I’m so happy to be able to tell you about an award winning, ground breaking, progressive new institution that is supporting and empowering women throughout the world. Growing ties in the community, teaching new skills, building confidence and relationships to women of every nation, Bread and Roses is a florist that’s making a difference. At Flower Shops Networkwe like to showcase pioneers in the floristry industry whenever we can, as after all we’re all in this together and showing support whenever we can is part of our ethos.
But first, a little history lesson……don’t panic! I think it’s one you’ll respect and enjoy.
Knowledge is power
The powerful phrase “Bread and Roses” has a deep, rich, history and became a political slogan used throughout the years. First uttered in a speech by Helen Todd at the Massachusetts Textile strikes in 1910, also known as the Bread and Roses strikes, these iconic words have come to mean so much more.
Not at once; but woman is the mothering element in the world and her vote will go toward helping forward the time when life's Bread, which is home, shelter and security, and the Roses of life, music, education, nature and books, shall be the heritage of every child that is born in the country, in the government of which she has a voice.
— Helen Todd, 1910
Image Source: Wikipedia
The sweet pairing of bread and roses, appealing for not just fairer wages but also more dignified working conditions, struck a chord with the nation and is still revered today. Nobody knows where Helen came up with the phrase Bread and Roses, but some believe it had been said before…..
If thou hast two loaves of bread, sell one and buy flowers, for bread is food for the body, but flowers are food for the mind.
— Galen of Pergamon, c. 200 AD
Image Source: Britannica
A strong leader
Helen Todd was a powerful and successful suffragette who fought most of her life for women’s right to vote and the need for solid laws when it came to things such as working conditions, wages and hours. She was a great lady and did a lot of good for not just women’s rights, but also for the poor and downtrodden. After successfully campaigning for women’s voting rights Helen continued fighting for women and workers without a voice.
She created a ‘Woman to Woman” committee in 1920 which would bring immigrant workers wives into contact with American women to help improve not just their English skills but also help them fit into society and settle in their new and alien community’s. She even helped feed and house over 100 Russian women and children after their husbands were deported for being communists.
Which, I think it’s clear to see, is why this beautiful new charity aptly chose its name….
Bread and Roses
This is an impressive new organisation, founded in 2016 by 3 inspiring women who were, through their chosen professions and voluntary work, concerned with the lack of structure and support many female refugees were granted upon arrival here in the UK.
Imagine for a moment being forced to flee your home, your town, your country and ending up in a totally different Universe where you don’t understand the language, customs or cultures of your new environment. The fear and confusion would be overwhelming.
We shouldn’t forget that many of these refugees have undergone gender based or sexually violent horrors and tortures most of us couldn’t even imagine, on their long and arduous journey to relative safety.
Doing great work
This is where Bread and Roses have stepped in to try and make the transition a little less painful for many of these women. They understand that the obstacles facing women with refugee status are long and tough in the UK, especially when looking for a livelihood of some kind. Many of these women may not have as much experience as their male equivalents, there are often children who require child care, there are school runs to do, mouths to feed and then there’s the obvious language barrier. Many are also coming to terms with past traumas and may need support and counselling through the difficult times. It’s not an easy time for so many.
Therapy through floristry
This is why Bread and Roses was created, to help and support women to beat the odds and overcome these barriers.
By paying homage to Helen Todd’s Woman to Woman committee of the 1920’s, Bread and Roses are helping refugees in the UK mix and mingle with local residents which not only helps with their language skills but boosts their confidence and creates better links with the community.
They create this harmony through the therapeutic benefits and healing power of flowers.
The Bread and Roses program uses local knowledge and networks to harness the benefits of floristry to support women to rebuild their lives here in the UK.
And it works.
With 2 new sister programs already up and running, one in Paris and the other in Israel, their commitment to helping and supporting refugees continues to rise like bread and blossom like roses! Offering women from around the world new floristry skills, in a safe environment, where they get to meet new people and new possibilities whilst practicing their English is Bread and Roses in a nut shell.
So if you would like to get involved, this year and for the first time, Bread and Roses are offering grants to organisations that would like to run their own programs. If you’re not quite ready to take that step just yet, you can always show solidarity by buying a beautiful bouquet created with refugees freshly acquired floristry skills or simply donating to their cause if you wish. You can do so on their website.
Bread and Roses
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."
As we come marching, marching, we battle, too, for men—
For they are women's children and we mother them again.
Our days 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 song of Bread;
Small art and love and beauty their trudging 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.
— James Oppenheim, 1911 - inspired by Helen Todd’s speech at the Bread and Roses riots of 1910.