Labor Day at Woonsocket's Museum of Work & Culture

           

On Monday September 3, 2007 the Museum of Work & Culture will be hosting its 9th annual Labor Day Open House celebration. The day will be sponsored by the Rhode Island Labor History Society, Working Rhode Island and the Greater Woonsocket Labor Council. Admission will be free all day beginning at 9:30 am until closing at 4pm.

            The Museum’s signature event is in commemoration of Woonsocket’s first Labor Day celebration on September 4, 1899. On that day Woonsocket and area workers marched and witnessed a parade and participated in day-long activities at Cold Spring Park. The occasion featured labor speeches and sports competition among the several mills of the Blackstone Valley.

            Throughout the day the Museum will feature the premiere of its new play, “The I.T.U. Meeting.” This play is about a meeting which takes place one week after the strike and riot by some 10,000 people against the Woonsocket Rayon company in September, 1934. Various characters will discuss the events and results of the riot including the role of the I.T.U. and the imposition of a curfew by the National Guard. The play will take place in the Museum’s I.T.U. Union Hall. The first performance will be at 11am, the second at 1pm and the third at 2:30pm.

            In the Museum’s Catholic School Archives are over 60 volumes containing information about Catholic education. All visitors who ever attended Catholic schools anywhere and at anytime are encouraged to donate school memorabilia of their days in Catholic schools. Items such as class pictures, individual pictures, group pictures and other printed materials no larger than 8”x 11” are sought. All materials submitted to the Museum become the property of the Museum and cannot be returned.  Eugene A. Peloquin, Museum volunteer, maintains the school archives. Peloquin will be at the Museum all day on Labor Day to accept donated materials. Materials can also be brought to or mailed to the Museum anytime. Peloquin noted, “The archives corner at the Museum has become a popular gathering place where Museum visitors love to sit down and view school photos of the past.”

 

            Photographs by Blackstone Valley artist Madeleine Robinson are featured in the Museum’s Changing Gallery. Robinson’s retrospective photo exhibit features scenes from nature, “My Garden Series” and travel in Poland, Russia, England, Scotland and Ireland.

Labor Day open house will be an opportunity to meet the artist.

 

            The public is also invited to visit the Rhode Island Merci boxcar located in the Lt. Georges Dubois Veterans Gallery. The railroad boxcar is one of 49 sent to the United States in 1949 as a thank you from France for America’s help during and after World War II. Volunteers will be available to interpret the exhibit which includes various military artifacts from World War I and World War II.

           

            The Museum’s annual book sale will be held on Labor Day. The sale will include not only a wide selection of various books but also such items as records, videotapes, CD’s and the like. The book sale will be at the rear of the former Mulvey’s Hardware Store on South Main Street.

 

            The Museum of Work & Culture is located at 42 South Main Street, Woonsocket, Rhode Island 02895. For additional information call (401) 769-9675.

 

Traditionally, the Labor Day weekend signals the unofficial end of summer, and a return work, school and normal routines.
 
However, get to experience compelling locations that reflect the meaning of Labor Day and how Rhode Island’s Blackstone River Valley was shaped by people who lived to work and worked to live.
 
Blackstone River Valley’s proud working class roots have shaped the character of the region for over two centuries, with strong labor influences reflected in the area’s quality of life and villages.
 
The 1793 opening of Samuel Slater's cotton mill in Pawtucket, RI ushered in America's Industrial Revolution, which became the fount of our nation’s economic development, and eventually the genesis of our country’s organized labor movement.
 
With dozens of factories sprung up along the Blackstone River in the early 19th century, the expansion of the Industrial Revolution employed generations of working-class families and drawing thousands of immigrants from around the world.
As new and larger mills were constructed over the 1800's, new sources of workers were needed to fill them. Among the first new workers were Irish immigrants, many of whom had come to the area in the 1820's to help construct the Blackstone Canal.
During the 1860's and 1870's, mill owners began to recruit French Canadians to leave their farms in Quebec and become mill workers in the Blackstone Valley. More workers followed them from nations like Poland, Sweden and Portugal.
 
The arrival of these workers changed the face of the Blackstone Valley in many ways. New languages, different cultures and ethnic traditions were added to the region. These new immigrants found themselves trying to strike a delicate balance between becoming Americans while preserving their social values.
Even today, immigrants are still arriving in the Blackstone Valley from places like Central America and Cambodia to find work and prosper in the American Dream.

 
Museum hours are: Mon.-Fri 9:30 am-4 pm, Sat. 10 am-5 pm, Sun. 1-5 pm. Admission $6/adults, $4/seniors & students, children under age 10 Free with Adult. Groups of 10 or more $4
 
For more details call the Museum at 401-769-9675 or visit the web at www.rihs.org

 

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