35.2 | Marit van de Warenburg

For the People Hear Us Singing “Bread and Roses”: The Myth of a Poem Turned Labor Song

This article examines the afterlife of the 1911 poem “Bread and Roses,” that is commonly associated with a 1912 factory strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and showcases how a 1974 musical rendition of the poem ‘stuck’ in the cultural memory of (labor) activists. The article demonstrates that the invented story of the song’s creation, alongside its ‘catchy music,’ as well as a range of flexibly applicable values in the song’s lyrics, underpin the poem’s lasting mobilizing power. In doing so, the article points at the influence of creation narratives and the e!ective symbiosis of text and sound as key factors in the production of persistent and influential activist songs.