"Beauty confronts us with the requirement that we place ourselves among...the redeemers, the leaders in the protection of life. Once you have seen the bush on fire, you are not going to get out of the assignment unless you close your eyes to the beauty.... [You] either have to close your eyes or go back to Egypt and set the people free." - Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, "Rising to the Challenge of Our Times"

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Determined Ladies

I was invited to sing at a tea party today supporting four women who are running for local offices. The party was titled "the Determined Ladies' Tea" after a quote by Abigail Adams who wrote in 1776 to her husband John,
“If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

A small but 'determined' PAC has formed with the goal of sending a mailing to every registered female voter in the greater Chico area encouraging them to vote and support these candidates. Two of them are running for the school board and, unlike the other current members of the school board, these two women are educators. The other two candidates are running for the City Council and county Board of Supervisors.

In preparation for my gig I thought it might be appropriate to research some suffrage rallying songs (songs other than that song from Mary Poppins which is one of the two songs many people tend to immediately associate with the word 'suffragette.' The other, of course, is not a suffragette rally song at all despite its status as a glam-rock classic.) During this research I thought about what it took for half of the citizens of America to attain the franchise, how the women at the forefront of the suffrage movement were no doubt seen as extremists, radicals, disturbers of the peace and the 'natural order' of things. Could they have succeeded if they were trying TODAY to do what they did 86 years ago? How would our government and society respond to militancy and organization and protest such as they demonstrated? As it was, a number of women during the suffrage movement were jailed, beaten and sent to workhouses for their picketing activities.

The search for suffragist music turned up a few little gems including a version of "Oh Dear, What Can the Matter Be?" humorously addressing the various arguments against women's suffrage. Also found this piece written by Julia Ward Howe set to the tune of "America" (a.k.a. My country, 'tis of thee").


Allie said...

When I was in Sound Ideas in high school choir, a small group of us sang "Oh Dear, What Can the Matter Be" for a choir festival.

I must not have been paying attention to it though, because I had no idea it was a suffragette song.


Emily said...

It wasn't originally--like most of the suffrage songs I found, someone wrote new words to an older song. I think the words would have left an impression if you'd been singing "Women have husbands, they are protected, / Women have sons by whom they're directed, / Women have fathers, they're not neglected, / Why are they wanting to vote?"