By Jaymie White
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
PORT AUX BASQUES — The idea behind Bread and Roses comes from a political slogan used during the women’s suffrage movement in the early 1900’s. The slogan, which is also the name of a song and poem, represented the appeal for fair wages and working conditions for women, something that continues to be at the heart of every Bread and Roses Soirée held by Gateway Status of Women Council, an event which will be returning this year after a two-year hiatus.
“It’s a celebration of International Women’s Day firstly, and there is a dinner with dessert, tea, coffee, and all of that. It’s beautifully decorated and it almost feels like you’re at a wedding,” said Megan Bateman, Executive Director for the Gateway Status of Women Council. “It’s meant to be a very empowering place for women. Women from all different generations come together in one room and there’s music, usually we have somebody sing a few songs, there’s various speakers, and there are prize giveaways. Prizes are donated by local businesses.”
The Bread and Roses Soiree has a few presentations designed to recognize women’s equality in terms of gender, class, race, age, and any other inter-sectional factors.
“We have a guest speaker who usually speaks on a topic relevant to empower women. It’s meant to leave you with an inspiring message, and we invite the mayor and Andrew Parsons to speak as well. It’s really nice,” said Bateman. “It’s not meant to only make them feel good during the event, but leave them with a powerful message of hope for the future of women’s equality.”
When COVID caused numerous lockdowns and restrictions, the difficult decision was made to not hold the soirée in order to adhere to provincial guidelines and curb the spread of the virus, but the Gateway Status of Women Council was able to successfully pivot.
“The first year, how the previous executive director did the event was, women submitted a Google form about what Bread and Roses means to them and all those messages were compiled and a prize was drawn. Last year we did a few virtual events in place of it. We had a virtual women’s paint night. We had a bunch of panel speakers. We did a few different events as well that weren’t large gatherings to comply with COVID regulations, but it’s just not the same as doing the actual dinner,” said Bateman. “Last year during our International Women’s Day week, we did a number of activities and one of the activities was taking a personal care bag to every woman at Mountain Hope Manor with a little International Women’s Day card, letting them know we’re thinking of them. We try to do something for all ages because Bread and Roses is truly an intergenerational event, and that was really well received, so there was support, but everyone was still really looking forward to when we could have Bread and Roses again.”
Christine Seymour, Executive Administrative Assistant with Gateway Status of Women Council, said community excitement is palpable ahead of the first event in two years.
“We know our public audience is very excited because we’ve been receiving numerous phone calls, text messages, messenger messages, people wanting to know if we’re having it. Every time we go out in public too, people are asking if we will have Bread and Roses this year, that they can’t wait after missing Bread and Roses for the past two years. We sell out in minutes and we have a waitlist, and people are always at the door, waiting to get in.”
The council tries to hold the event as close to International Women’s Day, March 8, as possible, but it will be held a little later this year.
“This year we ran into some issues booking the Lions Club because we didn’t know if we’d be able to have it or not, and then when we went to book the Lions Club it was already booked for the days closest to that date. So for that reason we aren’t having it until March 26th this year, which is a little late for us, but we are still going to go ahead and have it and it will still be on behalf of and in recognition of International Women’s Day,” said Seymour.
Even though there was a two-year hiatus, attendees can expect the soiree to remain true to its roots.
“We want to stay as true to the original Bread and Roses as possible because we know that’s what people really enjoy,” added Bateman.
“I don’t think we’d be able to make it any better,” said Seymour.
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!”
-An excerpt from Bread and Roses by James Oppenheim