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Author: Alice Clarke

Labor in America


Preamble and Declaration of Principles of the Knights of Labor of America
Preamble and Declaration of Principles of the Knights of Labor of America

In 1894, Labor Day, celebrated on the first Monday in September, was officially established and signed into law by President Grover Cleveland (1837-1908) to recognize the contribution of American workers. The day is usually associated with trade unionism and its historic appeals for the right to organize in the workplace, the eight hour workday, the five day work week, workman’s compensation, the abolishment of night work without compensation, equal pay for equal work, and the abolishment of child labor. These hard fought for rights which are currently viewed as given conditions in the workplace were won through the organizational skills and spilled blood of labor leaders and the rank and file  The Smithsonian houses many volumes dealing with labor history; the following monographs are located in the American Art/National Portrait Gallery Library (AA/PG).

The Centennial of Two American First Ladies: Lady Bird Johnson (1912-2007) and Patricia Nixon (1912-1993)

Lady Bird Johnson and Pat Nixon at the dedication of the LBJ Library and Museum in Texas, 1971

Americans, once they had elected a President, have always tended, barring catastrophes, to protect their investment. They choose him and consider that the question of their good judgment is involved in his standing. It is a personal and kindly attitude as distinguished from their obvious patriotic duty to uphold the presidency. Curiously, they are generally less kind to his wife. Human nature breaks out all over as she takes her prominent place in the White House goldfish bowl.  — Doris Fleeson, political columnist, Threshold of Tomorrow: the Great Society

The year 2012 celebrates the centennial birthdays of two American First Ladies who served consecutively: Lady Bird Johnson, the wife of President Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969), and Patricia Nixon, the wife of Richard M. Nixon (1969-1974). Claudia Alton Taylor, born on December 22, 1912 and nicknamed Lady Bird, and Thelma Catherine Ryan, born on March 16, 1912 and nicknamed Pat, had a surprising number of things in common: losing their mothers before reaching adulthood, always being referred to by nicknames, displaying precocious intellectual skills throughout their school years, procuring a BA at a time when few women completed university, a propensity for travel, receiving marriage proposals from their husbands on the first date, actively supporting their husbands from the onset of their political careers, bearing two daughters each, and finally, enduring abject criticism of their husbands’ presidencies.