This work takes its title from the evocative slogan Give us bread but give us roses! attributed to women textile workers campaigning for better pay and conditions during a strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts (USA) in 1912. The women were essentially asking for the basics in life (bread) but also for enough money and leisure time to live a life where one might be elevated from grinding aesthetic and spiritual poverty and be able to enjoy the simple beauty of roses. The fight by this group of women became famous and a rousing folk song named Bread and Roses was penned to celebrate their struggle.
To create this print I brought my research closer to home in celebration of the efforts of Australian women trade unionists to fight for better pay and conditions for all workers. While the image itself borrows stylistically from Soviet poster art and the figure could be perceived as an every-woman, she is based on Marlene Schmidt, the first female president of a regional Trades Hall Council in Victoria (Geelong 1992-3). That it should take until 1992 for a woman to be elected to a position such as this is perhaps an indication of how far our fight for equality has still to go.