Ronnie Gilbert

Malvina Reynolds? Peggy Seeger? Rosalie Sorrels? Dory Previn? Joan Baez? Buffy Sainte-Marie? Judy Collins? Ani Difranco? Certainly some outstanding names there; but no, the most important and most influential female folk singer (and protest singer and political activist) of the 20th century may arguably be Ronnie Gilbert (born Ruth Alice Gilbert, 7th September 1926; died 6th June 2015), co-founder in 1948 of the legendary Weavers with Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, and Fred Hellerman.

As I blogged a few days ago, it was for Ronnie Gilbert (and featured in Mark Kitchell’s film Berkeley in the Sixties) that in 1990 Si Kahn wrote the song They All Sang ‘Bread and Roses’, the very song with which we concluded our Rise Up, Women! suffragist event at Brompton Cemetery on Thursday of this week.  But I got rather excited when I also found this further song, hereunder, of hers that would have been absolutely pertinent to our performance this week.

It is we that wash the dishes,
Scrub the floors, that chase the dirt,
Feed the kids and send them off to school,
And then we go to work
Where we work for half the wages
For a boss that likes to flirt.
But the union makes us strong!

Solidarity forever!
Solidarity forever!
Solidarity forever!
For the union makes us strong!

See also …

David Macaray, ‘The Passing of Ronnie Gilbert, Common Dreams (2015)

Aidin Vaziri, ‘Ronnie Gilbert, folk singer and voice of social change, dies’, SFGate (2015)

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