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© Gail Underwood Parker

Monday, September 5, 2011

School Bell: Labor Day

Do your children know what Labor Day is?  For most it is the last day of summer vacation, or the last summer weekend, or the day the park closes, or the ice cream stand. For kids it is moostly about freedom ending. But Labor Day was a marking of the beginning of freedom. A day to celebrate what hard work has accomplished.  Check out the history of Labor Day.

There are many stories you can share from the history that led to Labor Day, depending on the age of your children.

Older teens can handle the tragedy of the infamous New York Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire where 146 died [mostly young women], in part because the conditions were unsafe, crowded and more because the doors were locked closed so that the young women wouldn't be able to go outside during working hours for a break. The fire was 100 years ago this past March and was the basis of many of our fire and exit codes today. Teh average age of the victims was only 19 years old.

Middle children can imagine the boredom and filth and hard work of being mine workers or working in the textile mills instead of playing in ball fields.  Thre were no laws limiting the hours or requiring meal breaks, or safety gear, or other rules that protect young American workers today. Girls can here about Rosie the Riveter and how she may have been the beginning of the women's movement.

And what a great opportunity to talk with adolescents or teens about conditions for migrant workers still today, or for children in foreign countries who do not have the labor laws we do.  For them to hear stories of grape boycotts in the 1960s, or sneaker and soccer ball protests over child labor overseas in more recent years.

Our kids should know what Labor Day is.

Our kids should know why it is.

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