The Friday Poem ‘To the Indifferent Women’ by Charlotte Anna Perkins Gilman

Last night a woman accepted the nomination of a major political party for the first time in the history of the United States. The next president will preside over the commemoration of the centennial of the 19th amendment, which extended suffrage – the right to vote, to women.

To mark history, the Friday Poem this week is ‘To the Indifferent Women’ and was first published in 1911. Charlotte Anna Perkins Gilman called herself a humanist. She was a poet, author, magazine editor and feminist in a lifetime that began with the civil war and ended in the great depression.

Although the words were set to paper over a century ago, the message resonates today.

“We all may have our homes in joy and peace
When woman’s life, in its rich power of love
Is joined with man’s to care for all the world.”

To The Indifferent Women

A Sestina

You who are happy in a thousand homes,
Or overworked therein, to a dumb peace;
Whose souls are wholly centered in the life
Of that small group you personally love;
Who told you that you need not know or care
About the sin and sorrow of the world?

Do you believe the sorrow of the world
Does not concern you in your little homes? —
That you are licensed to avoid the care
And toil for human progress, human peace,
And the enlargement of our power of love
Until it covers every field of life?

The one first duty of all human life
Is to promote the progress of the world
In righteousness, in wisdom, truth and love;
And you ignore it, hidden in your homes,
Content to keep them in uncertain peace,
Content to leave all else without your care.

Yet you are mothers! And a mother’s care
Is the first step toward friendly human life.
Life where all nations in untroubled peace
Unite to raise the standard of the world
And make the happiness we seek in homes
Spread everywhere in strong and fruitful love.

You are content to keep that mighty love
In its first steps forever; the crude care
Of animals for mate and young and homes,
Instead of pouring it abroad in life,
Its mighty current feeding all the world
Till every human child can grow in peace.

You cannot keep your small domestic peace
Your little pool of undeveloped love,
While the neglected, starved, unmothered world
Struggles and fights for lack of mother’s care,
And its tempestuous, bitter, broken life
Beats in upon you in your selfish homes.

We all may have our homes in joy and peace
When woman’s life, in its rich power of love
Is joined with man’s to care for all the world.

Charlotte Anna Perkins Gilman  ‘Suffrage Songs and Voices’ 1911

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Convention photo credit: Marcus Yam for The Los Angeles Times

 

‘The Saturday Read’ Pope Francis’ Speech to the Congress of the United States of America

On Thursday morning Pope Francis addressed the a joint session of the 114th US Congress. He challenged his audience to address issues of immigration, climate change, poverty, family and to abolish the death penalty. Throughout his delivery he demonstrated his quiet but firm leadership style and structured his remarks to reflect American values in the stories of four American careers.

‘The Saturday Read’ this week is the text of Pope Francis’ congressional speech.

“My visit takes place at a time when men and women of good will are marking the anniversaries of several great Americans. The complexities of history and the reality of human weakness notwithstanding, these men and women, for all their many differences and limitations, were able by hard work and self-sacrifice — some at the cost of their lives — to build a better future. They shaped fundamental values which will endure forever in the spirit of the American people. A people with this spirit can live through many crises, tensions and conflicts, while always finding the resources to move forward, and to do so with dignity. These men and women offer us a way of seeing and interpreting reality. In honoring their memory, we are inspired, even amid conflicts, and in the here and now of each day, to draw upon our deepest cultural reserves.

I would like to mention four of these Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.”

“Three sons and a daughter of this land, four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty; Martin Luther King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.”

He included remarks that provided insight to his view of leadership.

“It is my duty to build bridges and to help all men and women, in any way possible, to do the same. When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue — a dialogue which may have been interrupted for the most legitimate of reasons — new opportunities open up for all. This has required, and requires, courage and daring, which is not the same as irresponsibility. A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces.”

But, as noted by NPR, the pope omitted a section in the text challenging the influence of money in American politics.

“A potentially controversial sentence in the prepared text of Pope Francis’ address went unspoken when he delivered the speech to Congress.

The line appears to challenge the dominant role of money in American politics.

A paragraph in the prepared text quotes briefly from the Declaration of Independence — the passage on self-evident truths — and then says, “If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance.”

The paragraph defines politics in terms of the “compelling need to live as one” and building a common good that “sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life.”

The text is written to be read. It is a model of how to craft a message: connect with an audience, employ storytelling to illustrate that message, and insure individuality shines through.