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Celebrating International Women’s Day - March 8

A Brief Herstory of IWD

On the morning of March 25, 1911, 146 women workers were killed in a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York. The doors to the factory were locked and firefighters' ladders could not reach the factory windows. Women burned to death or were killed as they tried to jump from the ninth floor of the factory. Most of the women were immigrants.

Only a year before, garment workers, including workers at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, had  organized a strike to demand better working conditions and wages. Factory owners refused to make concessions and the strike failed. Women and men commemorate the women who died in the factory fire, by organizing and fighting for better working conditions, wages, and women's rights.

Honouring Women by Organizing

In 2024, Asian women in North America still sew in factories and do piece work at home without labour protections or job security while our sisters in Asia comprise approximately 80% or more of the workforce in the garment industry and toil under similar or worse conditions.

Women’s struggle for better working conditions and rights continues today in all types of work from factories, hotels, construction sites to banks and hospitals. Low wages, long work hours, dangerous conditions, sexual harassment, racism, and lack of health benefits and  lack of childcare are a few of the workplace issues women face and which we organize to win from employers. We carry on the  struggle for both fair wages and dignified conditions, that is for ‘bread and also roses’.

Lyrics to the song Bread and Roses

As we go 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!

As we go 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 go marching, marching, unnumbered women dead 

Go crying through our singing their ancient call 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 go 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. 

Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes; 

Hearts starve as well as bodies; bread and roses, bread and roses.

Source for lyrics and more information: 

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