Selected Moments of the 20th Century

A work in progress edited by Daniel Schugurensky
Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)

1903

Mother Jones leads demonstration, says working children belong in schools

 

Hear the wail of the children, who never have a chance to go to school, but work ten to eleven hours a day in the textile mills.

- Mary Harris Jones, during the march of mill children, July 28, 1903

At the end of July, 1903, Mary Harris (also known as Mother Jones), lead a caravan of striking children from the textile mills of Lexington, Pennsylvania, to the home of President Theodore Roosevelt at Oyster Bay, New York, to call attention to the problems of child labor. During the demonstration, she said: "Hear the wail of the children, who never have a chance to go to school, but work ten to eleven hours a day in the textile mills." In a letter to the president, she stated: "I have espoused the cause of the laboring class in general and of suffering children in particular. The children [must be] freed from the workshops and sent to school". Mary Harris' life is a lesson in overcoming tragedy. She not only lost her husband and four small children in a yellow-fever epidemic in 1867, when she was 37 years old, but also lost her home and a newly established business to a fire four years later. After that, and for almost six decades, Mother Jones dedicated all her time and effort to trade-union activism, and to improving the lives of young children working in mines, fields, and factories. After the 'children's march,' Harris worked in the cotton mills in Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina to collect evidence of child labor conditions. She was a strong advocate for the elimination of child labor and for the universalization school access.

Source:

Rippa, S. Alexander (1997). Education in a free society: An American History. New York: Longman.

DS, 1999

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