100 Years Ago Today – Patriotic Day – September 2, 1918: How Labor Day Ushered in Change for a Country at War

By Sherri Goudy

Labor Day: a national holiday set in observance of workers contributions to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.  Though today we celebrate this holiday with barbecues and pool parties for the official close of summer, this holiday has a violent past for workers’ rights. First celebrated in New York in 1882, it took 12 years for the US government to officially make it a national holiday.

By 1918, Labor Day had been accepted in all the states for some time.  Though the citizens of Clark County had been used to this 3-day weekend for some time, the first Monday in September 1918 was different.  The United States had been involved in the war for 17 months, and lives had been changed, some lost forever. But now, the German army was beginning to retreat, and the end of the war was near.  Changes in the social and political climate were happening as well, as women fought for the right to vote and temperance became a big issue for the nearing election.

The Springfield Daily News promoted this Labor Day as Patriotic Day and invited all to “Participate in the Greatest Day in the History of Springfield and Clark County.”

SDN Aug 18, 1918 2nd pg 8

The celebration included games, sports, and other recreational activities.  The day kicked off with a Patriotic Parade, to be led by the women of the American Red Cross.  They wore white dresses and veils.  Other participants included the Patriotic League and mothers of soldiers, who were asked to bring service flags.

SDN Aug 31, 1918 pg 2

The parade included floats, of which the most popular was the “Liberty Loan Float” with Joan of Arc “calling on the people of Springfield and Clark County to get ready for the fourth Liberty Loan bond issue.”

SDN Sept 3, 1918 pg 3

SDN Sept 3, 1918 pg 6

Patriotic Day in Springfield was a day of patriotism and propaganda in support of the US in the War.  Speeches, visual representations of victorious leaders, and togetherness for the cause was a way for Clark County and the rest of the nation to build and showcase patriotism. The United States appealed to its people by encouraging patriotic obligation, from the soldier on the field to the men, women, and children at home.

In the months to follow, great changes were in store for the United States.  The war would come to an end, but not before influenza took its toll and caused more deaths than the battlefield.  Temperance would go to the ballot and win.  And for women, the fight for equality and the right to vote would take center stage.  But for now, on this Labor Day 100 years ago, the country and citizens of Clark County came together for a day of rest and celebration.


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