|Judy Collins - Bread and Roses .mp3|
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Bread and Roses
by James Oppenheim
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!
This is the origin of this "celebration":
On 8 March 1857, women working in clothing and textile factories (called 'garment workers') in New York City staged a protest to fight against inhumane working conditions and low wages. The police attacked the protestors and dispersed them. Two years later, again in March, these women formed their first labour union to try and protect themselves and gain some basic rights in the workplace.
On 8 March 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter work hours, better pay, voting rights and an end to child labour.
On 25th March 1911 the tragic Triangle Fire in New York City took place: over 140 workers, mostly young Italian and Jewish immigrant girls working at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company, lost their lives because of the lack of safety measures. There were many protests against this avoidable tragedy, including the silent funeral march which brought together a crowd of over 100,000 people. The Triangle Fire had a significant impact on labour legislation and the horrible working conditions leading up to the disaster were invoked during subsequent observances of International Women's Day.
In 1912, the women mill workers at the Lawrence Textile(Lawrence, Massachusetts) were on strike for two months in protest against a reduction in pay. During the strike the women carried signs reading “We want bread, and roses, too”, quoting the poem "Bread and Roses", written by James Oppenheim to celebrate the movement for women’s rights and published in American Magazine in 1911. This is the reason why this strike is often known as the "Bread and Roses" strike, with bread symbolizing economic security and roses a better quality of life.
Bread and Roses was set to music by Mimi Baez Fariña -sister of folk singer Joan Baez- in the 1970s, and has become an anthem for labor rights, and especially the rights of working women, in the United States and elsewhere.