This week is the 104th anniversary of the Lawrence Textile Strike that later became known as the Bread and Roses strike. On Jan 11th and 12th, 1912 women working in the textile factories of Lawrence, Massachusetts walked out en masse and started a two month strike that would later become known as the Bread and Roses strike, after a line in a speech given by Rose Schneiderman “The worker must have bread, but she needs roses, too.” The phrase would be adapted into a poem by James Oppenheim, which included the lines:
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!
The striking workers, mostly women, sent their children to stay with supporters in New York, which helped them maintain the strike and raise awareness of their efforts. On March 14th, 1912, the strike concluded successfully with terms favorable to the workers.
Know your nonviolent history . . . it might change your life.
Learn more about the strike:
Listen to Joan Baez sing “Bread and Roses”
Bread and Roses was featured on Love (and Revolution) Radio in our “Know Your Nonviolent History” segment. Sign up for the podcast here.
Author/Activist Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection, Billionaire Buddha and Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars, the cohost of Occupy Radio and Love (and Revolution) Radio, and the cofounder of the Love-In-Action Network. She is a trainer and social media coordinator for Campaign Nonviolence and Pace e Bene. Sun attended the James Lawson Institute on Strategic Nonviolent Resistance in 2014 and her essays on social justice movements appear in Truthout and Popular Resistance. www.riverasun.com