History Swallows HerStory

History is not infallible.
His story tells only
what he chooses
to remember.

Her story is woven
into his threads,
until we pick
the threads apart.

I.

It has only been
one hundred years
since women won
the “right” to vote.

A right entwined
with that of her
polar opposites—

The Black Man and
The Black Woman,
both subjugated
to the White Man.

The History Books,
Filled with tales
of the race to equality
for the White Woman,
the Black Man,
the Black Woman,
often left me
cold.

Abolitionist suffragettes worked
to free Black Men,
but forgot
the Black woman.

And what about
the ordinary souls,
whose tales were
never told?

I.


In nineteen-twenty,
my Grandma was
but eight years old,
and Great-grandma,
twenty-eight.

I never heard Great-grandma
speak of politics,
But Grandma was a Republican—
Proud to be
In the Party of Lincoln.

Both Grandma and Great-grandma
were homemakers
who only took in other people’s wash
to supplement their husbands’ earnings,
for their mortgages to pay off.

Between these two, and their husbands,
they spent most of their time
raising a combined 12 children,
and dozens of grand-, great-,
and great-great grandchildren
in old West Baltimore.

Yet neither I nor any of my
Black Queens were assured
the right to vote
until the Civil Rights Act of 1965.

II.


It was only fifty years ago—
the year in which I came of age—
that women (black and white) won
equal rights
with men.

In 1969,
The first woman was admitted
To Yale University

The following year,
I entered Goucher College,
an all-women’s school
and sister school of
Johns Hopkins University—,
which had just become coed.
We Goucher girls were bussed
to Hopkins for “mixers”
to socialize.

Goucher remained
all female
until 1986.



III.


It wasn’t until 1974
that a woman could get
a credit card in her own name.

Before then,
my mother’s credit
was tied to my father’s.
Even after,
her household bills,
utilities, insurance,
and credit cards
remained in her husband’s name
and proved difficult to change.


IV.


In 1975, another young woman and I
began our first full-time jobs together.
When my new co-worker learned
she was expecting,
it was made clear that
her job might not be waiting for her
when, or if, she returned
after her baby’s birth.

Within two years,
I’d bought my first car
and moved to my first apartment,
but I still needed Dad’s assistance
to seal the deals.

V.

Now, here we are in 2020,
and our rights have surely grown.
Women astronauts have flown
in space and pilots in the skies.

In government and politics,
we’ve made huge strides,
except in the Oval Office
where we have yet to rise.

And equal pay for equal work
is still a dream for most.


So, as we celebrate Women’s History
and all the rights we’ve fought for,

The most important right remains
to get out there and Vote!

 

About this poem: In Honor of today’s Historic Announcement of Kamala Harris as the First African-American Woman Vice-Presidential Nominee alongside Presidential Nominee Joe Biden, I am proud to post this work today on baltimoreblackwoman.  

“History Swallows HerStory” was written to be presented at a poetry reading honoring Women’s History Month. Originally scheduled for March 18, 2020, the reading had to be postponed until July 16, 2020 [https://www.blogtalkradio.com/ql_p/2020/07/16/quintessential-listening-poetry-online-radio-presents-herstory-1]. For this poem, I drew from an article listing the 40 things women couldn’t do in the 1970s. It was a shock to discover how fragile and recent the rights of women are. But, as you can see, I’ve never had a deep interest in Women’s History, per se. I was never a women’s movement advocate, with “sheroes” like Gloria Steinem or the suffragettes of the late 19th and early 20th century. Instead, it was the women in my family whom I looked up to. They made their own “rights,” as they navigated through the times they lived in. Although earlier generations of women in my family were “housewives,” that title was never a badge of shame from which they had to free themselves. On the other hand, by the time I came along, being a working wife was no big deal, either. Rather, it was a necessity—a fact of life.

Biden / Harris 2020!

VOTE BLUE 2020!


7 thoughts on “History Swallows HerStory

  1. Strong, powerful truth.

    On Tue, Aug 11, 2020 at 9:00 PM baltimoreblackwoman wrote:

    > > > > > > > Jackie Oldham posted: ” > > History is not infallible.His story tells onlywhat he choosesto > remember.Her story is woveninto his threads,until we pickthe threads > apart.I.It has only beenone hundred yearssince women wonthe “right” to > vote.A right entwined with that of herpolar oppos” > > > >

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s