As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days.
The rising of the women means the rising of the (human) 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!
There is no major movement – social or political – that has not been touched indelibly by women. No movement more so, perhaps, than the International Labor Movement.
Where there have been principled, passionate, and strident gains for working people, women have been a crucial guiding force, though they have often gone unheralded. We recently saw that once more in West Virginia as their teachers, most of whom are women, defied the orders of their government and their union leaders by staging a wildcat strike.
That goes especially for our Union, The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). It was a Union co-founded by women at a time when virtually all major, American labor organizations did not allow women; much less allow them leadership roles. Yet in its earliest years, its most visible and effective members were women – including Lucy Parsons, Mary Harris (“Mother”) Jones, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Dorothy Day, and Helen Keller. Among its greatest moments – including the 1912 Lawrence, MA Textile Workers Strike – depended on the mass mobilization and leadership of women, many of whom were immigrants.
Textile workers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey also marched under the banner of the “One Big Union” in the early 20th century. Unfortunately, whether by accident or on purpose, many of their words and deeds have been lost to history. They have largely gone unnoticed by the culture-at-large and are scarcely taught to children.
But the latest incarnation of the Philadelphia IWW – along with its contingency in the Harrisburg area – hasn’t forgotten their struggle. From them, we have acquired an ambitious, hard-earned legacy. That legacy is vision of a world beyond the exploitative wage system but what’s more, it is a vision in which all forms of bigotry and alienation – including sexism – are eradicated and the present, patriarchal orientation of our society is permanently recalibrated. Not only do we believe it to be the right thing to do but we believe our goals will be impossible to achieve one without the other.
On this International Women’s Day – March 8, 2018 – we recommit ourselves to the billions of working class people across the gender spectrum. We offer our support and our efforts, especially to those who find themselves on society’s margins due to their gender identity. We also strive to make our Union a more inclusive and affirming place for non-men; we will do our best to uproot any and all forms of toxic masculinity we find in our Union, our branch, and ourselves.
In our workplaces and in our communities, the Philadelphia IWW will fight sexism by any means necessary.