In honour of the almost-a-week-too-late May Bank Holiday I will remember those who fought for workers’ rights. Those who gained for us not just a day ‘off’ that was then given to the church, but those half days that meant so much to the servant and labouring classes, half days they used in pursuit of knowledge and achievement, betterment and beer (see also wine, mead, ale, dancing, movies, theatre – but there’s no alliteration there).
I will remember those who campaigned and won a minimum wage, so many times in so many nations, and have to keep campaigning and fighting for it as it is so often removed to make life easier for the already-wealthy.
I will remember those who campaigned for equal pay for women, who still do, because they still need to.
I will remember those who campaigned for an end to child labour and remember that an end to child labour in so many places is still a dream. A dream for the children who support their families, who scavenge on rubbish tips, who do not have the spare time to dream.
I will remember the abolitionists and that slavery still exists in the trafficked sex workers today.
As a writer, I will remember those other writers who campaigned for PLR so that libraries could stay free and writers could still earn from their legal copyright. (With a nod to Maureen Duffy who is still fighting the good fight AND is a gorgeous writer.)
I will remember those who see May Day as a Labour Day, a day for the workers to play, and those who see May Day as a celebration of spring – because it’s both, there is no celebration unless everyone has the energy and the spare time to dance around the pretty May pole.
I’ll remember my mother who was a great inspiration because she loved every job she ever had (as a clerical assistant) – the working mother (with 7 children) being a great role model for a working girl, and my father who pretty much hated all his labouring jobs, and all my siblings who have all really liked working, and still do, even though some of them are now officially ‘retired’.
While remembering those people I will work in Gladstone’s Library, grateful for the peace and quiet in which to work, grateful for the time in which to work, grateful for the generosity of certain people of privilege who noticed (and notice) that they did nothing to earn good fortune granted them merely by birth and that it is good and proper to share. Grateful too, to the people who are working here, so I can have the time to make my work.
I’ll be working because I like working (although, stuck in the middle of the play re-write I’m pretty much loathing writing right now), because I have deadlines to keep and I am never late, and because that’s what artists and craftspeople do. We make work. Whether there’s a ‘holiday’ or not.
(I may also do some tweeting. The writer’s equivalent of my boilermaker dad’s “smoko”.)
Who will you remember today?
I will remember my great-grandmother, who learned to sew but not to read, widowed with 9 children, who made dress shirts for rich men so that all her children (including the girls) could go to school.
yes. those people. thank you.
Beautiful Stella! We have such priviledged lives these days. Let’s remember that every day. And also remember – as you say – the terrible slavery that still exists in the everywhere in the world. Including in the middle of central London. Where I met several women who were trapped in sexual slavery. An unbelievable reality that is all too common in our great city.