A Tribute to the Workers of the World

working-women

Here’s a special Labor Day post for the workers of the world—those who have jobs and those who don’t, those who are overworked and those who are underemployed, those who are treated fairly and those who are exploited, those who are just starting out and those who have been working for a long time, those who have good jobs and those who have wretched ones.

Many of America’s attitudes towards work can be traced back to the 17th century Puritans.  By the 19th century, these attitudes had become enshrined in mainstream culture.  I’ve always liked what Marlow in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness says about work. The passage comes when Marlow is working with his Congolese first mate to repair his ship:

I don’t like work, no one does, but I, like what is in the work, the chance to find yourself.

Here’s a good work poem by a man who could be called the poet laureate of America’s working class:


Working Girls

By Carl Sandburg

THE working girls in the morning are going to work–
long lines of them afoot amid the downtown stores
and factories, thousands with little brick-shaped
lunches wrapped in newspapers under their arms.
Each morning as I move through this river of young-
woman life I feel a wonder about where it is all
going, so many with a peach bloom of young years
on them and laughter of red lips and memories in
their eyes of dances the night before and plays and
walks.
Green and gray streams run side by side in a river and
so here are always the others, those who have been
over the way, the women who know each one the
end of life’s gamble for her, the meaning and the
clew, the how and the why of the dances and the
arms that passed around their waists and the fingers
that played in their hair.
Faces go by written over: “I know it all, I know
where
the bloom and the laughter go and I have memories,”
and the feet of these move slower and they
have wisdom where the others have beauty.
So the green and the gray move in the early morning
on the downtown streets.

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