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Massachusetts militiamen with fixed bayonets surround a parade of peaceful strikers

The slogan "Bread and Roses" originated in a poem of that name by James Oppenheim, published in The American Magazine in December 1911, which attributed it to "the women in the West." It is commonly associated with a textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts during January-March 1912, now often known as the "Bread and Roses strike".

The slogan appeals for both fair wages and dignified conditions.



The Lawrence strike, which united dozens of immigrant communities under the leadership of the Industrial Workers of the World, was led to a large extent by women. Many claim that during the strike some of the women carried a sign that said, "We want bread, but we want roses, too!" No reliable evidence has yet been found to verify this, and the claim has been rejected by some veterans of the Lawrence strike.

A 1916 labor anthology, The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest by Upton Sinclair, is the first known source to attribute the phrase to the Lawrence strikers. A republication of Oppenheim's poem in 1912, following the strike, attributed it to "Chicago Women Trade Unionists".

The strike was settled on March 14, 1912, on terms generally favorable to the workers. The workers won pay increases, time-and-a-quarter pay for overtime, and a promise of no discrimination against strikers. The strikers are credited with inventing the moving picket line (so that they would not be arrested for loitering).


The strike and slogan have been the inspiration for the names of a diverse collection of organisations and publications.

Poem and Song lyrics


  • Bruce Watson, Bread and Roses: Mills, Migrants, and the Struggle for the American Dream (New York: Viking, 2005), ISBN 0-670-03397-9.

See also

External links



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