While craft workers were primarily interested in ensuring their own survival and that of their craft, many of them recognized the importance of establishing better working conditions for all workers. The "Nine-Hours Movement" in the early 1870s was led by craft workers who believed that employees would benefit if the working day was reduced to nine hours, instead of the 10 to 12 hours that many were then working.

In the United States, workers were fighting for an even shorter day — eight hours. This poem, written south of the border, was published in the Canadian journal dedicated to the Nine-Hours Movement, and illustrates the frustrations shared by workers in both countries.

We mean to make things over;
We're tired of toil for naught
But bare enough to live on—
Never an hour for thought;
We want to see the sunshine,
We want to smell the flowers;
We're sure that God has willed it,
And we mean to have eight hours.
We're summoning our forces,
From shipyard, shop and mill—
Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest,
Eight hours for what we will!

From the factories and the workshops,
In long and weary lines,
From all the sweltering forges,
From all the sunless mines,—
Wherever toil is wasting
The force of life to live,—
Its bent and battered armies
Come to claim what God doth give.
And the blazon on its banner
Doth with hope the nations fill—
Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest,
Eight hours for what we will!

Ontario Workman, May 16, 1872

Nine-Hours procession in Hamilton.

"All along the route thousands of spectators thronged the sidewalk, and the windows of the houses were also filled with ladies, who cheered the procession as it passed in a manner which evidently showed that their sympathies were with the workingmen in their endeavour to obtain the object for which they were striving."

Ontario Workman,
April 18, 1872

Link to the Social Progress Gallery