July 7, 1903: "March of the Mill Children"

Labor organizer Mary Harris "Mother" Jones led the "March of the Mill Children" over 100 miles from Philadelphia to Pres. Theodore Roosevelt's Long Island summer home in Oyster Bay, New York, to publicize the harsh conditions of child labor and to demand a 55-hour work week. It is during this march, on about the 24th, she delivered her famed "The Wail of the Children" speech. Roosevelt refused to see them.

The Autobiography of Mother Jones

In the spring of 1903 I went to Kensington, Pennsylvania, where seventy-five thousand textile workers were on strike. Of this number at least ten thousand were little children. The workers were striking for more pay and shorter hours.......

The Wail of the Children This article originally appeared in Mother Jones Speaks, ed. Philip S. Foner, Monad, 1 983

Mary Harris (Mother) Jones - Union Activist

We want President Roosevelt to hear the wail of the children who never have a chance to go to school but work 11 and 12 hours a day in the textile mills of Pennsylvania; who weave the carpets that he and you walk upon; and the lace curtains in your windows, and the clothes of the people. 50 years ago there was a cry against slavery and men gave up their lives to stop the selling of black children on the block. Today the white child is sold for two dollars a week to the manufacturers. 50 years ago the black babies were sold COD4. Today the white baby is sold on the installment plan.

In Georgia where children work day and night in the cotton mills they have just passed a bill to protect song birds. What about the little children from whom all song is gone?

I shall ask the President in the name of the aching hearts of these little ones that he emancipate them from slavery. I will tell the president that the prosperity he boasts of is the prosperity of the rich wrung from the poor and helpless.'

A Few Quotes of "Mother" Mary Jones:

*** Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.

*** My address is like my shoes. It travels with me. I abide where there is a fight against wrong.

*** The employment of children is doing more to fill prisons, insane asylums, almshouses, reformatories, slums, and gin shops than all the efforts of reformers are doing to improve society.

*** I asked a man in prison once how he happened to be there and he said he had stolen a pair of shoes. I told him if he had stolen a railroad he would be a United States Senator.

We need to get back to the idea of a real capitalist society, where all share in the wealth of their labor and investments! We need more "Mother" and "Father" Jones to step forward and rebuild what we once had started and carry that forward, not allowing it to be destroyed again!!

Those who came before fought to hard and we've let that disappear, and yet we think we're more educated!!

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