Labor Day

September 6, 2009

According to the United States Department of Labor website, Labor Day wasweiu first celebrated in 1882 as a way to honor the social and economic achievements of American workers. It was the brainchild of the country’s labor movement. In 1884 the first Monday of September was selected as the official day to celebrate the “working man’s holiday”; an idea which spread as labor organizations grew.

A few short years prior to the first official Labor Day Dr. Harriet Clisby, a physician and lecturer, founded the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union (WEIU) in Boston, Massachusetts. In an article from the Open Collections Program at Harvard University, the WEIU incorporated in 1880 “to increase fellowship among women and to promote the best practical methods for securing their educational, industrial and social advancement.” A project started by the Union that has continued into this century is its’ store which, when first opened, helped women support themselves by selling crafts and other items they produced at home. One such craft was needlepoint and today the WEIU houses a collection of its’ needlepoint patterns.

Georgiana Brown Harbeson wrote in her book, American Needlework-The History of Decorative Stitchery and Embroidery from the Late 16th to the 20th Century, of several projects stitched from designs created by the WEIU. The book, published in 1938, also referenced projects whose designs were adapted by the WEIU from early 18th century patterns.

This topic of women’s unions or women’s exchanges, a similar organization, is very interesting to me. I hope to make it the subject of future posts. In the meantime, here’s hoping everyone has a restful Labor Day weekend.


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