February 13, 1913: Mother Jones Arrested in Charleston

Feb 13, 2017

On February 13, 1913, labor leader Mary Harris “Mother” Jones was arrested in Charleston for agitating striking miners during the deadly Paint Creek-Cabin Creek Strike.

Her arrest in 1913, though, was different. By this time, much of Kanawha County had been placed under martial law.
Credit E-WV / WV Humanities Council

Jones was no stranger to West Virginia’s labor movement, or its jails. Since the 1890s, she’d been active in union causes across the country but felt a special affinity for miners of the Mountain State. She once reported that conditions in West Virginia “were worse than those in Czarist Russia.” During a 1902 strike, she’d been jailed in Parkersburg for violating a court injunction.

Her arrest in 1913, though, was different. By this time, much of Kanawha County had been placed under martial law, meaning that the military was in charge of law enforcement. After being taken to Pratt, she was court-martialed and held under house arrest. New governor Henry Hatfield—a licensed physician—personally visited with Jones but did little at first to free her—even though the octogenarian labor leader was reportedly suffering from pneumonia. After she was finally released, “Mother” Jones testified before Congress on the poor living and working conditions in the West Virginia coalfields.