I have finished three short stories on life in upstate South Carolina in the mills. Once again, women are my protagonists. Their resilience, faith, and work ethics kept their families together and food on the table. How they worked twelve hour days for six days a week and tended to their households is hard to imagine.
This is Labor Day weekend. It was founded to celebrate the blue collar workers in our country.
In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.
Through much reading and listening to John’s stories about his family, I continue to learn about this lifestyle. From the farms to the factories, families joined the work force in the mills. Rather than their livelihood being governed by the weather and their own labor; in the mills a whistle signaled their work days. A pay check was delivered each week, rather than waiting on the sale of a corn or cotton crop.
This morning I ran across an ETV video about Pacolet Mills. What a delight it was to see the father of one of my friends, SC Supreme Court Justice Bruce Littlejohn, talking about his hometown. Here is the site, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XX1MIZyHiE.
What a difference the mills made in our American society!
As we celebrate our own day off this weekend with friends, families, and fun, perhaps we should remember the why behind this holiday. John’s grandmother learned to spin in the mill standing on a box beside her mother before child labor laws were passed. She missed an education that we take for granted today.
Indira Gandhi said, “My grandfather once told me that there were two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was much less competition.”
Happy Labor Day weekend!