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Jephtha Freeman – Pioneer of the Eight Hour Day

March 12, 2019


This weekend 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

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

From → Family stories

  1. An important piece of social history, all the more interesting because of your personal link.

  2. Laura Hedgecock permalink

    Really interesting post!

  3. Devon Noel Lee permalink

    A great little story. Bite-sized and digestible.

  4. M. Diane Rogers permalink

    Great that you can tie your families to Australian labour history. The “Eight Hours” plaque is really interesting – with all those names recorded. Do you happen to know what year it was put up?

  5. I love it when people find a family connection to an important historical moment. Thanks for sharing Jephtha’s story!

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