Posted on Sep 25, 2013 in All Blog Posts, Calendar, Children, Holidays and Celebrations

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“Every job from the heart is, ultimately, of equal value.  The nurse injects the syringe;

 the writer slides the pen; the farmer plows the dirt; the comedian draws the laughter.

Monetary income is the perfect deceiver of a man’s true worth.”

Criss Jami

We saw one interpretation of a woman’s work week in  the blog 7th Day Chauvinist, and indeed, for decades Monday was reserved for washing laundry, Tuesday was spent ironing, Saturday was often baking day, and depending on the season, a week or more might be spent boiling, peeling, chopping and canning fruits and vegetables.  Children had their chores as well, and often handkerchiefs would illustrate how they were expected to help.

These Day-of-the Week hankies lets girls laugh and play and pick a day.laborday_image002  laborday_image003

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Open the folder, and you’ll soon discover that from one generation to the next, not much had changed. Monday is washday, Tuesday is for ironing, Wednesday is spent shopping and cooking, Thursday’s task is sewing and mending clothes,  Friday is spent cleaning house, Saturday is for baking, and on Sunday our little miss attends church to pray she’ll “be a good girl every day.”  Is there time to be naughty? I think not.

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With the handkerchief open, we find images of work swirling in a never ending pattern as our girl with mop and broom proceeds to “dust and scrub and sweep in every room” smiling all the while. laborday_image005

“There is an abandonment, and escape, that physical labor bestows.”

Steven Gould, Jumper

Our next hankie folder is printed in hues of soft pink on finer quality paper and features a young lady dressed in her Sunday best, wearing a necklace with a heart shaped locket and patent leather pumps.   Her hair is tied with a bow, her hands folded discretely in her lap and her legs are crossed demurely at the ankle.  She looks like an upper class private school girl attending ballroom dancing class.  The folder even includes a paper doll cut out for her amusement.  We get the impression her chores may be vastly different from the previous girl – polishing the silver tea service? Arranging flowers?

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Guess again.  Surprise!   Monday is wash day, Tuesday is ironing day, Wednesday is mending day….The only difference is the graphics and colors of her hankies are more sophisticated and she appears to be wearing Florence Eisman clothing while she works.

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Looks like she did catch a break on Thursday for shopping, then it’s back to house cleaning and grocery shopping.

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I’m really not trying to be facetious or glib in my commentary.  These are real world examples of what little girls were expected to know how to do.  Certainly children were not expected to nail shingles on the roof or cook Thanksgiving dinner, but I find it interesting that mom isn’t pictured.  The child was being shown how to take on responsibility for herself.

I must admit, the artist from the first set of hankies cut boys a lot a slack.  Monday was for baseball, Tuesday was for marbles, Wednesday was for football.  Jeesh.  Hardly seems fair, but perhaps busy moms were just happy to have the boys outside running off steam.

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They didn’t get off scot free however.  Friday’s chap napping at the pond has actually been instructed by mom to catch some fish for dinner.   And indeed  he did.

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Which was the first state in the US to establish Labor Day as a legal holiday?  In what year? (Answer at the end of the blog)

Here are images you don’t see much today.   Artist Tom Lamb  shows boys washing, ironing and cooking.  The enterprising and industrious designer often held down two jobs himself, so he appreciated the value of a strong work ethic.

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“There is no substitute for hard work.”

Thomas Edison

This charming hankie shows children industriously harvesting their vegetable garden, while woodland and domestic creatures beg for a treat.  When was the last time you saw a boy with a rake in his hand?

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Here a hardworking lad mows the lawn.

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“My father taught me to work; he did not teach me to love it.”

Abraham Lincoln

Quite the opposite of our lawn laborer is the lad in this next hankie with his feet propped up sipping tea or cocoa, while the girl prepares dinner.  Perhaps he’s already mowed the lawn.  What’s your guess?  We have to remember this was the 1950’s, and the hankie illustrates the customs and conventions of that era.  Perhaps this is what little girls dreamed of having?

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“I’ve always been amused by the contention that brain work is harder than manual labor.

I’ve never known a man to leave a desk for a muck-stick if he could avoid it.”

John Steinbeck

Certainly there were children’s handkerchiefs which portrayed careers.   Love the fiery orange border in contrast to the cool watery center.  It’s both inspirational and fun for a boy to carry.

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You may wonder why I focused on children’s handkerchiefs for Labor Day, when the origins of the day address adult labor.  Handkerchiefs were a fashion accessory, and most adult handkerchiefs in my collection address topics like fashion, animals, sports, hobbies, travel, transportation, romance, abstract design, or war commemoration.  Children’s handkerchiefs on the other hand, in addition to images of animals and play, often contain riddles, nursery rhymes, Tales of Mother Goose or lessons of some kind, which indeed, these hankies do quite well.   One hankie reads “On Sunday I dress up spic and span, then go to church like a little man.”  It includes a book which says “Help me to be a good boy” and shows the lad removing his cap before he enters the building.  These lesson hankies may have assisted parents in engaging children in helpful behavior.

Also, since I’ve heard more than a few parents complain they have to text their child to even get his or her attention, I thought it would be interesting to see that in an earlier era, children got the message loud and clear – you’re part of the team when it comes to chores.  You want clean clothes?  Here’s how they get that way.    By the way How many loads of laundry does the average American family do every year? (Answer below)

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So this Labor Day, here’s hoping you can take a break from your labors, and when you resume your routine, perhaps enlist additional hands, regardless of their size,  to help lighten your load.

“The economies of the industrialized world would collapse if women didn’t do the work they do for free.  According to economist Marilyn Waring, throughout the West this labor generates between 25 and 40 percent of the gross national product.”

Naomi Wolf

Just for Fun

Takin’ Care of Business by Bachman-Turner Overdrive

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Oregon was the first state in the US to declare Labor Day a legal holiday in 1887.  It was followed that same year by Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. Congress made Labor Day a legal national holiday seven years later.

According to the U S Department of energy, the average American family does 92 loads of laundry a year.

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