Bread and Roses: The Rising of the Women

Photo courtesy of the Illustrious Katie Rose

An offering to the Crows: Photo courtesy of the Illustrious Katie Rose

“What the woman who labors wants is the right to live, not simply exist — the right to life as the rich woman has the right to life, and the sun and music and art. You have nothing that the humblest worker has not a right to have also. The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too. Help, you women of privilege, give her the ballot to fight with.”

—Rose Schneiderman, 1912

As we stood circled and gave final thanks to the Gods, spirits, and allies that inspirited the temple, the crows called outside and the sacred space shifted, changing it’s role like a breath held at length finally released.  Where a moment ago stood the Temple of the Morrigan and Her Tribe, was a simple bare hotel room stacked with sacred items and offerings.   We went outside onto the deck with an armful of roses and a loaf of bread and spread them out as an offering to our corvid kin and the Queen we have in common.

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I have taken an unusually long time decompressing all of my experiences at Pantheacon this year.  I have started a number of posts only to stop after a few paragraphs and question if what I was writing was contributing to the discussion or just rehashing things that others have written more adeptly about than I.  I have read and reread other peoples experiences there, tried to piece together complex events that although I knew happened, didn’t personally witness, and I have sat with my experiences and tried to tease a narrative out of deeply personal moments and feelings, moments of fierce camaraderie, moments of joy and laughter, moments of sorrow and anger, times when I was surrounded by my kin and we laughed so hard that our faces hurt and times when I was alone, in the temple, broken open and weeping.  I grappled and struggled with my muse and came up empty handed, dry mouthed and unsatisfied.  This morning I saw a picture of our offering to the crows and our Lady and thought of the slogan “Bread and Roses” and what it means.

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The slogan “Bread and Roses” comes from a speech given by labor union leader, socialist, and feminist Rose Schneiderman during the turn of the century labor and suffragette movements.  The line in her speech (“The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too.”) inspired the poem “Bread and Roses” by James Oppenheim and songs that inspired demonstrators and young girls carried signs that read “We Want Bread, and Roses Too” out into the streets to face company controlled police armed with rifles with bayonets attached and ready. The slogan means that not only should women be paid fairly and treated well in their work, but they should be treated fairly in society and allowed to experience the beauty of life as well.  It means that workers should be given enough money and leisure time for them to have a fulfilling life and be treated like human beings not machines to enrich the wealthy only to be discarded when used up.

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!

As I read the words of the poem, certain lines stood out.  “As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead, Go crying through our singing, their ancient cry for bread”  and the voices of those dead echoed in my ears.  Because we are still fighting the same battles that those women fought, and we are still going through the same struggles that those women did, and the voices of our ancestors cry out for justice and they cry out for equality, and they cry out for bread, and they weep for the scarcity of the roses.  They shed their blood and they gave up their freedom and they risked their lives, all the while working their fingers bloody and raising their families and feeding their children, so that their descendants could live better lives than they did.  And they watch us for across the veil, and they scream in anger and they weep as their children, and grandchildren and their great grandchildren fight the same battles that they fought…..and they reach forward to us and they give us the strength to carry on the struggle.

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“The rising of the women means the rising of the race”

Out in the streets now are women, women carrying on the legacy of these heroic ancestors of ours, our mighty dead..  Women are most often the leaders in the social justice movement.  They are in meetings and out in the street, organizing and inspiring this next generation of activists.  Channeling the love and power of our ancestors, they shine a light and show us a path forward.  They ignite the flame of justice in our hearts and drive us forward into a better future.  Throughout our history, women have played the dominate role in creating a world worth living in and once again we find them leading us to confront injustice and bigotry, lift up our human family, and tear apart the structures that have been designed to marginalize and exploit us.

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So I speak of the women who inspire me today, the activists, freedom fighters, and warriors who are tireless in their efforts to guide and protect our communities.  The women who have taken the torch of justice from the hands of their mothers and grandmothers and use it to set the world aflame.  A flame to bring to light the horror and brutality and ignite the passion of the next generations and inspire them to continue the fight.  For the fight never ends, each generation’s work builds on the last’s

And I can only name a few here, and point you in the direction of their writings.  I encourage you to explore the work of these powerful women and share it with those that you feel might also be inspired by them.  I encourage you to learn about the suffragette movement, and the Black Lives Matter movement, and every social justice movement in between.  I urge you,  if you are a man, to speak up for women’s rights, and listen to women and learn to truly be their allies.  Because, The rising of the women means the rising of the race.

………and here is a woefully brief and incomplete list of strong women activist writers that inspire me.

Crystal Blanton – Daughters of Eve

T. Thorn Coyle – Know Thyself

Morpheus Ravenna – The Shieldmaiden Blog

Alley Valkyrie – blogging on the Wild Hunt

Courtney Weber – Real Magic…for Real People

Mia McKenzie – Black Girl Dangerous

There are more, so many more.  Please seek them out.

On a final note, I would like to leave you with something that gives me hope for our future.  Meet the Radical Brownies

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2 thoughts on “Bread and Roses: The Rising of the Women

  1. Reblogged this on Around the Grid and commented:
    In the light of the world’s Marches on Washington this past Saturday, I’m sharing with you a blog article I found. I hope you will read it all when you hit the link, then take the power we share out into the street and the state house and the ballot box, and continue the struggle both for bread and for roses — the equality of the sexes, the recognition that we are people and not to be marginalized or objectified, the struggle for human dignity for all people, no matter sex or creed or country.

    Like

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