Thursday, July 25, 2013

Labor Day: A Tribute to the American Worker

by Ford Madox Brown, 1865

The summer sun is still high in the sky but we all know how fleeting the wonderful warm months really are. Although the first day of fall is not until September 22, the Labor Day holiday, on September 2 this year, traditionally heralds the end of summer here in New England. Many celebrate with the traditional family cookout, parades, picnics and even fireworks; a sendoff to summer before school begins again.
Yet, the real reason for the holiday isn’t so we can say goodbye to summer in style, but to pay tribute to the American worker and their contributions to the well-being of the country. Below I offer you some multicultural folktales about workers around the world to add to your repertoire, and of course some crafts and curriculum resources as well. But first, a little history of the holiday…
  • Labor Day, is the first Monday in September every year and is a creation of the labor movement in the United States.
  • The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City.
  • Some state that Matthew Maguire proposed the holiday in 1882 when he was secretary of the Central Labor Union of New York.  Others argue it was proposed by Peter J. McGuire of the American Federation of Labor in 1882 after he witnessed the annual labour festival in Toronto, Canada.
  • Oregon was the first state to make it a holiday on February 21, 1887.
  • President Grover Cleveland signed it into law as a national holiday in 1894 in an effort to conciliate organized labor after the Pullman Strike.

The above information came from the following websites:


Gluskabe Changes Maple Syrup – Native American/Abenaki

John Henry, the Steel Driving Man – United States

Lazy Jack – England

Manabozho and the Maple Trees – Native American/Ojibewe

Stand the Toil - Swedish

The Ant and the Grasshopper – Aesop/Greece
The Calabash Kids – Tanzania
The Devil and the Werewolves – French Canadian

The Disobedient Son – Mayan
The Elves and the Shoemaker – Grimm/Germany

The Great Drum - Africa
The Golden Mountain – Russia

The Hard Working Girl and the Lazy Girl – Hungary 
The Hired Hand – Iceland
The Husband Who Was To Mind the House – Norway

The Labors of Hercules - Greece
The Little Red Hen – England

The Speaking Stone - England
The Success in Life of Three Brothers – Japan



Apples4theTeacher – Children’s Books for Labor Day and Community Helpers


Enchanted Learning – Labor Day Crafts, Activities

Apples4theTeacher – Labor Day Coloring Pages


Education World - Great Sites For Teaching About... Labor Day and U.S. Labor History

National Education Association - Labor Resources Help Students Learn More About Working Men and Women

The Strike that Shook AmericaBread and Roses
(My thanks to Nicolette Nordin Heavey for reminding me of this piece of  history.)

Please note, websites change at a rapid pace and weblinks may change or break without notice. I cannot be responsible for redirected or broken links.  At the time of this posting all links were in working order. Thank you for understanding.

Karen Chace 2013 ©
This blog post was researched and compiled by Karen Chace. Permission for private use is granted. Distribution, either electronically or on paper is prohibited without my expressed written permission. For permission please contact me at Of course, if you wish to link to my blog via your website, blog, newsletter, Facebook page or Twitter please feel free to do so; I greatly appreciate your support and personal integrity.