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Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America Reprint Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0809070947
ISBN-10: 0809070944
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"Pray for the dead but fight like hell for the living" was the rallying cry that made Mother Jones (n‚e Mary Harris) one of the most famous union organizers and rabble-rousers. This highly engaging biography (the first since 1974) charts the life and work of one of the U.S.'s most important and captivating political figures. Born into an impoverished Irish family in County Cork in 1837, she immigrated to North America at age 15. After working as a seamstress and teacher, Harris married George Jones, a member of the International Iron Molders Union. At 30 she was widowed when her husband and four young children died in a yellow fever epidemic. Caught up in the mid-century's roiling labor and social upheavals, Jones threw herself into the political fray. Speaking tirelessly and effectively for the rights of workers and unionists--often using bold, flagrantly rhetorical and poetic metaphors--"Mother" Jones reached the height of her fame and influence by 1913 when, in her 70s, she campaigned for the United Mine Workers in West Virginia, where she was arrested for conspiracy to commit murder (she had urged striking minors to protect their families against the military brought in to break the strike). Gorn, professor of history at Purdue University, has successfully separated fact from myth (some of it promoted by Jones in her Autobiography), situating Jones's story within a wider cultural frame. Exploring issues from the complicated role of women in union organizing to the relationship of the Catholic Church to the working class and labor movements, he has produced a new and needed addition to contemporary labor and feminist literature.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Gorn (history, Purdue; A Brief History of American Sports) restores Mother Jones from leftist poster icon to imperfect flesh-and-blood radical. The author successfully fills in the gaps and puts Mother Jones's remarkable life into context. Before becoming a labor organizer and Socialist tribune, Jones witnessed the Irish potato famine, became an educated woman against heavy odds, and lost her children and husband to disease. In her efforts to unionize the working class, she pitted her courage, oratory, and organizing talents against the industrial robber barons and their government allies. Yet she deliberately clouded her past and often shaded the truth to promote her mythic status as "Mother" to the nation's toilers, and at times she was na ve and patronizing. This engaging biography recalls an almost forgotten American radicalism and reminds readers that the Gilded Age fa ade hid an industrial system built on exploited labor and poverty. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries. Duncan Stewart, State Historical Society of Iowa Lib., Iowa City
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang; Reprint edition (April 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809070944
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809070947
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #641,469 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Elliott Gorn has written an excellent biography of Mary Harris Jones, better known as Mother Jones. Gorn has applied critical analysis to his meticulous and quite impressive research--this was not an easy woman to pin down, and Gorn has managed with limited materials to convey the essence of her life. In doing so, he tells three simultaneous stories, all significant for a broad view of American history. First is the story of Mary Jones herself. Her life was both tragic and triumphant, and Gorn treats it with sensitivity and a light touch, conjecturing at times to what she must have felt, but never presuming to be inside her head or heart. The second story is the story of the American labor movement, particularly that of the United Mine Workers, and their struggle against BIG CAPITAL. Gorn does not overemphasize the uneven nature of this struggle, nor does he dwell on the massive injustices against the mine workers by mine owners, coal interests, and even the Federal Government. He gives it to us straight. The facts speak for themselves. But Gorn presents the facts in the context of Jones's life and her struggle, and never preaches. He lets the history--a history too seldom told--be revealed through the contours of Jones's life. Which leads to the third story: the story of American self-invention. Mary Jones invented herself, and went to great lengths to sustain an identity that would allow her, as a woman and a mother, to become one of the toughest and most feared labor organizers in American history--not a normal or accepted role for women, generally during her lifetime. Throughout these three stories, Gorn engages the notion of gender in late Victorian and early twentieth century US history. This, too, he does with a subtle hand and a light touch, totally without jargon. The book is thoroughly enjoyable, accessible to all readers, and interesting in its own right. Plus it sheds light on important processes in American history. I highly recommend it.
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Format: Hardcover
Elliott J. Gorn has written a well-researched biography of one of Labor's greatest spokesperson. Gorn writes a complete book on Mother Jones, Mary Jones, and even Mary Harris -- the person AND the persona. His objectivity allows him to correct Mother Jones' revisionist history of her own life and her achievements, even as he praises her deep committment and her probable rationale for exaggerating her achievements. One slight criticism is that Gorn on occasion follows one aspect of the Labor movement (or Mother's) struggle, then goes back in time to pick up another thread. In his great favor, though, Gorn details the incorrect details and unfair attacks of other authors, both of her day and later. If you read only one book on Mother Jones, this should be it.
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Format: Paperback
A lot of good detail is presented in this biography, a lot of moral force worth bringing to our attention.

Many of us are curently such spoiled and cowardly workers that we need historians like Ellliott J. Gorn to give us a dose of a truth that most of our employers, politicians and media don't want us to be exposed to. Is "American Idol" on? I suppose we do need someone else to shake up.

From the historical record, it may not have been possible to uncover more of what made Mary Jones into Mother Jones: what it seems, as a historian and not a psychologist, Gorn has wisely done is to show how the conditions of Mary Jone's times presented her with challenges which she responded to bravely. You or I may have dodged the same challenges but not Mother Jones. It is well worth Mary Jones and Gorn showing us what is possible.

Mother Jones eschewed religion, socialist parties, and the IWW. If without an answer, she demanded answers of those who we might have thought could help us. She knew what common folk were capable of but she also insisted on leaders being leaders and not servants of the rich.

Hard times are upon us. Globalization and war machinery of unprecended strength and concentrations of wealth threaten all working people, whether in the United States, Mexico, India, China, Uganda, Peru, or Antarctica. Mother Jones did not cater to national or religious boundaries. I hope I can rouse myself from my reading of this book as I suggest you do. We have hope if we don't delay.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Elliott J. Gorn's scholarly yet engaging biography of Mother Jones (the woman and the icon) has both enlightened and inspired me. A fearless activist, an orator, and by her own words, a "hell raiser", Mary Harris Jones led armies of miners, steel and mill workers to fight for their right to freely organize, and for their right to earn a livable wage under humane conditions. She saw life as a battle between the economic classes and believed government to be a "prisoner of capital."

That Elliott Gorn, a professor of history at Purdue Univesity and author of The Manly Art: Bare-Knuclke Prize Fighting in America, and A Biref History of American Sports, should be enthused enough about the life and times of an old woman in Victorian dress to write her story, has earned my respect as well. Gorn brings to life the woman in well-researched, elucid prose. His understanding of the Progressive Era is fully evident. While acknowledging her failures and inconsistencies, Gorn recognizes and identifies her singular lifelong passion, committment, and her power. Mother Jones was far more than a fiesty old lady who meddled in labor affairs. Professor Gorn shows why she was considered by wealthy operators, capitalists and "lap dog politicians" to be "the most dangerous woman in America."

As a 56-year-old woman, I took heart that I can still make a difference in the world, that through the power of words I can still be influential. After all, by Mother Jones' yardstick I'm still in the infancy of my career. Friday Night Knife and Gun Club
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