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Jephtha Freeman – Pioneer of Eight Hour day

March 14, 2016

This weekend, in Victoria, we are celebrating the Labour Day weekend.  In these modern times, I am sure the weekend is just another long weekend for workers, without much thought given to the reason for it.

The Labour Day Long weekend celebrates better conditions being given to workers in 1856.  In the 19th century workers worked very long hours without sick pay and holiday pay. Most workers at the time worked 14 hours each day.

The campaign began when a group of stonemasons downed tools and walked off the job during the building of the Melbourne University  They were protesting the long hours worked and the conditions endured by workers.  Due to this campaign, the eight hour day was brought in for workers at the same wage that they were paid for their twelve hour working day.

An annual holiday was enstated to celebrate the win and a procession through the streets was held for many years. An Eight Hour Banner was made and formed part of the march.  The day was known as eight hour day originally, and in 1934 was renamed Labour Day.

Eight hour day procession

Eight hour day pioneers marching in the eight hours procession. 

I have a family interest in the eight hour day and the Labour Day weekend, as Jephtha Freeman who belongs to my partner’s family, was one of the Eight Hour Governors. They became known popularly as the Eight Hour Day Pioneers. He lived to an old age and was  one of the three last remaining pioneers. The eight hour day flag draped over his coffin at his funeral, which was held in Sunbury

Eight hour banner & pioneers

The above photo shows the Eight Hour Banner and the pioneers. Jephtha Freeman was most likely one of these men, but there are no names given.

Eight Hour Day Plaque

The plaque above is on display at the Trades Hall in Lygon Street Carlton. His name is listed in the first column.


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One Comment
  1. Good to read this article.
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