The Strike for Three Loaves

February 18, 2015

103 years ago, workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts were in the middle of an organized battle with the bosses of textile shops all across the city. Their strike lasted from January to March of 1912.

The strikers had to shut down production and slim down the profit margins of the textile capitalists before they won their demands. When the bosses were forced to agree to the workers’ terms, workers in thirty-four American Woolen Company branches and throughout the textile industry saw their quality of life improve and their wages rise. Their experience remains one of the most important to the workers’ movement.  

In commemoration of the strike we are reprinting the lyrics of “Bread and Roses” from the Little Red Songbook. This song, made famous by the Lawrence strikers, was used frequently by organizers to mobilize the workers and keep their spirits high.

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, 
Our brothers in the struggle, and together we will win. 
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. 
For the rising of the women raises up the human 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!