Monday, October 26, 2009

Let's play brides

This has been a long weekend with today being Labour Day which celebrates New Zealand workers' proud history of campaigning for fairness at work.

In 1839, Samuel Parnell, a carpenter, organised to introduce the eight-hour working day – making New Zealand the first country in the world to achieve such conditions. Herbert Roth describes Parnell`s first job in New Zealand in 1839, when a shipping merchant, George Hunter, asked him to erect a store for him.

‘I will do my best,’ replied Parnell, ‘but I must make this condition, Mr. Hunter, that on the job the hours shall only be eight for the day.’

Hunter demurred, this was preposterous; but Parnell insisted. ‘There are,’ he argued, ‘twenty-four hours per day given us; eight of these should be for work, eight for sleep, and the remaining eight for recreation and in which for men to do what little things they want for themselves. I am ready to start tomorrow morning at eight o’clock, but it must be on these terms or none at all.’

‘I arrived here in June, 1841,’ a settler told the newspaper in 1885, ‘found employment on my landing, and also to my surprise was informed that eight hours was a day’s work, and it has been ever since.’

By 1890 the eight-hour working day had become standard for tradesmen and labourers. Trade unions publicised the campaign for shorter hours by holding annual processions late in October on what became known as Labour Day. In 1899 Labour Day became a public holiday and became a suitable occasion to pay tribute to Parnell and the other pioneers of the eight-hour day.

(thanks to Herbert Roth and the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand for the story)

Labour Day weekend has become the traditional time for tidying up the garden after winter and planting vegetables for a summer crop. I've ticked those tasks off my list of chores for this weekend, today was to be sewing day because the good weather wasn't predicted to last until today. And indeed a bit of sewing has been done but not at all what I intended. Ten year old Krystal and six year old Georgia decided they wanted to be brides.

An old petticoat was quickly turned into Georgia's frock but Krystal was a bridezilla, she actually knew what she wanted. Blue didn't figure in her plans but when she heard that this material had come from her aunt's wedding dress she became more enthusiastic. Thankfully I had screeds of mosquito netting which added the required authentic touch.

Add a twisted scrap of gold satin and wallah....

Finally, after the brides went on their merry way to other games in other places I got on to the sewing I had planned. I think Krystal will like her birthday bag.

I've just remembered today is my brother, Bernie's birthday. It's hard to imagine my sweet little brother is 56. Happy birthday, Bern.


  1. Pauline, now everyone is working 12 hour days,so much for progress. Lovely brides!!!That bag is just stunning.

  2. Thanks for the history information. I didn't know the origins of Labour Day. One of the sadnesses of living in a country for such a short time is that one doesn't grow up with it's history and, in my case, have to learn it at an age when there are too many other things competing for attention (and too little time...).

    Yes. Krystal should surely love her Birthday Bag.

  3. What a fascinating slice of history - thank you. Wasn't NZ also the first country to grant female suffrage? Things of which to be proud. Have relatives in NZ, but remain stunningly ignorant nonetheless.
    Wish the 8-hour day was the rule ...


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