Bread and Roses - Defining Basic Needs
Explore the concept of “Bread and Roses” and ideas about work and dignity, with specific cases on education and culture, hats and clothing, poetry and song, as well as traditional Jewish texts about labor.
- Basic human needs include those of the body as well as the soul.
- What do human beings need to live, besides the basic necessities of food, water, and shelter?
- How do social and cultural activities nurture our humanity?
- How do human needs vary from individual to individual?
Notes to Teacher
This lesson is designed to have students explore what early labor activists meant by wanting “bread and roses.” It was not enough to earn sufficient amounts of money to feed, shelter and clothe themselves and to have safe working conditions; they also wanted free time, dignity, respect and joy in their lives.
In Part I of the lesson, Big Ideas, students make personal meaning of significant words about work, life and humanity, and they discuss these ideas in Part II of the lesson. If you do not read the Introductory Essay with your students, make sure that they are aware of the time period and historical background. In Part III, students read, look at, listen to, analyze and discuss primary source documents.
The following biographies can be used in connection to this lesson:
Big Ideas Activity Pages
Bread Givers by Anzia Yezierska
The Samuel Gompers Papers
The Cradle Will Rock
Labor music from Labor Arts
Labor Music Resources from the American Labor Studies Center
Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl
Stars, Strikes, and the Yiddish Stage
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Bread and Roses - Defining Basic Needs." (Viewed on May 18, 2021) <https://jwa.org/teach/livingthelegacy/labor/bread-and-roses-defining-basic-needs>.