Author’s Note: A couple weeks ago, I was visiting the Library of Congress with a friend and stumbled across an exhibit on women's suffrage. I couldn't have been more excited, because suffragists have fascinated me and inspired my feminism ever since I first learned about them. Though the movement was far from perfect, and at times deeply problematic, what I found incredible was the dedication and passion with which these women fought for the rights they had no idea if they'd live to see.
I feel as though I and many others around me fall into a sort of complacency when it comes to history, especially the history of women's progress. There's a sense of “well of course we got the right to vote,” as though it was the inevitable course of events. As though the men running the country up and decided to give us this freedom out of the kindness and fairness of their hearts. As though we didn't have to fight tooth and nail for every right we have today.
This was not inevitable. And portraying it as such erases the hardships and sacrifices women faced in order to gain this inalienable right—as well as makes it seem as though all women were able to vote at the amendment’s passage, when we know Black women had to endure this indignity for much longer.
This struggle was a 70-year fight that could have gone on for much longer, had the suffragists not remained resilient and persistent. Their dedication to this cause inspires me to fight the good feminist fight every day, and that it what I wanted to pay homage to in this poem.
Long purple and yellow ribbons
Flow in the wind
Decorations that have become
Acts of resistance.
Forget the long-stemmed reds,
A dozen with dinner and a kiss.
I only want yellow roses,
Pinned on my lapel and yours,
That’s what I’m fighting for.
The blind, feminine scales of Justice
The lantern in the hand of Lady Liberty
The woman on the horse
The iron-jawed angels marching in the streets.
I hear the words that once were linguistic flights of fancy:
Congresswoman, Madam Secretary.
And dream of the ones that still are:
I don’t want these to be my dying breaths,
My final words:
“Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?”
When your life is a waiting area
To have lived to see liberty, to have stopped waiting
Is the dream.