Labor Day is a national holiday, according to the U.S. Department of Labor official site, that exists as, “a creation of the labor movement” dedicated to the “social and economic achievements of American workers.”
Labor Day is always observed on the first Monday in September and will be observed this year on Monday, September 4, 2017.
Who Started Labor Day?
Like much in American history, Labor Day’s origins are humble. The first “official” government observance of what we now know as labor day started at the municipal level, where the state of Oregon passed the first legislation to formally recognize the holiday, but wasn’t the first state to observe Labor Day, as we’ll learn below.
The identity of who first thought up the original idea is uncertain. According to the Department of Labor, it was either Peter J. McGuire, a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor or Matthew McGuire, a machinist who later became the secretary of his local International Association of Machinists lodge in New Jersey.
When Was The First Labor Day?
New York City has the distinction of being the first to observe Labor Day on September 5, 1882. This was done “in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union” according to the Department of Labor.
The idea spread thanks to the encouragement of the Central Labor Union, and over time the tradition of observing the first Monday in September as Labor Day went national. Today, banks, government offices, and individual businesses close to observe this nationwide recognition of labor, the labor movement, and its’ role in American history.
Who Is Rosie The Riveter And Why Is She Associated With Labor Day?
“Rosie The Riveter” was an iconic image used in stateside public relations programs to support World War Two manufacturing efforts at home.
A popular song, “Rosie The Riveter”, (written by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb) was released in 1942, followed up by a poster campaign (commissioned by Westinghouse) which features an iconic factory worker with her sleeves rolled up declaring, “We can do it!”
This image has become associated with labor, labor unions, and those who populate them. This association goes far beyond Labor Day, but it’s easy to see how the imagery and the holiday would become inseparable.
The most famous version of Rosie The Riveter was created by famed Saturday Evening Post illustrator Norman Rockwell. But the Post refused to license the image for widespread use, and the Rosie we know best today (the “We can do it” Rosie), was created by J. Howard Miller.
Rosie may not be the “official face” of Labor Day, but she does embody “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” the holiday is known for, as described by the U.S. Department of Labor.