What do women want?

What do women want!?

Freud couldn't figure it out even though the call was loud and clear

Give us bread; but give us roses!

By Carl Dow
Editor and Publisher
True North Perspective

Sigmund Freud went to his grave muttering that he had failed in one of his life-long quests — to understand women.

Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, died in 1939 convinced that infantile sexuality and the Oedipus complex were the prime causes of hysteria and other neurotic problems.

It's too bad Freud didn't pay more attention to what women had to say beyond his couch. For example, on January 12, 1912, 27 years before his death, thousands of women in Lawrence, Massachusetts, made it very clear to all who would listen, just exactly what women want.

Women and girls — 22,000 strong

Protesting a pay cut, 22,000 textile workers (most of them women and girls from the age of 14) went on strike despite the bayonets of the Massachusetts militia.

Just prior to the strike, the average pay for textile workers was 16 cents and hour for a 56-hour workweek.

The Massachusetts legislature, underestimating the courageous determination of the women and girls, lowered the workweek to 54 hours from 56 in the Lawrence cotton and woolen mills.

This meant their take-home pay per week would be two hours less.

After receiving paycheques reflecting the lowered income, the women and children, supported by their male co-workers, stopped their looms and went on strike.

The mill workers, most of them foreign-born, made up nearly half the work force in the city, which then had a population of 85,000.

With the support of the militant Industrial Workers of the World, then led by William D. "Big Bill" Haywood, strikers demanded a 15 per cent increase for a 54-hour work week with double-pay for overtime. The strikers linked arms and marched in long columns, shoulder to shoulder through the city streets.

One of the banners the women unfurled read, Give us bread; but give us roses!

The call for bread was a reference to the Holy Bible wherein bread is referred to as the staff of life. What the women were saying by this, and by the use of the word roses, was that while they were tough enough to fight for a better standard of living, they wanted to be treated with the respect that women deserve.

The women and girls fought off attacks by 1,400 members of the Massachusetts militia armed with rifles and bayonets who were sent in to Lawrence to help the scabs. The women were also harried with court injunctions and modified martial law.

But these women would not be intimidated. They held firm and won their strike.

At a victory rally Big Bill gave them roses when he said, "Everything for your betterment rests in your hands. Single-handed you are helpless, but united you can win everything . . . You have won by massing your brains and your muscles and withholding your labour from the bosses."