Mother Jones & Illinois' rebel miners

I-55 Waggoner

Coalfield Rest Area, Southbound I-55/Mother Jones & Illinois' rebel miners
Mother Jones Heritage Project
Written By Mother Jones Heritage Project

Mother Jones fearlessly questioned corporate rule and earned the title “the grandmother of all agitators.” She is a figure who lives on because the issues she raised are still of concern to us, still relevant in the twenty-first century.

“I took to organizing in the coal fields. When asked, Mother Jones where do you live? I say, wherever the workers are fighting the robbers, there am I. We have broken the chains of chattel slavery. Now industrial slavery is the battle you are in.” Mother Jones (1837-1930)

Mother Jones was the most well-known coalfield organizer, and many of the men who were leaders started their life as child laborers. They identified Mother Jones as the mother for all workers, calling them to make their families lives better. From the 1860s on, coal operators were part of a power structure that drove the politics of Illinois. But miners organized, too, and eventually they came to many conflicts, that we term mine wars. Many of the sites of these mine wars and other big events in coal history are along Route 66, so we dub them the "Mother Jones" road instead of Mother Road!

Memories of two union leaders of their childhood: “Some were so little that their dinner buckets dragged the ground. Working conditions couldn’t have been more dangerous than they were in these old mines.” “Wages were very low, particularly for child labor. At age 12, I went down as a trapper boy who handles the ventilating doors. It was cold and lonely sitting down there in the dark all day.”

“In all the world, there was never a [more diverse] group of men working together than those in the mines of the USA! From all the lands they’d come, or their parents before them, hoping for a better life, which they definitely didn’t find in the coal mines of America. The majority of miners didn’t speak much English. No one had any sympathy for the ground-hogs as they called the miners.”

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Coalfield Rest Area, Southbound I-55

Mother Jones & Illinois' rebel miners

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