LightPages Global Network From: Jeanie DeRousseau
Date: Sunday, March 6, 2011
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By Jeanie DeRousseau, anthropologist and collaboration advocate for women’s groups at LightPages

Since 1911 waves of women have stood for and acted upon their principles to bring freedom and equality to women. The freedoms we enjoy have not been won with violence, but instead by linking arms and finding strengths together.

This year is the 100th anniversary of the first International Women’s Day that was held in 1911 in several European countries. It was aligned then with the women’s labor and socialist movements, and the song Bread and Roses honored that heroism. Historical moments of deep change are connected to demonstrations on International Women’s Day, and in the decade after the first one, women received the right to vote in many countries.

As we come 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,
For the people hear us singing: “Bread and roses! Bread and roses!”
-James Oppenheim, 1911

Lyrics and Judy Collins audio

In the 1970s International Women’s Day became even more widespread as it gained official recognition by the United Nations. The first of 4 World Conferences on Women was held in Mexico City, and the song Bread and Roses, put to music by Mimi Farina, was sung by many musicians of the era who sang for social justice. The civil rights, feminist, and gay rights movements cracked open cultural norms, and for awhile an optimism of newness filled the air.

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!

Joan Baez and Mimi Farina audio

On its 100th anniversary International Women’s Day is again marking a moment of deep social change. A new women’s entity, UN Women, is being officially launched at the United Nations on February 24, 2011. At the same time a new set of cultural values is growing in the grassroots, in the expanding circle movement which recognizes the inherent value of each person’s living, the honoring of diversity as rich experience and wisdom, and the importance of working together toward the greater good.

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!

Choral version of Bread and Roses

Today we are women working locally in millions of ways for bread AND roses, the grace notes of life that women naturally offer. And we are women connected globally more than ever before. Yet, something more is required to unite our efforts and bring grace to the difficult transitions of these times. We must become visible to one another, recognizing our value as women and the transformative power we carry as a collective of women, use our intuition to know when and how to collaborate for the greater good, and step forward, diverse voices united, as co-creators of our future.