A paid day off work!
Beaches and barbeque!
Sales and shopping!
The last day to wear white!
Labor Day grew out of local and state celebrations, prominent among which was a raucous parade in New York City on September 5, 1882—a parade whose after-party numbered some twenty-five thousand union members and their families celebrating with speeches, cigars and beer kegs. Among the parents of Labor Day are Matthew McGuire, father of the Central Labor Union of New York.
What is sometimes forgotten is that early parades and celebrations were expressions of a larger labor movement. Early leaders like Irish-born Mary Harris “Mother” Jones successfully led workers to protest in favor of eight-hour workdays, fought against child labor, and organized mine workers. Though the boarding house in West Virginia where Mother Jones was detained while organizing miners no longer stands, other historic sites connected with labor history include:
- The Kate Mullany House, a National Historic Landmark and home of the American Labor Studies Center
- The Union Miners Cemetery in Mount Olive, Illinois, where Mother Jones is buried
- The Phillip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum in Chicago
Resources for interpreting labor history include:
- American Association for State and Local History
- Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor
- Mississippi Industrial Heritage Museum
- US Department of Labor
So, as you reflect on that delicious burger that managed not to stain your white pants—remember the workers who made the day possible.