Tag Archives: Lawrence Massachusetts Textile Strike

Bread, Yes! But Roses, Too!

5 Sep

Lawrence Women on Strike

Nearly one hundred years ago, in January 1912, there was a textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts.  The strikers were almost all immigrant women.  As Utah Phillips tells us in his little preamble in his version of “Bread and Roses,” like any worker who was on strike, they were demanding better wages, hours and conditions.

But they also wanted a little dignity.  Legend has it than one of the workers had a placard that read, “We want bread, but we want roses too!”  This slogan referenced a poem called “Bread & Roses” from the year before by James Oppenheim.  In this poem – and in the strike – both bread and roses were called for in order to have a full and satisfactory life.

There is debate as to whether or not one of the Lawrence strikers did actually carry this sign, but if she didn’t, she should have.  As Utah says, “it takes more than (wages, hours and conditions) to be a woman.  It takes more than those three things to lead a decent human life.”

Thankfully we not on strike on this Labor Day, but maybe we should be rising up a little against ourselves.  I’m guessing that most of us are probably our own worst oppressors on that front these days.   But that doesn’t make the need for both bread and roses any less necessary.

Something to think about this Labor Day.  In between the sales that is.