Intentional Living

The History of Labor Day

Labor Day, to most, marks the end of summer and the start of back to school. It also starts my favorite time of year…fall. Hearty meals, crips mornings, apples, pumpkins, and the changing leaf colors just can’t be beat.

As with many holidays, we look forward to the day off and rarely think about why we observe the holiday. So we wanted to take a minute to look back at why we observe the holiday.

The U.S. Department of Labor states Labor Day “is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.”

Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894. Interestingly, it originated during one of America’s most dismal work chapters—the Industrial Revolution. At that time, Americans worked an average of twelve hours a day, seven days a week, and barely made a living. In addition, working conditions were unsafe. Manufacturing was slowly replacing agriculture in American employment and labor unions began to start. Strikes and rallies began to protest the unsafe conditions. These circumstances brought about the idea of a “workingmen’s holiday”. It took twelve years to become a legal holiday.

These days we relish the three day weekend. We plan BBQs, final camping trips, and weekend get-aways. However, I don’t think any of us stop to say “thank you” for our hard-working ancestors that fought so we have this day or to stop and reflect on our hard work of the last year.

Today, most Americans work approximately 44 to 47 hours per week. However, many Americans work significantly more hours depending upon industry competitiveness and demand. For entrepreneurs and small business owners, time is money and in some ways, they are always working, dreaming, planning, and networking. Over 70% of women work outside the home, while still maintaining primary responsibility for the home, adding to the “work” day. The United States is the most overworked industrialized country in the world. A bit depressing? Yep.

This Labor Day, take time in your planning to say thanks for the time the holiday provides, take time to reflect on how to work smarter not harder, and take time to relax.

What are your favorite ways to spend the weekend? What is your favorite weekend menu? What is your favorite place to travel to? We would love to hear from you!

Contributed by Jessica Clemens


International Labor Organization. (2006). Americans work longest hours among industrialized countries, Japanese second longest. Europeans work less Time, but register faster productivity gains New ILO statistical volume highlights labour trends worldwide. Retrieved from–en/index.htm.

US Department of Labor (n.d.). The History of Labor Day. Retrieved from

Ward, M. (2017, May 3). A brief history of the 8-hour workday, which changed how Americans work. Retrieved from,or%208.8%20hours%20per%20day.

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