After Monday, some might say it is time to put away your white articles of clothing… And others might have no idea what you are talking about. In the blink of an eye, summer is winding down and that almost century old rule to not wear white after Labor Day is just around the corner.
While many will appreciate a three day weekend, the history behind the celebration of Labor Day was one that was hard earned.
Beginning in the mid to late 1800’s, workers in the United States started to be overworked and underpaid. The average unskilled American worker worked ten hour days, six days a week, for less than one cent an hour, making only roughly $5.88 a week. In some states, children as young as five or six were allowed to work in the mills, making even less than the average wage.
In addition to the poor pay, work conditions were inadequate and many times bosses or business owners were spiteful, wealthy men who treated laborers terribly. Workers were often left to complete their jobs with no access to fresh air, inadequate sanitary facilities and no time for breaks.
Eventually they couldn’t take these conditions any longer and started seeking a change. Workers initiated strikes, protests and rallies in hope to see change in their work environment.
Unfortunately, many of these strikes turned violent. Some workers lost their jobs, some were thrown in jail and unfortunately those who partook in some of the more violent strikes, lost their lives.
Throughout this process, laborers celebrated their first “Labor Day” unofficially on the first Monday in September. Workers continued to labor and pursue the fight for better working conditions, and twelve years later would come to see the honorary day made into a national holiday.
Grover Cleveland signed the holiday into law on June 28, 1894 as a way to honor the labor movements and recognize achievements of American workers. Some also see it as a way to tribute contributions workers have made to improve prosperity of our country.
Over the years, Labor Day has taken on a few new meanings. Some see it as a way to mark the time for the end of summer and back to school, kickstarting sports and extracurricular activities.
Others observe it as one last “hoorah” before cool weather sets in, and take the time to celebrate with friends and family at the lake or even hosting a barbeque.
And some are just thankful to have a three day weekend.
However, with many people recognizing it as an unofficial end to summer, some higher class ladies took it upon themselves to adopt a list of rules that would show off their level in society.
Wealthier women promoted wearing the color white around the same time time of the labor strikes to show signs of their wealth and to keep cool. Many poor families did not participate in this rule because they could not afford the upkeep of light colored clothing.
This unwritten rule was displayed mainly on the east coast, in high class societies and some believe it also had to do with the size of living space, causing residents to pack up their summer clothes, put them in storage and make room for fall and winter sweaters and scarves.
Though there are few that live by this rule today, we still take the time to celebrate Labor Day to recognize the working class and the fight for better conditions. Countries all over the world celebrate Labor Day in their own way. Many European countries celebrate “May Day,” to honor hard work and recognize the promise of spring and a season of summer ahead.