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Labor Day

September 3rd is Labor Day in the United States, a time set aside each year to honor the part played by American workers in the building of a free and prosperous society. From the earliest days of colonial settlement, American women shared the hardships and dangers of work, as America transformed itself from a predominately agricultural society to the world’s foremost economic power.

Like women throughout the world, American women have had to struggle against cultural norms and discriminatory laws that once sharply restricted their freedom and job opportunities. But with changes in laws and attitudes, American women have overcome these obstacles and achieved excellence.

One women who helped break down the barriers was Clara Barton. Born in 1821, she organized one of the first free schools in the state of New Jersey. The school was a great success, but when a man was hired to head the school, Clara resigned in protest. She went to Washington, D.C., where she became the first woman clerk employed by the U.S. Patent Office. During the American civil war, she organized volunteers, many of them women, to bring supplies and medical aid to thousands of wounded soldiers and became known as the “angel of the battlefield.” After the war, she established the American Red Cross.

American women made vital contributions during the First and Second World Wars. They demanded and won basic civil rights, including the right to vote. In 1963, Congress passed the Equal Pay Act, requiring equal pay for women. A year later, the Civil Rights Act outlawed discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

In the same spirit, the U.S. supports efforts by women in other nations to achieve basic rights, including the right to fair treatment in the workplace. As President George W. Bush says, “American women are shaping our nation and the world by serving in all walks of life.” Americans, he says, are “grateful for the bold leadership of American women who have opened doors of opportunity for women of future generations.”

The preceding was an editorial reflecting American ideals and institutions.