In 1882, Peter J. McGuire, vice president of the American Federation of Labor proposed “Labor Day,” and a resolution was set forth in 1884 by A.C. Cameron,
“Resolved that the first Monday in September of each year be set apart as a laborers’ national holiday and that we recommend its observance by all wage workers , irrespective of sex, calling or nationality.”
The resolution sounds especially modern given it was nearly 120 years ago, but behind the rhetoric, women were not exactly welcomed with open arms. In fact, women were seen as a threat to jobs. They also were paid little, making it difficult to garner more pay for the men.
The organization of women is not merely a moral question, but also an economic one. Men will never be certain with their conditions unless the conditions of the millions of women are improved.” Fannia Cohn, International Ladies Garment Worker, excerpt from her letter to William Green, President of the American Federation of Labor (1925). Where are the Organized Women Workers? Alice Kessler Harris
While some women worked for equality, better jobs and better pay, some women of the last century decided to observe Labor Day for another reason that continues to be preserved and promoted by many even today – No Wearing of White Garments after Labor Day.
The “rule,” has been followed for years. Not adhering to it often leaves women open for ridicule, so many just follow the pack and continue to observe for fear of “not fitting in.”
In the ’50s WASPY women everywhere joined forces and decided that wearing white after Labor Day was not practical and no woman wearing white shoes would be invited to their Tupperware parties after the first weekend in September.
So what’s a woman to do? I say wear white after Labor Day, not because you want to break society’s rules, but use it as an example, a symbol for all the women who came before us that were excluded from unions, the workforce and Tupperware parties. Do it for yourself, silently remembering our GIRLFRIENDS. And the next time someone points out that you can’t wear white after Labor Day, just smile and say, “I know, but I have enough Tupperware.”