We all love weekends, but have you ever stopped to wonder who invented weekends?
Who came up with the idea of working five days and then taking two days off? Why didn’t they make the work week two days and the weekend five days?
As much as we love weekends, would you believe that they’ve only been around for less than 100 years? It’s true! For most of history, the workweek has been six or seven days long.
For much of history, taking one day of rest each week has been very common. This stems from various religious traditions. For example, Muslims traditionally took a day of rest on Friday, while Jews observed a day of rest on Saturday and Christians did so on Sunday.
It wasn’t until the Industrial revolution of the late 1800s that the concept of a two-day “weekend” began to take shape.
Getting time off to worship on Sundays was fairly easy, since observing Sunday as a day of rest was a longstanding Christian tradition. Due to a large number of Jewish immigrants in the late 1800s, factory owners also had many workers who wanted Saturday — the traditional Jewish day of rest — off instead. Over time, factory owners realized that it would be most efficient to let workers off on both Saturday and Sunday.
A prominent factory owner — Henry Ford — also played a big role. Even though the federal government didn’t begin to limit companies to a 40-hour workweek until 1938, Ford began to give his factory workers a two-day weekend in the early 1900s. Why did he do this? He wanted to sell the cars his workers were making. He realized that his own workers were some of his best customers. If he wanted to sell more cars, he decided that his workers needed time off to be able to drive and enjoy them.
So the next time the weekend rolls around and you want to thank someone, thank the labor movement, including labor unions, that existed in the late 1800s. And thank Henry Ford, who recognized that the economy gets a boost if workers have a couple of days off each week to purchase goods and enjoy using them!
Thank you Henry and the Unions!