Bread as a symbol of material and physical fulfillment was also invoked in the US suffrage movement, but there the opposition between bread and freedom was dismissed as a false choice. A rallying cry of suffragists was “Bread and Roses,” a slogan coined by Helen Todd in the early 1910s for speeches that she would give while traveling through Illinois advocating for women’s rights. In an essay published in The American Magazine in September 1911, Todd, a factory inspector, further explained the phrase, adding that women’s suffrage “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.”9 Simply put, Todd acknowledges that while bread may be the staff of life, freedom and the pleasures it entails are just as critical.
And how do I like my bread? I prefer it sliced thick and slathered with butter, and as free as possible of political symbolism. But even that, sadly, cannot be, as it turns out that I am gluten- and lactose-intolerant.