“We Want Bread and Roses Too”
FROM WOMANKIND (MARCH 1972.) (Editor’s note: This is a historical look at the origins of International Women’s Day in the USA and how it spread throughout the world.)
International Women’s Day, a holiday celebrated world wide, honors working women and women’s struggle everywhere. Taught that women’s place in history is relatively undistinguished, it should be a real source of pride and inspiration to American women to know that International Women’s Day originated in honor of two all women strikes which took place in the U.S.
On March 8, 1857, garment workers in New York City marched and picketed, demanding improved working conditions, a ten hour day, and equal rights for women. Their ranks were broken up by the police. Fifty-one years later, March 8, 1908, their sisters in the needle trades in New York marched again, honoring the 1857 march, demanding the vote, and an end to sweatshops and child labor. The police were present on this occasion too.
In 1910 at the Second International, a world wide so-cialist party congress, German socialist Clara Zetkin proposed that March 8th be proclaimed Interna-tional Women’s Day, to commemorate the US demon-strations and honor working women the world over.
The women who, realized the tactical necessity of standing and working together lest they be destroyed individually, women who put to shame the ridiculous theories of “woman’s place’,” women who in the famous Lawrence textile strike carried picket signs reading “We want Bread and Roses, too”, symbolizing their demands for not only a living wage but a decent and human life, and so inspired James Oppenheim’s song “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 bring the greater days The rising of the women means the, rising of the race No more the drudge and idler that toil where one reposes But a sharing of life’s glories, Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses”