1912, textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts were paid $6 for a 56 hour, six-day workweek. Children were paid 25 cents a day. On January 11, Polish women stopped weaving to protest yet another pay cut. Their actions grew into a powerful strike by 23,000 workers: mostly women and children of 27 different ethnic groups. The strike was organized using a highly democratic process, mass picketing, and for the first time, song. Despite brutal police tactics, the workers’ spirit and solidarity triumphed on March 14. The victory showed that unorganized, unskilled immigrant workers could be successful against powerful companies, thereby setting an important precedent for future struggles. This song captures their spirit:

As we go 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:
Bread and Roses. Bread and Roses.
As we go marching, marching
We’re standing proud and tall
The rising of the women
Means the rising of us all.
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.

“I named my bakery after the strike to honor the spirit of the workers- mostly women who united, despite their lack of education, common language, and against brutal tactics to starve them and their families back to work. They fought for Bread- the necessities of life, but also for Roses, ( the good things in life). In my business, we all work hard. I treat people as I want to be treated. I believe very strongly in doing well by doing good.”

– Mary Breen, 35-year Owner