Labor Day in Pullman

I have four hours on the Wolverine train to Ann Arbor, MI. I have a comfy seat, an electric plug, and the internet available, so it’s a good time to catch up with everything :). I returned from Wisconsin on Saturday of the Labor Day weekend, so I still had two full days and a little bit for myself. Usually, on Labor Day, I try to do something meaningful, something related to the holiday. And most of the time it means visiting Pullman.

Igor talked me into visiting it for the first time in 2014. I didn’t know anything about its amazing history back then and readily absorbed all the information. At that time, everybody was talking about getting Pullman the status of National Park, and in 2015 this happened.

This year I thought there is no way I can spend almost the whole day on this trip. But then I made some calculations, and due to the new Metra weekend schedule, it all appeared to look doable. So the decision was made, and I told Igor that I am coming.

We were hoping that the new status would escalate the restoration efforts, but the Florence Hotel is still closed to the public, and the factory restoration is still in process.

Peeking into hotel window:

The theme of this year’s Labor Day was “Women and Work”, which sounded quite interesting. Pullman, indeed, has lot’s of history of women’s labor movement, but the presentation of the material was a little bit chaotic :).

The official part took place in the gallery of the Florence Hotel, and on the lawn, in front of it, the visitors could observe a historical reconstruction of how women in Pullman did their laundry.

The funny thing was that I knew all the devices and was using most of them (except we didn’t have the roller). To be precise, that was the way women in my household would do laundry when I was a small child. All steps of the process, including boiling water on the gas stove and then dissolving it with cold water to the desired temperature.


When I mentioned to the lady who was posing the seamstress, that we had darker soap for the laundry, she immediately fetched the right kind of soap:). And I remembered how women would iron with the cast iron, and remember the day when the first electric iron appeared in our kitchen. She also asked me whether I knew how to mend the socks, and I said – yes. And my grandma had exactly the same wooden “mushroom” for the socks mending, and I later had a cool new shape which was also on display:)

After some speeches:

There was a Labor Music concert:

Historical reconstruction – the dance of the Chicago Mayor Hopkins and Jen Curtis:

I remembered how Anna sang the Labor songs ten yours ago, in solidarity with Wisconsin workers,

Then we went on two tours.

The streets and the houses were already well-known to us, but we learned more about the role of women in Pullman. Women were mostly viewed not as a workforce (as you might think!) but rather as housewives, making their working husbands happy. An ideal woman in Pullman would take care of her husband and children and in the spare time help other people in need.

There was a very limited number of jobs at the factory, where women would be allowed, mostly making upholstery. Women were paid approximately half of men’s wages, and when the wages were cut in 1894, women’s wages were cut more, than men’s.

We also learned about Pullman’s maids, which were assigned to the train crews like Pullman’s porters. Only there was usually only one maid on the train, serving the most privileged passengers.

More pictures from the tour:

Here were the living quoters where unlike the rest of the town, people were living in horrible conditions:

We had to leave a little bit earlier to catch the train back. Here is a sign on the wall we’ve notices on our way to the station:

That was our most recent trip to Pullman, but I have pictures from the previous ones. So if anybody is interested to learn more about this amazing part of the labor history, I will be happy to tell more.

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