Mary Harris was called Mother Jones because of her white hair. But the little lady swore like a trooper and had the energy of a battalion. She said, "I'm not a humanitarian. I'm a hell-raiser!" The police soon called her a public nuisance. They arrested her. When the judge asked who gave her a permit to speak on the streets, she said, "Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams!" Mother Jones was sent to jail again and again. Each time she got out, she went right back to speaking out for workers. She worked in an Alabama cotton mill, and vividly described the plight of the children employed there: "Little girls and boys, barefooted, walked up and down between the endless rows of spindles, reaching thin little hands into the machinery to repair threads. They crawled under machinery to oil it. They replaced spindles all day long; all night through, six-year-olds with faces of sixty did an eight-hour shift for ten cents a day."
Some said this was no different than slavery. Something needed to be done. Laws were needed to make conditions safe for all workers. It was the people who shouted outpeople like Mother Joneswho made those laws happen. "The militant, not the meek, shall inherit the earth," said Mother Jones.