Jesurgislac’s Journal

March 8, 2008

Bread and Roses: International Women’s Day

Filed under: Feminism — jesurgislac @ 11:57 am

As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing: “Bread and roses! Bread and roses!”

As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men,
For they are women’s children, and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!

As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread.
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
Yes, it is bread we fight for — but we fight for roses, too!

As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days.
The rising of the women means the rising of the race.
No more the drudge and idler — ten that toil where one reposes,
But a sharing of life’s glories: Bread and roses! Bread and roses!

Bread and Roses, James Oppenheim/Caroline Kohlsaat.

Originates from the mill strike in 1912, in Lawrence, Massachusetts, when “20,000 workers walked out of the mills in spontaneous protest against a cut in their weekly pay. Workers had been averaging $8.76 for a 56-hour work week when a state law made 54 hours the maximum for women and for minors under 18. The companies reduced all hours to 54 but refused to raise wage rates to make up for the average loss of 31 cents per week suffered by each worker because of the reduction in hours.” “During one of the many parades conducted by the strikers some young girls carried a banner with the slogan: “We want bread and roses too.” This inspired James Oppenheim to write his poem, “Bread and Roses,” which was set to music by Caroline Kohlsaat.”

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