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Alternate Activity 2: Bread and Roses (20 minutes), Workshop 13: The Women's Movement

In "Resistance and Transformation," a Tapestry of Faith program

Materials for Activity

  • Handout 5, Bread and Roses
  • A recording of "Bread and Roses" and a music player

Preparation for Activity

  • Copy Handout 5 for all participants.
  • Arrange to play the song "Bread and Roses." Judy Collins, John Denver, and Joan Baez with Mimi Farina (who wrote the contemporary tune) are among the artists who have recorded it. Many versions are available for download at minimal cost online.
  • Optional: Bring in other "movement" songs from a variety of sources, with a variety of social justice messages. Obvious choices are from the music of Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, or Joan Baez, but there are plenty of others: "We are the Champions" by Queen, "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash, "Not A Pretty Girl" by Ani DeFranco, "Not Ready to Make Nice" by the Dixie Chicks.

Description of Activity

Read the following quote from Audrey Drummond, a member of the Arlington Street Women's Caucus:

Increasingly we found ourselves turning to music as our primary method of expression. Ruth recalled how music floated over and around and in and among us, songs, and words becoming part of our lives. Ruth wasn't one of our musical members and there simply had been no music in her life. A few old hymns, some Girl Scout Songs, a chorus or two of the "Star Spangled Banner;" that was it. As the Caucus began singing together, music suddenly became part of her life. It was, she said, "gorgeous music, flowing music" setting her life into the same gorgeous rhythms while the words urged her to revolution.

Distribute Handout 5, Bread and Roses and invite people to follow along with the words. Play the song, allowing a few moments of silence when it ends.

Say, in your own words:

"Bread and Roses" is one of the songs recorded by the Arlington Women's Caucus. The song itself is much older—it was written after a strike in a textile factory in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1912. The workers were mostly women, and they took on the slogan "Bread and Roses" for the strike. Ask the group to remember that in 1912, women did not yet have the vote and many working class women were functionally illiterate, having been forced out of school and into the workforce at an early age. Singing was useful to the movement not only because it lifted the spirits of those on strike, but because a catchy song communicates the issues and aims of a movement.

Ask participants to name other labor, civil rights, or other justice movement songs they know. Encourage them to sing them! Lead the group to share knowledge about civil rights movements that used music as a primary feature of public demonstrations and contemporary movements that use song in the same way. Consider modern songs, rock songs, folk songs, traditional music, hip hop, and rap.

Play "Bread and Roses" again and invite participants to sing along! Ask everyone to sing with gusto.

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Last updated on Saturday, December 10, 2011.

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