Mother Jones is making a comeback.
The labor activist, whose real name was Mary Harris Jones, will be portrayed Tuesday by professional storyteller Judith Black at the Peabody Institute Library.
"I used to do this piece all the time," said Black, who lives in Marblehead. "But about 20 years ago, people stopped asking for it, as the country became more conservative."
Politics is hard to avoid with Jones, who was born in Ireland — on May 1, 1830, she said — and died in Maryland in 1930. That's because she worked as a labor activist for most of her life, organizing strikes and union drives all across the country for the Knights of Labor, the Industrial Workers of the World and the United Mine Workers.
Library archivist Nancy Barthelemy said the presentation, "The Rabble Rouser: Mother Jones and Workers' Rights," is part of a series that celebrates the 150th anniversary of a gift from George Peabody, the city's namesake, to the city of London.
"George Peabody's donation was to help the poor," Barthelemy said. "I was looking for programs that expanded on that theme."
Black, who said she has had one other request recently to play Jones — from a history conference in Colorado — is delighted to bring her back to life.
"She was a great character," Black said. "She had a mouth like a garbage can. She traveled all over this country with nothing but a pack on a stick. She would hop freights at night."
She had to travel at night, Black said, to avoid the people who wished her harm.
Jones came by her politics honestly, Black said, when her husband and four children all died in a yellow fever epidemic in Tennessee.
Jones was employed as a dressmaker in Memphis at the time, while her husband worked as an iron molder. In spite of their hard work, the family lived in squalid conditions of poverty, which Jones blamed for their eventual fates, Black said.
The experience helped trigger her desire to fight for better conditions for working people.
Activism was also a family tradition that Jones inherited from her father, who had moved to Canada to escape persecution.
"He was an Irish patriot in the day when the British ruled everything," said Black, who portrays Jones as speaking with a brogue. "She got it through the blood."
Black, who once portrayed Jones at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., said that doing a single character takes much more research than telling stories about a period in history.
Wearing the right costume is an important part of Black's preparation for each role, and she has a black hat and dress, such as Jones always wore, that was made specially by a friend, Nell Wright.
If you go
What: "The Rabble Rouser: Mother Jones and Workers' Rights," with Judith Black
When: Tuesday, April 10, 7 to 9 p.m.
Where: Sutton Room, Peabody Institute Library, 82 Main St., Peabody
More information: Free; sign up at 978-531-0100 or www.peabody library.org