Bread and Roses: the origins of a Mount Holyoke tradition

By Rachel Nix ’20 on May 18, 2019 at 6:01 AM

This morning, as part of Commencement weekend, graduating seniors and alumnae will sing “Bread and Roses” at the conclusion of the Laurel Parade — a ceremony in which the graduates, donned in white, process across campus linked by two 275-yard laurel chains to the grave of Mary Lyon. But did you know that both the song and the attire that are such integral parts of the tradition are tributes to the women labor activists and suffragists of the early 20th century?

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Defining Community #5: Laurel Chain Ceremony

By Elana Tsogt-Erdene '17 on February 5, 2017 at 10:30 AM

An iconic and memorable part of a tradition-filled graduation weekend, the Laurel Chain Ceremony is also one of Mount Holyoke’s most time-honored traditions. The class of 1900 was the first to take the laurel--long associated with victory and honor--to Mary Lyon’s grave during commencement week. The following year, seniors honored Lyon with flowers, but the members of the class of 1902 were the first to wrap the now familiar garland of mountain laurel around her grave enclosure.

The laurel chain represents the unbroken linkage among all alumnae. The tradition has been modified and paused several times during its 116 year history. The seniors of 1923 carried a daisy chain in place of the then-endangered laurel, which until then had been picked in nearby mountains and the chain handmade by freshman. Class of 1924 honored Lyon with rose bouquets and long streamers. The laurel procession was revived in 1925 and carried on for decades until 1970 when seniors chose to carry peace symbols, an homage to on-going Vietnam War protests, and 1971 when seniors chose to abandon tradition in order to add money to the senior class gift. The class of 1972 voted to bring back the tradition, citing its importance to the community.

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