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

Great Sites Center

Labor Day is much more than the end of summer. It is a holiday unlike most others, honoring not public figures or war victories but the everyday worker. To commemorate Labor Day, Education World has found some of the best Web sites about the history of the holiday -- and labor -- in the United States.

In New York City, on the first Monday in September 1884, the Knights of Labor -- an early labor organization -- held a large parade to celebrate working people. Later that decade, labor organizations around the country began to lobby various state legislatures for recognition of Labor Day as an official holiday. In 1887, the first states to declare it a state holiday were Oregon, Colorado, New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. In 1894, Congress established Labor Day as a national holiday.

The following Web sites can help users teach about Labor Day and the history of the labor movement in the United States.

  1. Hard Labor: The unions who fought for "the first Monday in September"
    This is an excellent article on the history of the labor movement in the United States. It is brief yet complete and includes links to Web sites with related topics.
  2. Labor Day Celebrations, Traditions, History and Greetings
    Find out how Labor Day came into being, how it is celebrated, and what relevance it has for today. This Web site also features e-cards and wallpaper. Of particular interest is an article on the Knights of Labor. In the latter part of the 19th century, that organization promoted a union of all workers -- both skilled and unskilled [set dash] instead of individual trade unions, as a more effective way of ensuring all workers' rights.
  3. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire: March 25, 1911
    On March 25, 1911, a fire broke out on the top floors of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City, killing 146 workers, mainly young women, recent immigrants of Italian and European Jewish background. The scandal that followed brought the unhealthful, inhumane conditions of sweatshops to people's attention.

    This Web site provides a very complete overview of the tragedy, including newspaper articles, photographs, political cartoons, and other historical information. Also helpful are tips for those using this event for a high school research paper.

  4. The History Place: Child Labor in America 1908-1912

    In 1908, Lewis W. Hine (1874-1940), a former teacher, became an investigative photographer for the National Child Labor Committee, which was then conducting a major campaign against the exploitation of American children. For four years, he photographed children who worked in mines, factories, mills, and other places. His camera caught children at work, at home, alone, and in groups. This Web site presents the black-and-white photographs, along with their original captions. Older elementary-age and middle school children will find the contrast between their own lives and the lives of the subjects of this Web site enlightening.
  5. ILO: Child Labor
    For those who may be tempted to think that serious labor issues, such as child labor, are a thing of the past, this Web site provides a wake-up call. There are sections for both elementary and high school students, which provide the appropriate levels of detail on this difficult topic.

    The site is run by the International Labor Organization (ILO), an independent agency of the United Nations. Boasting 175 member countries represented by workers, employers, and governments, the ILO is the only international agency in which non-governmental sectors of society participate fully with government. The United States is represented at the ILO by the U.S. Departments of Labor and State, the AFL-CIO, and the U.S. Council for International Business.



Lauren P. Gattilia
Education World®
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Updated 08/22/2017