Race, Gender, and Work: A Multicultural Economic History of Women in the United States

By Teresa Amott; Julie Matthaei | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
WHATEVER YOUR FIGHT,
DON'T BE LADYLIKE

European American Women1

As we come marching, marching, in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts grey,
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,
For they are women's children, and we mother them again.
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.
The rising of the women means the rising of the 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!"

--Poem by James Oppenheim, inspired by a banner carried by women
workers in the Lawrence, Massachusetts strike of 19122

Since the early nineteenth century, European American women's work lives have been defined by and in contrast to an ideology of domesticity that proclaimed the home and childrearing "women's sphere" and the workplace "men's sphere." Over the past two centuries, the contradictions in this ideal of womanhood have been lived out by millions of European American women. Some lived like the pampered ladies of the European aristocracy, decked out in fine clothes, waited on by slaves or servants, and "protected" by their fathers and husbands. But many, especially the young and unmar

-95-

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