‘Weekends’ didn’t exist in the 1850s!

Of course, Saturdays and Sundays aren’t a new invention, but the concept of ‘weekend’ as we know it in the United States did not originate until the rise of the labor movement in the early 1900s. Unions formed and demanded shorter hours and more time off for workers to recuperate from their physically demanding jobs.

In the good old days, people never got a break from work. Sure, there was the Sabbath, (which industry in Christian countries generally acknowledged on Sunday with at least reduced hours) but most people, like farmers, still had to work every day.

According the Oxford English dictionary the term ‘week-end’ first appeared in a magazine in 1879: “If a person leaves home at the end of his week’s work on the Saturday afternoon to spend the evening of Saturday and the following Sunday with friends at a distance, he is said to be spending his week-end at so-and-so.”

Worldwide, according to a few sources including The Sydney Morning Herald many industries were only requiring a half-day of work on Saturday to ensure their workers turned up sober on Monday mornings. In the United States, it wasn’t until 1908 that a New England cotton mill closed on both Saturday and Sunday so its Jewish workers did not have to work on the Sabbath.


Wonderopolis accredits Henry Ford as inventing the weekend, even though he did not shut his plant on Saturday until 1926—long after industry in England and Australia, to name but a few countries, had five-day workweeks. We only caught on after the unions – starting with the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America demanded less than ten hours a day and a five-day workweek in 1929. I remember my mother said in first grade circa 1933 she had to go to school on Saturday mornings, and my grandfather, a lawyer, had office hours on Saturday. The forty-hour workweek did not come until the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act. After the Act, the ‘weekend’ concept took root nationwide.

Now that you know more background than you ever wanted about the weekend (I told you you should have investigated it when you heard Maggie Smith question the word on Downton Abbey) I will leave you with this thought:

As ‘things get back to normal’ and (hopefully) the new norm of the pandemic lockdown abates, let us remember, it is important to work hard, but it is equally important to relax, enjoy the company of family and friends and play! Laughter remains the best medicine.

release date: Sept. 26,2021

I met all my deadlines this week. PLUS: Pioneer Passage, Book Three in my Journey of Cornelia Rose series is now safely in the hands of my editor. Hoorah! I aim to celebrate–using this weekend to recuperate and recharge…

…so I can jump back into work again on Monday.

I love researching life in the 1850s but I am so glad I live now.

   © Jane F. Collen June 18, 2021

IndexCardCure.com™ living now

One thought on “‘Weekends’ didn’t exist in the 1850s!

  1. Jane – totally agree we all need to take time out for ourselves. It is all too easy to keep on going which can lead to burn out. I now appreciate Friday evenings after a long working week, although invariably am then busy doing all the jobs I have not done during the week like shopping for food or ironing!! Let me know when the book is out! Maggie

    Liked by 1 person

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