Mary Harris "Mother" Jones (1830-1930), was born in County Cork, Ireland, and grew up in Toronto, where her father worked as a railroad construction laborer after immigrating there.
Employed first as a teacher in Monroe, Mich., and then as a dressmaker in Chicago, she resumed teaching in Memphis, where she was married in 1861.
Jones lost her husband and four children to a yellow fever epidemic in 1867, and soon after moved to Chicago where she took up dressmaking again. Losing her business in the Chicago fire in 1871, she became active in the Knights of Labor
and, during the railroad strike of 1877,
went to Pittsburgh to assist the strikers. From that time on, she labored as an organizer, working particularly with miners but also on behalf of child laborers and a wide range of others, including textile, streetcar, and steelworkers. She remained active in labor affairs into her nineties.