May 3, 1936: The Front Populaire wins the second round of elections in France. A coalition of communist and other left-wing parties, it was created just two years earlier as a response to a day of rioting by members of far-right parties. Led by Léon Blum it was to introduce radical economic and social reforms such as the right to join a trade union, pay increases, a reduction in the working week from 48 to 40 hours, unemployment benefits and mandatory schooling to the age of 14.
But the most symbolic policy introduced by the Front Populaire, and the one most cherished by French workers today, was paid holiday. For the first time workers enjoyed two weeks of paid leave, sparking an unprecedented summer rush to the seaside.
Also on May 3: Christopher Colombus discovers Jamaica (1494); Margaret Mitchell’s ‘Gone With the Wind’ wins Pulitzer prize for fiction (1937); the Anne Frank House opens in Amsterdam (1960).
Born on May 3: Bing Crosby (1903), Sugar Ray Robinson (1921), James Brown (1933)