“From the Eye to the Soul”: Industrial Labor’s Mary Harris “Mother” Jones and the Rhetorics of Display


Mary Harris “Mother” Jones was among the U.S. industrial labor movement’s savviest practitioners of visual politics to champion human rights for workers. This article focuses on two key features of Jones’s exploitation of the power of “the eye” for persuasive ends: first, was her keen appreciation of the rhetorical potency of the camera as an emerging technology with differing force for varied audiences, and second, was her trademark spectacles ritualizing rebellion, showcasing workers’ resolve, and generating publicity. To mine these visual features, this essay situates them within two significant historical episodes: the Colorado Coalfield War of 1913-14, especially the Ludlow Massacre, and the Children’s Marches of 1903 she led to lobby for child labor reforms.

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Copyright © 2012 Routledge. This book chapter first appeared in Human Rights Rhetoric: Traditions of Testifying and Witnessing.

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