It’s nicely thematic that International Women’s Day follows so closely on from Real Bread Week. One of the early IWDs, in March 1917, saw a women’s march for “Bread and Peace” in Petrograd, then the capital of the Russian empire.
They were protesting food shortages and demanding the end of WW1. The march was joined by striking female textile workers who swelled their numbers to take over the streets, forcing the Tsar to abdicate and kick starting the Russian Revolution.
The revolution, as any A-level history student will tell you, had many causes, but it’s not a surprise to see bread and righteously angry women right there at the start.
At Loaf we see bread as symbolic of something more than the making of a nice sandwich. The domestication of wheat for bread tracks with the emergence of western civilisation 9,000 years ago, following the twists and turns of our societies through to the present day.
Bread is both a symbolic and literal representation of the need to be well fed, and where there are battles for equality, bread will often be found. Indeed, the tension between exclusive “artisanal baking” and affordable healthy additive-free bread within the baking community is perhaps an indicator for the broader state of food provision here in Britain. (We err towards the latter, in case that’s not obvious!)
The other aspect of Loaf is our status as a workers cooperative. Nancy wrote about how this related to IWD a few years back, and the cooperative movement has always had women’s equality and empowerment at its core. The history of the Co-operatives Women’s Guild, formed in 1883, is particularly eye-opening, seeing them involved in campaigns for rights we now take for granted.
So, happy International Women’s Day! May it be a reminder of both how far we’ve come and, in these strange times, how far we have to go.
Four inspirational bakeries for IWD
There are many ways to run a bakery. Here are four with a mission to support women..
The Good Loaf in Northamptonshire works to “provide real employment opportunities to vulnerable local women so that we can break the cycle of poverty, unemployment and offending”.
Luminary bakery in London “work holistically with women, offering a safe space to train, trauma-informed support as they overcome barriers from lack of opportunity, preparation for employment, and guidance in building towards a positive future.”
Hot Bread Kitchen in “aim to create economic mobility for individuals impacted by gender, racial, social, and/or economic inequality in New York City, historically using the vibrant potential of the food industry as a pathway forward.”
Yangon Bakehouse works to empower women in the Myanmar. “By providing our apprentices opportunities to gain life and work skills, they gain dignity and confidence to move into the workforce as employees and small business owners.”