In honor of tomorrow’s holiday, here’s a short history of Labor Day:
Started by the Central Labor Union of New York in 1882, it became a federal holiday in 1894 at the behest of President Grover Cleveland. It was Cleveland who had earlier in the year sent in 12,000 regular army to break up the Pullman strike in Chicago, resulting in 13 dead and 57 wounded. To appease labor unions the legislation to federalize the holiday was passed just six days after the end of the strike. Fortunately, Cleveland’s gesture did little to quell the labor movement, but he probably gets credit for the first fixed three-day weekend. Enjoy the day and James Oppenheim’s poem below.
Bread and roses
- As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day,
- A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,
- Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
- For the people hear us singing: “Bread and roses! Bread and roses!”
- As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men,
- For they are women’s children, and we mother them again.
- Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
- Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!
- As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
- Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread.
- Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
- Yes, it is bread we fight for — but we fight for roses, too!
- As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days.
- The rising of the women means the rising of the race.
- No more the drudge and idler — ten that toil where one reposes,
- But a sharing of life’s glories: Bread and roses! Bread and roses!