Mere Subsistence Is Not Enough
November 22, 2018 7:51 AM   Subscribe

“Public officials have only words of warning to us – warning that we must be intensely peaceable…The strong hand of the law beats us back, when we rise, into the conditions that make life unbearable.” Rose Schneiderman (1882-1972) was a militant trade unionist, socialist activist, and women’s rights leader who helped shape the New Deal despite being decried by conservative New York legislators as i‘the Red Rose of Anarchy’. Schneiderman is most famous for the bloody, 63 day long Lawrence textile Strike (which sent children away to safety in nearby Vermont.) Not for her presence, but for her “Bread and Roses speech” given earlier in the year which became a slogan and chant of the strikes (although its origin have be from popular Italian anarchist writings of the time.) James Oppenheim wrote a poem inspired by the Lawerence Strike, which was then set to music by Mimi Fariña, sister of Joan Baez, who later covered it. Other covers: Ani DiFranco - John Denver - Judy Collins - the movie Pride (Solo version by Bronwen Lewis).
posted by The Whelk (7 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Lawrence, MA is still a very poor city to this day. Currently, hundreds of Lawrence families are living in leaky trailers following a natural gas disaster that saw dozens of homes across the city (and in neighboring towns) bursting into flames over the course of a mid-September night, seemingly at random—a disaster caused in part by poorly-maintained equipment and infrastructure, the sorts of problems that one tends to see in areas affected by long-term poverty. (The other part was incompetence and negligence on the part of the gas utility.) Hundreds of people there—poor people, elderly people, immigrants—are still without natural gas, meaning that they lack hot water, heat, or a way to cook in their homes. It's a city with a storied history, one which has played a major part in the stories of the labor movement and immigration here in the US, but also one of those cities that I think people from other areas don't realize exist here in wealthy, progressive Massachusetts.

There's a soup kitchen in Lawrence that's named Bread and Roses, run by some really great folks. My company recently helped them go solar, which will wipe out their electricity bill for them and help them stay financially sustainable. Their services are badly needed in their community.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:09 AM on November 22, 2018 [9 favorites]

The government’s legal theory was laughable by today’s standards: if these dangerous union organizers had not stirred up trouble, there would have been no riot, and Anna LoPizzo would not have been shot.
Note that the article is almost 7 years old. The "laughable" legal theory sounds today like something Trump and his Justice department would enthusiastically embrace, as do the blatantly discriminatory pay scales. Prominent Republicans have in recent years endorsed proposals to pay immigrants at lower rates than citizens, to allow child labor, and to generally reduce worker protections we've all taken for granted. That anyone who is not an oligarch votes for them constantly amazes me.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:11 AM on November 22, 2018 [4 favorites]

This is a great post for Thanksgiving Day, The Whelk. Thank you! I wanted to know more about the soup kitchen there that Anticipation of a New Lover's Arrival mentioned. I found this lovely video.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 8:34 AM on November 22, 2018

Great post!! Another version
posted by Unioncat at 8:56 AM on November 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

One of my most cherished memories of the Women's March of two years ago is--well, we'd brought a little portable speaker, and when the crowd broke up to march in cheering knots through DC, we put music on it and we sang along. And we were joined by other women in twos and threes and fours until we marched for a ways, all singing together in a ragged joyful chorus.

Someone here, I can't remember which of the MeFites who met for the March it was, was bound and determined that she was going to damn well sing Bread And Roses while the singing was good. And so we had Judy Collins' version on our speaker and we sang to it a few different times, and I think I told the story of Bread and Roses to a few strangers on that day too while I was at it.

So that's a memory I will carry with me until the day I die: striding euphorically through the streets of my home city, the nation's capital, as the whole city stops and quakes and rejoices at the sound of women singing and communing with each other and affirming that we need roses, too. It's one hell of a memory.

Thank you.
posted by sciatrix at 9:03 AM on November 22, 2018 [8 favorites]

I sang "Bread and Roses" in a women's ensemble in a concert two years ago. It was one of those performances where you have to stay super-focused so you can sing past the lump in your throat.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:42 AM on November 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

Thank you for this post! I'm always ready to affirm my commitment to fully automated luxury gay space communism when joking around with fellow travelers, but "bread and roses" said it first and better; the concept and the song are both tremendously powerful and effective ways of saying what it is we're fighting for.

And I can never make it through that scene in Pride (or any decent rendition of the song, tbh) without crying.
posted by karayel at 11:03 AM on November 23, 2018

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