Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Bread and Roses

And I considered myself a libber in the 70's. How could I have missed this?

Bread and Roses

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 song of Bread;
Small art of 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)

This poem, set to music, has been recorded by several artists including one of my favorites, John Denver, and I still missed knowing about it. (I like Judy Collins' version.)

As a political slogan, Bread and Roses is associated with the Lawrence, MA textile strike of January-March, 1912. What the women before me went through to give me the chances and freedoms that I have known in my life always brings tears to my eyes. I am grateful. I am humbled by their lives and fortitude.

Give us Bread, but give us Roses, too.

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