“Their eyes to the eastward, Their hearts high with vision
The women have toiled through the dusk of delay;
The brave banners blowing, Undaunted and singing
For justice, for freedom, Alive, Alive, Oh!”
-words by Beulah Amidon, to the tune of “Molly Malone”
Inspired by programming at the Parsonsfield-Porter Historical Society on the 100th anniversary of Maine’s ratification of the 19th Amendment, I’ve been working on historical songs of women’s suffrage. I performed some at the Old Porter Meetinghouse in September 2019 (see endorsement below). I’m eager to continue to share this heritage of song. Although the pandemic derailed plans, I had several presentations on the calendar of the Maine Suffrage Centennial, and I recommend their excellent links to educational resources.
Speaking of resources, I’ve found these of great help:
- Library of Congress digital collection Women’s Suffrage in Sheet Music, which includes these songs and more (see also LOC’s related resources):
- Suffragist Sheet Music, by Danny O. Crew – available here from the publisher, McFarland Books
- Hurrah for Woman Suffrage! by Miriam Reed and the Homespun Singers – CD and booklet available here from the National Women’s History Alliance and elsewhere online
- Songs of the Suffragettes, by Elizabeth Knight – recording available here from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and elsewhere online
- Failure Is Impossible: Traditional Songs of the Suffragists, performed by Linda Allen, Kristin Allen-Zito, and Phil Heaven – listen/buy a download here. Do check out Linda’s other work, including original songs inspired by women’s history!
- Give the Ballot to the Mothers: Songs of the Suffragists, by Francie Wolff – This excellent collection is, sadly, out of print. You might be able to find a used copy. One useful search tool is https://www.bookfinder.com/
- The Suffrage Songbook: Original Songs, Parodies and Paraphrases, adapted to Popular Melodies by Henry W. Roby, published in Topeka, Kansas in 1909, found in full here.
- Songs about Women’s Rights at http://www.protestsonglyrics.net/
- Here is a PDF of Let Us Sing As We Go, Votes for Women! Songs The Suffragists Sang: A Compilation Of Suffrage Lyrics To Commonly Known Tunes. Compiler Steve Woodbury says “The lyrics in this collection are all in the public domain. The collection is copyright ©2019 by Steven Woodbury. Permission is granted to reproduce it for group singing and for educational purposes, but not for sale (beyond printing costs). I look forward to hearing from users about when and where and how you have used this collection. Let’s get people singing these songs again!”
I’d love to share some of these songs with you! You can sample a short presentation of some of this material here. Here’s a longer program from the 2022 New England Folk Festival (video starts ~3:45). Please be in touch if a program of this music might be of interest to your group.