Proceedings of the 1922 UMWA Convention


Mother Jones at her desk

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Serious health issues took their toll on Jones in the early part of the 1920s, but she refused to give up working to assist laborers across the country. Her efforts attracted international attention, as she was invited to speak at the Pan-American Federation of Labor Conference in Mexico City in 1921.She returned to West Virginia in 1920-21, but was limited to occasional speeches.

In February 1922, Jones would make another appearance at the United Mine Workers of America convention in Indianapolis. This convention is noteworthy as it saw the continuance of a revolt against United Mine Workers president John L. Lewis by a faction led by Alexander Howat of Kansas' District 14. Lewis had declared Howat and his allies in violation of union contracts with operators due to their vehement opposition to the Kansas Industrial Relations Act. It was a debate that would consume the UMWA through 1924, with Howat and others being expelled from the union. In her speech, Jones warned of internal dissension and encouraged cooperation. "You must realize, my friends, that we are facing a crisis in the industrial organizations of the world; you must realize that the enemy who has been fighting from the outside is now boring from within. You must wake up to the fact that all of us make mistakes at times, but there is a way for us to remedy those mistakes. Let us do it quietly, sanely and in a business-like way."

UMWA Convention 1922 - Jones speech.pdf

Jones speech at 1922 UMWA convention

She may not have been aware of it at the time, but this speech would be her last before the United Mine Workers' convention. Lewis did not reappoint her as an organizer in 1922, ending her relationship with the national union. Though she remained in contact with her allies within the union and continued for the next two years to make appearances at labor events, Jones' public work was effectively over.



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

1.What reasons does Jones give for her support of Alexander Howat?

2. Does Jones give any indication in her speech that she believes that it would be her last to the UMWA?