Mother Jones: A Model of Catholic Action for Today?

“I’m not a humanitarian. I’m a hell-raiser.”  ~ Mother Jones

It was a long drive from South Bend to Jefferson City, and I had a van full of cranky, road-weary kids. We were on I-55 heading south through Illinois to visit Aunt Mary Katherine, and the sooner we got there, the better.

Then a brown highway marker loomed on the horizon, and everybody knew what that meant: A reduction in speed, dad quickly scanning the sign, and then (most likely) a detour and delay as we tracked down a “Point Of Historical Interest.”

To a degree, I sympathized with my children. Those brown highway signs were the bane of my own family vacations growing up—my dad couldn’t resist them. No matter how obscure the event or reference, and regardless of our itinerary or tight schedule, a brown highway sign always meant a stop.

Often, the POHI did turn out to be pretty lame—an empty field that might’ve once held a factory, or maybe a gulley marking the border of a long forgotten settlement. You get the idea.

Sometimes, however, my dad hit paydirt, and a brown sign would lead us to a site of undeniable historical magnitude. In such cases, even my preadolescent stubbornness would give way, and I’d join my father in reveling in a proximal connection with the momentous past.

And that day on I-55 with my own kids? I was sure I had stumbled on a winner.

“Hey, kids,” I called out from the driver’s seat. “It’s the burial place of Mother Jones!”

“Who?” a sleepy voice inquired.

“Mother Jones,” I said, “a famous trouble-maker. Let’s check this out.”

“Nooo-ooo, dad,” came the cry in unison. Too late—we took the off-ramp, and we headed over to Mount Olive and the Union Miners Cemetery.

Once called “the most dangerous woman in America,” Mary Harris Jones was an Irish Catholic dressmaker and schoolteacher who went on to become the most famous (infamous?) labor organizer of her times. After losing her husband and four children to yellow fever in 1867, and then losing everything else in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Mary dedicated the rest of her life to the working poor, and became the de facto face of the labor movement—and its most ardent champion.

For example, when the press refused to cover unsafe mill conditions for child workers in Pennsylvania, she led a Children’s March to President Roosevelt’s residence in New York in 1903—although, in the end, the President refused to see her. On the other hand, Jones was able to meet with the likes of J.D. Rockefeller after a group of striking Colorado coal miners and their families were slaughtered in the 1914 Ludlow Massacre. After meeting with Jones, Rockefeller made the trip out West to visit the mines he owned and then introduced significant reforms.

Jones was probably best known for her solidarity with the miners of West Virginia—her “boys” as she called them—as they agitated for safer working conditions, and she was not afraid to take to the streets with them. She defied strike-breakers, disregarded threats to her life, and was jailed numerous times. Never afraid to take on all comers, Mary tirelessly served all who required her aid, starting with her beloved coal miners—the “slaves of the caves,” as she called them—but virtually anyone else burdened by hardship or injustice. Once, when asked where she actually resided, she replied, “Well, wherever there is a fight.”

Wearing her trademark fusty black dress and hat, Jones crisscrossed the country well into her 70s on behalf of the downtrodden and forgotten—a steadfast dedication that earned her the universal moniker of “Mother.” Even Dorothy Day, no stranger to selfless service, admired her tenacity and resolve:

Right now I’m in a feeble state. Too conscious of my 79 years! But Mother Jones, the great labor organizer, tramped the country from Colorado to West Virginia at a great age!

Despite Mother Jones’s socialist flirtations (and the fact that her name has now become synonymous with an exceptionally “progressive” magazine), she was actually quite a traditionalist. Far from being a proto-feminist, for example, she not only assailed the idea of women entering the workforce (because their absence from the home and child-rearing led to juvenile delinquency), but even fiercely opposed women’s suffrage. “You don’t need the vote,” she would say, “to raise hell!” Moreover, Jones was an unabashed Christian, and “drew heavily on biblical lessons and imagery to inspire her ‘boys’ the union workers and offer them a vision of a happier future” (Catholic University).

Jones died in the arms of the Church in 1930, and she was given a funeral at St. Gabriel’s Church in Washington, D.C. Afterwards, her body was shipped to Illinois where she was honored with another funeral Mass attended by an overflow crowd at Mt. Olive’s Ascension Church. “Because of her great struggle for economic justice,” Father J.W.R. Maquire said in his homily, “she became a world figure.” She was laid to rest in the country’s only union owned cemetery, close by the graves of miners who died in the 1898 Battle of Virden labor conflict.

Of course, none of that mattered to my kids as they clambered about the Mother Jones memorial. They were too young to comprehend such details at the time, and, to tell the truth, I wasn’t even aware of most of them when I insisted on diverting our journey to her resting place. So, aside from paying our respects, what was the point of stopping?

Two reasons at least.

First, to highlight the sacramentality of place. As we drove down the highway, I could’ve just settled for pointing out the roadside sign and making a general comment about Mother Jones, but the act of physically seeking out her grave enfleshed her memory with an actual encounter and it became a pilgrimage. Plus, the towering memorial itself was testimony to the fact that Mother Jones mattered—my kids didn’t have to take my word for it. Finally, a prayer for the repose of her soul said on the road as we sped by the marker would’ve been just as efficacious as the one we said at her graveside, I suppose, but I think our stopping made it all the more seemly, not to mention more edifying.

Second, and maybe more importantly, I wanted to honor Jones’s impetuosity. Although I didn’t know much about her life at the time, I was confident of her reputation as a scrapper and a rabble-rouser, especially on behalf of the poor, and those were traits I definitely wanted to hold up to my family for emulation. “The Christian is not to ‘be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord,’” the Catechism teaches us, quoting St. Paul. “In situations that require witness to the faith, the Christian must profess it without equivocation.” It’s precisely what we hear in the readings these days following Easter as Apostles go about disrupting the peace in Jerusalem.

While Peter and John were still speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees confronted them, and put them in custody. But many of those who heard the word came to believe.

Jones was a show-boater, it’s true, and maybe not always the most prudent. Yet she was absolutely dedicated to the underdogs of her day, and her Catholic formation clearly informed her flamboyant efforts to better their lot. “Pray for the dead,” she famously recommended, summarizing her unique vision of Catholic Action, “and fight like hell for the living.” What’s more, she got others to follow her radical lead. “Wherever she went,” Sinclair Lewis wrote of Jones, “the flame of protest leaped up in the hearts of men.” Truly, Mother Jones lived a life that modeled what the Catechism calls the “transmission of the faith in words and deeds.”

Many years have passed since we made that brief stop in Mount Olive, and I was curious about its lasting impact—if any. So I recently asked my two oldest what they remembered about Mother Jones. “She was a labor organizer,” Joan answered. “Also, it’s a left-wing magazine, I think.”

“Not bad,” I thought to myself. I pressed her for any associated childhood recollections.

“Like what?”

“Like visiting her gravesite.”

“No, you’re kidding, right?” came the answer. “I don’t remember anything like that.”

Ben’s response was even leaner. “Who was she again?”

“Basically an agitator,” I told him. “We visited her burial place once when you were little.”

“You’re such a liberal, dad,” he came back.

Perhaps. Even so, it would seem I’m in good company.

Editor’s note: Pictured above is President Coolidge and Mary Harris “Mother” Jones in 1924. A version of this essay first appeared April 11 on the author’s blog “A Thousand Words a Week.”

Richard Becker


Richard Becker is a husband, father of seven, nursing instructor, and religious educator. He blogs regularly at God-Haunted Lunatic.

  • The Eugenicist authors who have taken over the labor movement have ruined it.

    • St JD George

      I suspect Mother Jones wouldn’t give today’s largely self serving so called agitators the time of day, but I don’t know her well enough to say for sure. I would add Perversity and Godlessness to your list of author resumes.
      It’s sad to see how union bosses have turn their backs on those they are supposed to represent as they sell their souls to become political hacks and just another megaphone and rubber stamp for the new american socialist workers party.

      • hombre111

        I will accept the term “union bosses” if you will accept the term “corporation leeches.”

        • St JD George

          What is your understanding of what a corporation’s obligations are to you?

          • hombre111

            Following Catholic teaching, the whole purpose is for the flourishing of human society, for the Common Good. Corporations which aim only at dividends, high salaries for those at the top, fulfilling Wall Street demands, and to hell with the environment, are a plague, not a blessing. Pope after pope has said this. But to the Right Wing, this is only misguided advice that fails to understand the real world.

            • St JD George

              We may share more in common that you think possible, but view things very differently. I personally don’t feel my company owes me anything than an opportunity to provide my services, and when my services are no longer needed or the market changes I’m happy to go my way. All the companies I work with and have worked for have been very people conscious. Nobody has ever been let go that wasn’t either just due to gross negligence, or due to drastic changes in economic conditions and were legitimate business decisions. I do believe that compensation could and should be more fairly distributed, but I don’t chose to engage in the brand of rage that progressives like to stir every election cycle to divide people either so they can maintain control on power. Besides, if you believe in Jesus’s teachings also then beyond a certain amount that is needed to meet your basic daily needs, excess could be viewed as a burden that will make your passage into heaven just that much more difficult. In fact, I find it peculiar that the very people that they demonize on Wall Street seem to be the people that benefit the most, while the middle class that they claim to love sinks and gets further behind. More service sector jobs created though which is good for the faux employment statistic.

              • hombre111

                Nobody needs to demonize Wall Street. They do that very well on their own, thank you. Bubbles…and then the Great Recession which cost the world one half of its wealth in a few weeks. Probably cost you, if you own stocks or a home or lost your job. Wall Street is doing fine, thank you, but Main Street struggles on.

        • This is rich coming from a guy whose livelihood has always been from the efforts of others.

          • Idler

            Unless you live on a deserted island, all livelihood is based on the efforts of others.

            • I cooperate with others for my livelihood. I am not dependent on them.

    • hombre111

      The labor movement was ruined by young workers who took the sacrifices of their foremothers and forefathers for granted, swallowed the poison pill of individualism, joined the conservatives, and voted for Ronald Reagan and Right to Work. Now they groan as the conservative economic values they supported push them and their children back into poverty. My state is full of these poor fools.

      • Nothing pushed people into poverty more than liberalized divorce. The cost of maintaining two households where there should be one, kills a family’s wealth quicker than anything the conservatives have ever done.

        • Kate

          And we can thank CA Governor Ronald Reagan for no-fault divorce.

          • Exactly. Of course, he was pro-abortion back then also. The court that gave us Roe V. Wade was full of Republican appointees.

          • The earliest precedent in no-fault divorce laws was originally enacted in Russia shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution. They were legislated in the series of decrees that issued in early 1918. The decrees included nonjudicial dissolution of marriage by either party and mandatory provision of child-support.[2] The purpose of the Soviet no-fault divorce laws was ideological, intended to revolutionize society at every level.[3] They were the subject of significant revisional efforts from World War II to the 1960s. Major revisions were concluded in 1968.

          • GG

            Yea, he was the big starter. Right.

            He was no saint but compared to Clinton and Obama he was a saint. Give us a break.

            • So, basically, your Kate is preaching to herself. Not much courage needed for that. She gets to pat herself on the back after the homily that she’s not like those others.
              Paraphrased from her nasty response to Jacob Halo about the EF Mass from a year ago.

        • hombre111

          You are right about the effect of divorce. It is a way into poverty. But by keeping wages at a survival level, as the conservatives have done, many marriages have crashed and burned because of financial stress. And, because wages have stagnated in the midst of even mild inflation, they continue to go down. America is creating an underclass straight out of Charles Dickens.

          • As the world has had before and it will again. Immorality is not the result of poverty.

            • But poverty can be caused by immorality. The world is full of people who’ve fallen into poverty because of a world that says “if it feels good, do it”.

          • LarryCicero

            Squawk! Squawk! It’s all the the fault of conservatives! Divorce? Reagan! Poverty? Capitalists!

            Gimme a cracker.

            • hombre111

              You asked for it. Here is your cracker. I blame both conservatives and liberals for the poverty and the divorce rate.

              • And I blame permissive libertine priests like you.

              • LarryCicero

                “From the heart of the Gospel we see the profound connection between evangelization and human advancement…” Pope Francis-The Joy of the Gospel

                Maybe the failure is one of evangelization.

                • hombre111

                  I agree on the importance of evangelization, but unless we face up the the consequences of the wasteful ways fostered by predatory, high consumption capitalism, we will be evangelizing a world ravaged by the consequences of global warming.

          • Dickens was fiction, but that’s the only genre you know.

      • GG

        Talk about viewing faith through politics. Sheesh.

        • What faith?

          • GG

            Hehehe, true.

        • Kate

          I actually see a lot of “viewing faith through politics” among Catholic conservatives. Instead of letting the Catholic faith (especially on Catholic social justice) mold their political views, they often try to cram the Faith into their politics. I’ve seen over and over again, conservatives immediately put up a wall when issues like labor rights, unions, just wage and unfettered capitalism are discussed. They don’t want to hear what the Church teaches or have already decided that it is irrelevant because it does not fit with their Republicanism. It’s like their two religions – Catholicism and Americanism – are in conflict and they don’t want to deal with the tension, so they just pretend it doesn’t exist.

          • TommyD6of11


            I am a Catholic and I believe in Free Markets. No “wall” here. I am more than happy to debate this with you or anyone else.

            – Labor rights – I support Right to Work

            – Unions – corrupt organizations often with close ties to organized crime, unions today destroy jobs and opportunities for the working class.

            – just wage – this is code for government trying to decide that a traffic guard should get paid the same as skilled construction worked, or that a firefighter and reception should be paid the same, or a doctor and a nurse the same, or that all waiters should get the same pay (tips) because they do the same work (even though one’s a slough and the other hustles). “Just Wage” is just a precursor for Socialism.

            – unfettered capitalism – It was unfettered government that blew up the housing market causing the Great Recession. Capitalism naturally puts a limit on excessive greed and power but offering consumers competitive choices. Government despises competition and enforces its policies at the point of a gun. BTW – who are these wonderful, greed-free, government officials you are so enamored with? Anthony Weiner? Bill Clinton? Harry Reid? The Kennedy’s (seriously, as an Irish American let me tell you, the Kennedy’s are slim balls).

            “It’s like their [they’re] two religions – Catholicism and Americanism”

            Wrong. It’s like there are two religions – Catholicism and Socialism.

          • I was a teenage paper carrier who happened to carry the bag of a newspaper whose workers went on strike. The union (aka the thugs) stole papers (so I could be out on my bike late at night) and engaged in other forms of harassment. These were adults harassing CHILDREN. It’s no accident that the “labor movement” was riddled with violence and corruption. People like Richard Trumka and Andy Stern siphon hundreds of thousands of dollars from people whose conscience rights are trampled by the forced pilfering their money.
            There is no such thing as “unfettered capitalism”, unless one has has special protections of the government.

          • GG

            Well, there are some like that. I will not defend them. The problem is the much bigger group that has done much more harm are the Leftists. Both clergy and laity.

            How many decades have passed that have made leftist political ideology taught as the faith? Too many to count now. The years of pervert left wing control has brought us gayism, contraception, abortion, divorce, fornication, decrees of nullity like snowflakes, no catechesis, pan sexuality, scientism, IVF, transgenderism, welfare state seen as a type of scholarship owed to people based on perceived rights regardless of behavior, moral relativism, sentimentality in place of moral reasoning, and much more I could list.

            Unions? Ha. Perhaps back in 1900 but today they are little more than a mafia type group.

            Just wage? As soon as you define it we can talk.

            Unfettered capitalism. Well there I would partially agree on that we as a culture worship money and orgasm as gods.

      • Once again it is time to ask, when will fulfill your promise to take leave of us?
        The biggest fool in your state is you. It is a distinct lack of self-awareness that allows you to sneer at the flock in condescension, when a proper view would be that you are the fool.

      • TommyD6of11

        Hey, hombre111,
        Which states are prospering under Progressives?

        California? I don’t thing soooo.
        New York? Businesses are fleeing the tax and regulatory oppression and Gov. Cuome spent $28 million to create 76 jobs.
        Michigan? aka the Poster Child of Failed States
        Illinois? Where 4 of 6 governors went to prison.
        Vermont? The Pink Mountain state where there are no jobs for college grads
        Massachusetts? Pull the Federal direct and indirect funding for colleges and Boston will sink into the hArbor.

        Liberal policies have been a disaster for the poor and middle class, yet creates an entrenched elitest, government / crony capitalist aristocracy.

        Used to be you had to be rich to go into politics. Today, you go into politics to get rich.

        • hombre111

          According to last week’s NYT, California is now creating more jobs than Texas. Jobs in New York? I need to Google that. Michigan? It had to fail when the auto industry collapsed. It has not sealed its fate by passing Right to Work. Illinois? Governors went to prison? So what? We are talking economics. Massachusetts? I think gov. support for colleges is a drop in the financial bucket.

          The simple fact is, during the last 24 years, Democrat administrations created 42 million jobs. During the last 28 years, Republican adminstrations created 24 million. Use Google and find out.

          People go into politics, then they become lobbyists or use their influence in other ways. That is how they get rich.

          • TommyD6of11

            a) California creating more jobs than TX: CA is bigger than TX so it should create more jobs, but its rate of job growth is lower than TX. More importantly, CA is going broke. When that happens, CA will bleed even more jobs.

            b) Michigan auto industry failed because the unions the Dems love so much killed it.

            c) Illiinois gov’s going to prison is symptomatic of the ills of big government run by Libs.

            d) Federal support for Higher Ed in 2014 was $167.4 billion. MA got a disproportionate share of this amount – that’s hardly a drop in the bucket.

            e) Your stat on 42 vs 28 million jobs is interesting. But, keep in mind that this Dem job growth mostly took place during Clinton’s administration and Clinton’s economics was essentially Free Markets, Limited Government policies … “the era of Big Goverment is over” … Clinton reduced the government, cut taxes, and implemented Welfare Reform. In fact, “Clintonomics” should really be called “Gingrichomics” since nearly all the policies were Newt Gingrich’s. Unfortunately, Obama has reversed course with dire consequences for America.

            f) Harry Reid never worked outside of gov’t and has a net worth of $10 million. Geez, how’d that happen?

            • hombre111

              1) As for your first point, do an honest Google search.
              2) The Michigan auto industry failed because employers went searching for low wages and no benefits, thus offering a lower standard of life to their workers, but good profits to owners. From a Catholic social justice perspective, this is immoral. But I suspect you don’t know much about Catholic social justice teaching.
              3) Your point about Illinois is still a non-sequitur.
              4) Can’t remember the point you were trying to make.
              5) Clinton had the cooperation of Congress. A president by himself has almost zero effect on job growth. The Repubs in the House have given Obama zero cooperation. Despite all the Right-wing hate speech, Obama is not a king.
              6) And the example of Harry Reid is another non-sequitur.

              • TommyD6of11


                1) “As for your first point, do an honest Google search” – ditto for you

                2) “The Michigan auto industry failed because employers went searching for low wages and no benefits …” – the auto workers in South Carolina are very well paid. The big savings in breaking the union stranglehold is doing away with the massive amount of union work rules that stifle production and insulate incompetent and/or corrupt employees.

                “.. I suspect you don’t know much about Catholic social justice teaching.” – Catholic Social Justice teaching is Socialism disguised as religion. Christ never promoted Socialism.

                3) Endemic corruption, such as in Illinois and other Dem controlled big government cities, causes economic failure. It may not be a spoken policy, but it is a very real economic result.

                4) You previously said Fed support of Higher Ed is minimal. This is not true. It is quite significant and is a major factor propelling Boston’s economy.


                a) Clinton had the cooperation of Congress. – No, the GOP congress forced Clinton enact Conservative policies

                b) A president by himself has almost zero effect on job growth. – This is ridiculous.

                c) The Repubs in the House have given Obama zero cooperation. – Good. The less damage Obama does the better.

                6) “And the example of Harry Reid is another non-sequitur” … You previously said “People go into politics, then they become lobbyists or use their influence in other ways. That is how they get rich.” – My obvious point is that corrupt politicians can get rich while in office.

                • hombre111

                  Only want to reply to one point, lest I cast another pearl in vain. Catholic social teaching is mostly derived from the teaching of several popes. The dirty socialists. The book is called “Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.” if you read the book, you would discover that it is a summary of the social teaching of a number of encyclicals and other papal teaching.

        • disqus_gEynqDDvb8

          Tommy, the poor southeastern states, such as Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana aren’t doing very well according to metrics regarding life expectancy, child poverty, health, education, obesity, etc. Some “red” states incorporate socialist policies, as you can see at

          • TommyD6of11


            CORRECT. Some Red states incorporate socialist policies … and are the worse for doing so.

          • There is a reason Hayek addressed The Road to Serfdom to “socialists of all parties”.

      • redfish

        Or maybe their wages were harmed by free trade policies, such as those pushed by Democrats like Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and today by Barack Obama, and were promoted by the Democratic Party since Woodrow Wilson.

        • hombre111

          I blame both the Dems and Repubs, although I am not sure about Carter and Wilson, but certainly Clinton and the Democrat Congress that approved NAFTA.

          • redfish

            Carter vocally supported NAFTA — he even went to the extent of calling Perot a racist for his opposition to it. Obama has so far pushed through several free trade agreements, and is continuing to push for another large one, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

            Free trade has been part of Democratic policy since Wilson. Back then, Republicans were all against it; Theodore Roosevelt was against it, so was Taft and Coolidge. Republicans only turned around on the issue during the Cold War, when they saw free trade as part of capitalism and as a way to fight communism abroad… its where you get neo-conservativism.

            So, all I’m saying, is labor supporters need to stop pointing fingers at Reagan. Unions protest against free trade agreements, then support pro-free trade Democrats, fold, and then demand security arrangements from corporations — as if the security arrangements make up for the fact that its no longer profitable to keep a factory going in the US. Instead, they just help drive up the debts of the companies, leading them to bankruptcy and bailouts.

            • hombre111

              Unions are very strong in Germany. Somehow, Germany prospers.

  • St JD George

    Jesus himself I suppose was an agitator if the definition is disrupting the status quo. However, to be a Godly agitator one needs to be focused on saving souls through helping others develop their relationship with Christ, not just spread the communicable disease of redistribution fever.

  • publiusnj

    Mother Jones’s “impetuosity” is a good reason to recommend her as a way forward for the Church? I am not so sure. Pope Francis is as impetuous as they come and so far the result is just a disaster.

    The Catholic Church is the unbroken link that stretches from the time of Christ to the present. It is in danger of decoupling due precisely to too much impetuosity. I would rather hold up Irenaeus of Lyons or Peter of Lerins as models for what the Church needs going forward.

    • TommyD6of11

      Pope Francis’ problem is not his impetutuousity, it’s his embrace of Socialism instead of Christianity.

      • disqus_gEynqDDvb8

        There are definite socialist undertones to Christianity — the condemnation of greed, preferential care for the poor, the sick, and the marginalized, the idea of giving up worldly possessions to follow Christ. Socialism and Christianity are not mutually exclusive. From a practical perspective, most developed nations do well with a mixture of capitalism and socialism.

        • TommyD6of11

          NO, there are not Socialist undertones to Christianity. If Jesus was preparing the world for Socialism, then the 12 apostles would be:

          1) John the Labor Leader

          2) Paul the Gender Equality Enforcer

          3) Simon the Equal Pay Zealot

          4) Thomas the Doubler of Minimum Wages

          5) James, the Lesser Hours

          … etc.

          There is absolutely nothing Jesus did that suggests he wanted to create massive centralized bureaucracies to control the economy; nor did Jesus express any objections to private ownership.

          To respond point by point to your comments:

          1) the condemnation of greed – look around at Socialist leaders; most are greedy control freaks who rape the poor

          2) preferential care for the poor – charity yes, government dependency, no.

          3) the sick – when healthcare is nationalized the politicians always get preferential treatment and the poor get mediocre care

          4) giving up worldly possessions to follow Christ – Socialism does not promote this. just the opposite. Socialism is all about rejecting spiritual redemption in exchange for government provided material comfort.

          5) Socialism and Christianity are not mutually exclusive – Ah, the classic Jesus-Was-A-Socialist meme. If true, then explain how come once in power, virtually all Socialist regimes do everything in their earthly power to abolish Christianity. Isn’t rather odd that Jesus would create a philosophy hell bent on destroying Christianity.

          6) From a practical perspective, most developed nations do well with a mixture of capitalism and socialism – Not true at all. Those now Socialized developed nations experienced nearly all of their rapid growth in prosperity prior to going Socialist. Once Socialized, the rapid growth stopped. Germany, the powerhouse of Europe, has a GDP per capita about 25% below the USA. Imagine if the USA took a 25% reduction in GDP!. Nor do these Euro-Socialist states have income equality. Not even close. Under Socialism, the rich aristocracy get richer without the need to continue to offer competitive industry while the middle class becomes poorer and more dependent on the government. The Euro-Socialist states are living off their past glories on their way to bankruptcy.


          Given Socialism’s truly horrible history of over 100 million slaughtered, Isn’t it obvious that rather than inspired by God, that Socialism is the work of the Prince of Lies.

          • Veritas

            Regarding private charity over government redistribution:

            A liberal co-worker counters by saying people won’t give and therefore the government must take and distribute. Of course, we know his point carries no weight since the welfare state has not solved the problem of poverty. Still, what are the talking points for making the case for private charity? I certainly think that is what Jesus demanded because there is no love in government handouts.

            Comments are appreciated.

            • GG

              An authentic safety net is needed. The widows and children must be protected. Few would deny that.

              Of course, the State has produced a population that is ill served now. To sort out who is in need and who has become a permanent dependent out of sentimental ideology and leftism is the problem.

              • The widows and children must be protected. Few would deny that.
                It is interesting that you used the word “protection”. Let assume a young woman with three kids finds out her husband’s violent illness isn’t the flu as suspected, but a rare and aggressive form luekemia.
                He is given weeks to live. He dies DAYS later. This is not a hypothetical, it happened to married coworkers about 20 years ago.
                If he has been prudent and purchased adequate life insurance, then she has little to worry about in replacing his income, which is all that the left ever worries about- but what amount of money replaces Daddy?

        • What nonsense.

          From the CCC – The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modem times with “communism” or “socialism.”

          Socialists don’t give a damn about poor, they use them as tools to obtain political power. They are arrogant moral cretins who foment envy, and promote the state as a god.

          Take your brazen lies elsewhere.

          • CR89

            You are on fire today, brother. Keep burning.

          • disqus_gEynqDDvb8

            Both socialism and capitalism exist on a spectrum. There are no purely socialist or capitalist countries in the world today. Modern democracies are all hybrids of the two. Catholic social teachings about preferential options for the poor, the dignity of work and the rights of workers, and solidarity all have socialist undertones.

            • You can’t be that.. never mind, your comment history proves you are…

              • Howard

                But you do accept the wording of CCC 2425, of which you quoted the first sentence, right? You do accept that “[The Church] has likewise refused to accept, in the practice of ‘capitalism,’
                individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace
                over human labor. … [R]egulating [the economy] solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice,
                for ‘there are many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the
                market.’ Reasonable regulation of the marketplace and economic
                initiatives, in keeping with a just hierarchy of values and a view to
                the common good, is to be commended.”

                • We have long ago exceeded “reasonable regulation”. As you noted, we wonder if our every action is monitored.

                  Bluntly, do you think that there will be some affront to social justice because the pot I defecate in uses more than a gallon of water or if we were allowed to continue using 100w incandescent lightbulbs-which not only produced a pleasant and natural spectrum of light, but didn’t require a haz-mat team in the event of breakage?

                  The Church is timeless and has to anticipate a wide array of conditions. I will occupy a few decades of the 20th and 21st centuries, and in that time, as well as several decades prior to my arrival, the danger has been unfettered government.

                  • Howard

                    Is that a yes or a no?

                    • I agree with it, but see no danger of the word slipping into an orgy of anarcho-capitalism in the foreseeable future. As for the phrase “many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market”, I think I addressed that in the response to GG about the coworker who died in days after receiving a Dx of Leukemia below. It is the left that says we need (another) government program to replace the man’s income and forgets that a father is more than a paycheck.

                      Now your turn. Answer the questions posed in my second paragraph.

                    • Howard

                      As for your toilet and light bulb question, of course I see no problem with either the older, more water-intensive (and more effective!) toilets or with incandescent light bulbs. I’m not a big fan of big government, big business, or big unions.

                      You think you are threatened by big government, and you are right, but you (or people just like you) are also threatened when businesses shut down American factories and move them to Mexico or China, even if they do it not for ideological reasons but because they worship the almighty dollar. You are also threatened that a jet plane that has been poorly maintained (because proper maintenance is expensive) might crash into you as you are reading this. Things like this have happened in the past; don’t pretend that they are impossible.

                      In an ideal world, people would realize that both government regulations and money are means to an end, not ends in themselves. In a noticeably imperfect world, the best we can do is often to partially neutralize one threat by means of another. This is the same principle of checks and balances that used to be used in American government, though we seem to be rapidly abandoning that principle.

                    • The thing that fascinates me about people who decry production overseas is that they can’t seem to understand how much risk, cost, and disruption is involved in shutting down a domestic operation to move overseas. People only do stuff like that when there is a huge reason to do so.
                      Of course, you’ve always taken the job with lower pay, and when shopping you look for the more place to buy your household goods, right-after all, you don’t want to e worshipping the almighty dollar, right?
                      I used to buy “American” cars exclusively-until I bought the most misbegotten piece of trash I ever owned- a 1998 Chevy Malibu-ad since then, I bought three Subaru’s-one now has 110 K miles-and that means its 20,000 past the point when the tupperwear mobile was sent to the compacter-I got a grad total of $500 when I traded it in and it was still sitting “as is” on the dealer lot when I came for the new car’s first 1000 mile check up.
                      As for your jet airplane example, the crash into the Alps occurred BECAUSE of a government regulation-that failed to account for the possibility that a member of the crew might be the terrorist.

                    • Howard

                      Yeah, I kind of have taken the job with lower pay. More than that, there are certain things I will not do for money. Is there nothing you would not do for money? I would like to think so, but certainly the idea of doing something for a reason other than money seems so alien to you that you cannot believe anyone actually does it; hence what you clearly regard as an unanswerable rhetorical question.

                      The crash in the Alps did not happen because of a government regulation — unless you think it would have crashed EVEN SOONER, not making it to the Alps, in a completely unregulated market. The crash in the Alps happened because of the deliberate actions of the co-pilot. The pilots are ALWAYS in a position to kill everyone on board, and that is what he chose to do. It’s happened before on SilkAir Flight 185 and EgyptAir Flight 990, both pre-9/11. More importantly, the agreed-upon solution is a requirement that at least 2 people be in the cockpit at all times; that might not absolutely prevent a single suicidal pilot from killing everyone, but it would give them a fighting chance.

                      Besides which, even if I were to concede it, that gives you one example. If you watch “Air Crash Investigations”, you will see plenty of examples of instruments malfunctioning and confusing pilots (or autopilots), contributing to a crash; if one example means “get rid of it!”, you would have us get rid of air speed indicators, artificial horizons, compasses, fuel indicators, and altimeters, because each of those has contributed to a crash. The autopilot helped Sullenberger land in the Hudson, but it has also contributed to crashes; shall we rip it out, too?

                      Finally, would I be right in thinking your distaste for regulation is so strong that you want immigration unregulated? Or is there a limit to your libertarianism?

                    • I am not a libertarian. Is there a limit to your statism or economic ignorance?

            • GG

              Is this a joke?

          • Howard

            If you’re going to cite the Catechism, please give the paragraph number.

            2425 The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modem times with “communism” or “socialism.” She has likewise refused to accept, in the practice of “capitalism,” individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor. Regulating the economy solely by centralized planning perverts the basis of social bonds; regulating it solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice, for “there are many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market.” Reasonable regulation of the marketplace and economic initiatives, in keeping with a just hierarchy of values and a view to the common good, is to be commended.

        • GG


      • wva88

        From the readings for the Second Sunday of Easter:

        The community of believers was of one heart and mind,
        and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own,
        but they had everything in common.
        With great power the apostles bore witness
        to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus,
        and great favor was accorded them all.
        There was no needy person among them,
        for those who owned property or houses would sell them,
        bring the proceeds of the sale,
        and put them at the feet of the apostles,
        and they were distributed to each according to need.


        That doesn’t sound like venture capitalism.

        • Who do you share your computer with?

          • Howard

            The NSA.

            • We all do. There are things that give you a digital tattoo. I know that the NSA is concerned with things like the TOR browser, and I’m guessing posting on Crisis makes you an enemy of the state as well.

              • Howard

                To be honest, sometimes when my computer is really slow I wonder if the NSA, the Chinese, the Russians, and Google are all competing over its very limited resources.

  • Vinny

    This history shows the reason why the Catholic Church was “pro-union.” It was about the dignity of the person. To a very large degree that is no longer true in developed nations. Yet, the Church, and many Catholics still believe unions are necessary when now they are only liberal political machines.

    • Howard

      Well, pretty much everything is [only a liberal political machine], including the Chamber of Commerce and all those CEO’s threatening to pull out of Indiana.

      Still, abusus non tollit usum.

      • Vinny

        I agree. My comment only focused on the subject of the essay

        • Howard

          Well, sort of. The essay was not really about unions, though it did touch on them. Since, however, you ventured into whether or not unions are still necessary today, my response is that it would be a very bad thing if they were outright forbidden, even if the ones in place today are doing a sorry job. I find a close analogy in the 2-party system. As bad as it is — and it is very bad indeed — it would not be an improvement to replace it with a 1-party system.

          You might think it is unnecessary to say such things, but, well, look at some of the other comments. It is necessary.

  • Nel

    As one who had only ever heard of the magazine, I found this interesting and informative.

    Some problems with missing text and links, though, which should be sorted out by the administrator of the site.

  • NancyB

    This was a good article. I learned alot. Thank you.

  • ColdStanding

    The Mother Jones program is not Catholic. She was a member of the Catholic Church, receiving Her sacraments and being buried by Her priests. That does not make what she did, per se, Catholic. The Catholic plan for our salvation is to submit to Her teachings, receive Her sacraments and, there by, become temples of the Holy and Undivided Trinity. This is not a process of agitation. Psalm 46 has it as “Be still, and see that I am God;” Restoration does not come though the action of men, especially not through man acting in an agitated state or being the occasion of sin to another by agitating them to civil disobedience.

    Seriously! Why are we remembering what is not worth remembering and forgetting what is most in need of remembrance? If we are not constantly mindful of God and seeking to serve Him, how can we be connected to the living waters of His grace? Social justice types are always going on about how to take bigger slice of what someone else has stolen. Yet where is our zeal to restore to Christ’s Holy Church (The Church of Christ = the Holy Roman Catholic Church) that which has been looted from His houses and granaries? The protestant “churches”, in blatant violation of the 7th Commandment, live on looted doctrine and usurped authority. If they are our brothers, then our brothers are thieves and their (spiritual) children are socialist, communists and free masons.

    But, oh, you want to raise some hell. What will you do when it comes time that there is hell to pay? How will you answer the question: Where was your zeal for my House? Why have you buried the talent I gave you?

    I do not know.

    • Fair questions. What remains of “mother” Jones is not her ideas/issues, which no longer even apply to our times. It is her example – the way she conducted herself, and brought moral pressure to bear on public issues.

      She was clearly informed by the Catholic upbringing, and the author points out that there are supporting tenets for those of the faith. So… why not transpose that example to “zeal for my House,” in a way that’s relevant right now? There will be no shortage of oppressed, in-the-closet Christians who will need it.

      And come to think of it, a union that centered on defending the religious at work would transform the landscape.

      No one template or archetype is “the answer”. This sort of thing has to originate from G-d, because only that universal spirit can call a push toward justice from ALL types of people. But it’s OUR responsibility – once called, we must agree to answer. If Crisis readers really do want to “go on the offensive” to protect their brethren, as other articles are suggesting, Mary Harris Jones is a pretty good example to learn from.

      • ColdStanding

        No one template is archetype is the answer? That may be, but it can not be said that we are without one example to follow: The Cross. This is the narrow gate that leads to heaven. The only offensive Catholics need be contemplating is to take heaven by storm.

        The Holy Spirit already has called all mankind to justice, we are to enter the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church, founded by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and guided by the same Holy Spirit that has spoke through the prophets. This union you ask for is here, right now, and has been saving souls for near 2000 years. We do not need something new; a new plan; a new evangelization; a new spirit. The one given to us by God is most ably fit to the task at hand. A task, I may add, that does not change.

        The Church does not act by bringing moral pressure to bear upon public issues. She acts by having Her apostles call people to repentance, believe the Gospel and be baptised with water and the Holy Spirit. This restrains the disordered desires of fallen man, teaches them to soften their hearts, and unite themselves with God. The Church is not an NGO or political actor. Jesus Christ set His Church above Caesar, not at his level, or below him.

        I could go on and on producing these kinds of rebuttals. The point is that we must be steeped in Holy Dogma. It is not that we set or selves apart out of mere eccentric accidental disposition according to the tastes. No, dogma shapes our understanding, teaches us to speak, guides our actions, and orders our relations. That is Catholicism. That is the Kingdom of God. That is the perfect society founded by Jesus Christ.

        Do not be glib in your assessments of what it takes. Do not think you have the wherewithal to reshape the Church to “meet the needs of our times”. Our labour is light, be cause He has toiled. It is done.

        All that is left for you and Mr. Becker is to not be ashamed.

        • Thanks for your response and candid comments, CS, although we’ll have to agree to disagree. As Joe indicated, the article was intended to bring attention to Mother Jones’ pluck more than her plan, but I do think that she was on the right track with regards to the corporal works of mercy.

          Who knows? It could well be that it was her passion for justice and selfless charity that led her back to the Church and the Sacraments — maybe others as well. Grace builds upon nature, after all, and it seems to have been in Jones’s nature to buck the system and stand with the little guy.

          Would that we were all inclined that way.

          In any case, I’m curious to know what you think Joe and I should be ashamed of.

          • ColdStanding

            I don’t think that you “should” be ashamed. I said that you are ashamed and implied that you have no cause to be.

            • Ah, that’s clearer CS. Actually, I think your summation re: the primary purpose of The Church is true.

              I just don’t see that interfering with a legitimate desire to protect fellow believers in their belief. This wasn’t the core issue of “Mother” Jones’ day. But it is in our time.

              In addition, I think we disagree re: the nature of following the Holy Spirit. Being Jesus is impossible, and one’s individual temperament has a big effect on how one answers the call.

              If Crisis Magazine is suggesting that Christians resist a nascent totalitarian state as part of their practice – and it is – then people with dispositions and inclinations like “Mother” Jones will be an important part of that. That isn’t for everyone, and that’s fine. Everyone does what they can, with what they have, while following the unchanging task. And can be respected for different kinds of contributions.

    • Philothea

      “The Church of Christ = the Holy Roman Catholic Church” would be better stated as… = the Holy Catholic Church.

      Of the 21 Rites of the Catholic church, one Rite is Latin and under the Latin Rite exists another six Rites of which one is ‘Roman.’ Although I am Roman Rite myself, we should not exclude the Eastern brothers and sisters of our Catholic church. I am sure that was not your intent. (Special note: My numbers above may be off by one or two).

      • ColdStanding

        The broken away Anglicans claim to be the Catholic Church, as do the Greek and Russian orthodox schismatic . Hence the need for Roman.

  • “Mother Jones: A Model of Catholic Action for Today?”

    Do you have any evidence that she sought or succeeded to raise souls to heaven?

    • Jim in Pittsburgh

      Was another mother – Mother Thersa – known for preaching to the poorest of the poor? The dying? Her sermons were in her actions, not her words. Not all are called to “preach”. Mother Jones may not have been officially in the Church, but many of her actions were Christian actions.

      Too bad the Left has stolen her and made hat an icon for socialism and anarchy. I think we missed an opportunity.

      • To compare Mother Thesesa to Mother Jones is appalling.

        • Jim in Pittsburgh

          I am not comparing her to anyone. In fact I am lifting Mother Theresa am a model of “preaching without words”. The old woman kneeling before the Eucharist, praying, might be, in your words, “raising souls to [H] eaven, too.

          • Objectivetruth

            The crucial difference between the two women is Teresa of Calcutta has the title “Blessed” currently in her name, Mother Jones does not.

            • Jim in Pittsburgh

              Well, neither does the old woman kneeling before the Eucharist. She, and others like her, might be the only reason God hasn’t dropped the curtain on our sinful world.

          • Mother Theresa was the real deal, suffering the hell on earth of the dark night of the soul of doubt and despair.

            • Objectivetruth

              There are those that do good, social justice work (such as Mother Jones), who happen to be Catholic. And there are Catholics (Blessed Teresa of Calcutta) whose fruits (helping the poor) are the result of their evangelization of the gospel of Christ. Blessed Teresa’s raison d’être (and that of her sisters of the Missionaries of Charity) was to be a missionary first, spreading the Good News. Without Christ, her work was just that of another NGO. When asked once if it was the food, medicine to the poor that won so many Hindu converts to the Church. Teresa responded “No, I gave them Christ.”

            • Jim in Pittsburgh

              Yes indeed! Mother Theresa was (and still is) “the real deal”. I agree with you. What’s your problem?

              • “Mother Jones may not have been officially in the Church, but many of her actions were Christian actions.”

                This statement. From the article, I see a woman concerned overwhelmingly with transient and temporal things. Christiantity must be focused on the eternal.

                What’s your problem?

                • Jim in Pittsburgh

                  Your comment should be addressed to the author of the article, no me.

    • Andy James

      She practiced the Corporal Works of Mercy. You sound like one of those “missionaries” that would hand a starving kid a catechism and instead of giving him a meal.

      • Since you apparently don’t know what the corporal workk of mercy are; I’ll list them here.

        To feed the hungry;
        To give drink to the thirsty;
        To clothe the naked;
        To harbour the harbourless;
        To visit the sick;
        To ransom the captive;
        To bury the dead.

        Being a labor organizer or a political agitator, no matter how just the cause-IS NOT practicing the corporal works of mercy.

        You sound like one of those “missionaries” that hand the kid a union card or voter registration card and never mention Jesus or the Catechism.

        • ColdStanding

          I know we are not talking and all, but this is exactly right. Orestes Brownson effectively pilloried the movement in its early days, seeing the internal contradictions of the system flowing out of the first principles.

          Sorry refer to him. I find no evidence of him ever having gone fishing or being involved in anything resembling farming.

          • I don’t understand your last paragraph. Its too late for a caffeine jolt, please elaborate.

            • ColdStanding

              Ya, not my best sentence ever. Orestes Brownson is neither a fisherman nor a farmer. You have been calling for fewer philosophers and theologians and more fishermen and farmers, no?

              • Now I get it. Wow that was dense on my part.

  • disqus_gEynqDDvb8

    Very informative, Mr. Becker. Thank you!

    I had to laugh at the picture of your children resisting “enrichment”:-) There was something very familiar about that!

  • Midday Rambler

    Politics, etc. aside, I just wanted to point out that Mother Jones is buried just off Route 66 (though I have to admit I’ve seen the sign for her grave a couple of times but never gotten off to visit it–yet). Route 66 makes for a great drive through Illinois, and don’t miss the Shrine of Our Lady of the Highway on Route 66 right around Raymond, Illinois. And grab a Cozy Dog in Springfield!

  • reddog44

    While mother jones should be commended for improving working and safety conditions, which in her day and time in history was noble. But what has become of the trade union movement is appalling. They have totally abandoned any semblance of fighting for the common person, the average Joe or Jane, and gone into the power game by becoming very political. Their stance on abortion and Same sex attractions show they have abandoned all forms of morality and decency.

  • Mara319

    Thank you for this article. I’m a naturalized citizen and I didn’t know much about Mother Jones – how she herself had suffered and carried her cross in following the Lord, and helped the poor. “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living!” is as heroic a Catholic virtue as they come.
    Too bad, her memory has been hijacked by anti-Catholic Marxist socialistic liberals.

  • M;J.A.

    We , a people of the word …would Mother Jones being ‘claimed ‘ by the left, be related to those words that seem like a curse – ‘ fight like hell ‘ …
    good to know how she did have a heart that cared about the suffering and afflicted ,
    possibly having taken in the spirit of The Mother , who was entrusted to St.John ,at The Cross, from an all holy God , who did not hesitate to let us claim His all pure Mother, as our Mother …
    for those who want to be in Her army, there are families of like minded , thus to multiply the efforts , through associations –

    Militia of The Immaculata , one such one –
    that other John , St.John Paul 11, who was instrumental , in the fall of kingdoms, would be there to battle along ( as well as Mother Jones too may be ) , one aspect of that battle could be deeper awareness , of the curses that might have come in , in various manners and need to break them , allowing The Mother and The Holy Spirit , to have room , to cleanse , heal and fill, with love pure and holy !

  • Scott

    There is a reason that the “progressive” magazine is named after Mother Jones and its not that she simply flirted with socialism; its because she was in fact a socialist. She spouted socialists ideas, joined the socialist party, and she palled around with people like Jack London, Big Bill Haywood, and Eugene Debs. She was doing all this at the time that Pope Leos warned to steer clear of socialism. I’m not sure how you square her work with Catholic Social teaching.

  • Jdonnell

    A very helpful article. I just happened yesterday to finish reading the bio. of Mother Jones. Her lifelong work was a model of Christian charity. Today, the Crisis crowd would be more likely to condemn her as a “leftist” (horrors!). We might recall the words of the late Herbert McCabe, “It is only by our solidarity with the poor–not a condescending helping hand but a real with them in their suffering and in their struggle–that we belong to the life of the risen Christ and share in his conquest of death.”

  • geraldine clark

    loved this story! Thank you.