Bread and Roses, A Song for International Women’s Day

The following poem, Bread and Roses, was written by James Oppenheim, and published in 1911. Then, in 1912, women textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts led a massive strike. This was against poor working conditions, sexual harassment, and wage cuts. The slogan from this poem became the slogan of the strike — “Give Us Bread and Roses, too” — and then became forever associated with International Women’s Day. Women were fighting not only for their basic needs — “Bread” — but for the ability to enjoy their lives — “Roses.”

Later, in commemoration of International Women’s Day in 1917, Russian women left their factories and marched in the streets for “Bread and Peace.” And this helped spark a revolution that would overthrow the oppressive dictatorial regime, and create a workers’ government.

Here are the lyrics to the song, as well as a YouTube recording sung by Judy Collins:

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 come marching, marching, we battle too, for men
For they are women’s children and we mother them again
Our days 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, un-numbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient call for bread
Small art and love and beauty their trudging 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