Virginia, which the Senate authorized. This led new West Virginia Governor Henry D. Hatfield to release Jones from prison. During her incarceration, the UMWA and mine operators agreed to a settlement that Jones accepted but with which she was not totally satisfied. Militant miners, angered by the settlement, continued wildcat strikes in some areas. This, along with the Senate investigation, finally induced operators to offer the union recognition. Gorn notes that this was probably Jones’ greatest success.


Jones to Powderly, 3/3/1913


As you read these documents, reflect on the following questions:

1. What are the differences between the newspaper's account of Jones' arrest and Jones' account in her letter to Powderly?

2. According to Jones, why was she arrested?