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The Intersection of Science, Art, Music & Humanities

Bread & Roses History

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Bread and Roses is a political slogan as well as the name of an associated poem and song. It originated from a 1911 speech given by Rose Schneiderman:

The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too. Help, you women of privilege, give her the ballot to fight with.

On January 11, 1912, a group of Polish women textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts, discovered that their employer had cut their total wages as a consequence of a Massachusetts law, which had cut the legal work week from 56 to 54 hours.

The next day, workers in the American Woolen Company Mills also found that their wages had been cut. Prepared for the events by weeks of discussion and debate, they walked out.

This exit began an iconic American Strike.

The strikers wanted not only decent pay, but a chance to enjoy the good things of life. They carried signs saying, “We want bread and roses too!"

The slogan pairing bread and roses, appealing for both fair wages and dignified conditions, found resonance as transcending the sometimes tedious struggles for marginal economic advances in the light of labor struggles, as based on striving for dignity and respect.


Unfortunately, given today’s extreme income disparity and the ever-rising basic cost of living, Bread and Roses is an appropriate metaphoric phrase for both men and women to understand, Labor Day 2018.

I know from my experience it is up to the working people to save themselves. The only way they can save themselves is by a strong working-class movement.  —Rose Schneiderman

"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!" —James Oppenheim

Have a thoughtful Labor Day weekend and enjoy listening to Judy Collins singing Bread & Roses in the video at the top. 

Ellen Troyer, with Spencer Thornton, MD, David Amess and the Biosyntrx staff

Biosyntrx strongly believes that appreciation, exploration, and commitment to science, art, music and humanities add significantly to the global greater good and are important parts of the intellectual whole.