Thursday, March 10, 2011

The rising of our women is the rising of us all

I'm too angry to blog thoughtfully about what's going on in Wisconsin.

My parents were schoolteachers under a string of Republican governors, and I remember seeing a photo in the newspaper of my dad and his fellow workers protesting at some school board meeting, singing union songs. When I became a graduate student, I joined unions and participated in picket lines, so I'm definitely feeling some solidarity with the people of Wisconsin.

Many times over the past few days, I've seen folks reference Martin Luther King Junior's reminder that "the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice." That sentence has become a sort of mantra for me over the past few days.

Suffragists, Section of Working Women, 1917 (source)

As many people have pointed out, the end of collective bargaining disproportionately affects women employees--as do various other actions being taken this legislative season in state legislatures across the nation.

I feel moved, then, to share one of my favorite songs. Here's Utah Phillips and Ani DiFranco performing their version of "Bread and Roses" (scroll to 1:18, where the song begins):

Lyrics (slightly different from the original lyrics):

As we come marching, marching, in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill-lofts gray
Are brightened by the beauty a sudden sun discloses,
And the people hear us singing, “Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses.”

As we come marching, marching, we battle, too, for men –
For they are in this struggle and together we can win.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes –
Hearts can starve as well as bodies; give us Bread, but give us Roses.

As we come marching, marching, a hundred million 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're standing proud and tall –
The rising of our women is 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.

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