A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
Bread and Roses
by James Oppenheim
As we go marching, marching In the beauty of the day A million darkened kitchens A thousand mill lofts grey 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 Smart 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 the sharing of life's glories Bread and roses, bread and roses Our lives shall not be sweated From birth until life closes Hearts starve as well as bodies Bread and roses, bread and roses! Public Domain --
“Bread and Roses” is a political slogan as well as the name of an associated poem and song. It originated from a speech given by American women’s suffrage activist Helen Todd; a line in that speech about “bread for all, and roses too” inspired the title of the poem Bread and Roses by James Oppenheim. The poem was first published in The American Magazine in December 1911.
The phrase is commonly associated with the successful textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, between January and March 1912, now often referred to as the “Bread and Roses strike”. The slogan pairing bread and roses, appealing for both fair wages and dignified conditions, found resonance.
Oppenheim’s poem has been translated into other languages and has been set to music by at least three composers. In the United States, the song gained a larger audience after World War II as part of the growing popularity of folk music. In 1974 the poem was set to music by Mimi Fariña, and this version has been recorded by various artists, including Judy Collins, Joan Baez, Ani DiFranco and Utah Phillips. [text adapted from Wikipedia]