Bread and roses on International Women’s day

Bread and roses: well I didn’t get any roses this morning, but my husband did remember to put the breadmaker on last night. Does that count? I’m a bit late to International Women’s Day this year. But here’s a poem to honour it. Don’t worry, not mine.

One written in 1911, highlighting the poor working conditions of women, and their need for a living wage (bread), but also a better, happier existence too (roses). It is said the author took inspiration from a speech by Rose Schneiderman, a union leader, socialist and feminist. A moving tribute to the women’s rights movement:

“As we go 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 go 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 go marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient call 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 go 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.”

James Oppenheim: December, 1911

And here is some really interesting background to the history of International Women’s day. We’ve come so far, but there’s much more to do, especially when you look at women’s issues on a global scale.

Wishing you a thought-provoking International Women’s day, if a little late!


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