I found this poem while I was doing research for the section of my book that takes place in Topeka. While I was zipping through the microfiche of mid-19th-century newspapers at the Kansas Historical Society, I came across this awesome poem in the Quindaro Chindowan, No. 52, Saturday, June 12, 1858. Yes, 1858. Feminism didn't start in the 20th Century, darlings! ;)
|Clarina Nichols, Associate Editor of the |
Oft I’ve heard a gentle mother,
As the twilight hours began,
Pleading with a son, of duty,
Urging him to be a man.
But unto her blue-eyed daughter,
Though with love’s words quite as ready,
Points she out this other duty,
“Strive, my dear, to be a lady.”
What’s a lady? Is it something
Made of hoops, and silks, and airs,
Used to decorate the parlor,
Like the fancy rugs and chairs?
Is it one who wastes on novels
Every feeling that is human?
If ‘tis this to be a lady,
‘Tis not this to be a woman.
Mother, then, unto your daughter,
Speak of something higher, far,
Than to be mere fashion’s lady –
“Woman” is the brighter star.
If ye, in your strong affection,
Urge your son to be a true man,
Urge your daughter no less strongly
To arise and be a woman.
Yes, a woman – brightest model
Of that high and perfect beauty,
Where the mind, and soul, and body,
Blend to work out life’s great duty –
Be a woman – nought is higher
On the gilded list of fame,
On the catalogue of virture,
There’s no brighter, holier name.
Be a woman – on to duty,
Raise the world from all that’s low,
Place high in the social heaven
Virtue’s fair and radiant bow.
Lend thy influence to each effort,
That shall raise our nature’s human.
Be not fashion’s gilded lady,
Be a brave – whole souled – true woman.