by Charlotte Perkins Stetson Gilman
Dear father, from my cradle I acknowledge
All your wise kindness, tender care, and love,
Through days of kindergarten, school, and college.
Now there is one gift lacking—one above
All other gifts of God, this highest trust is,
The one great gift, beyond all power and pelf—
Give me my freedom, father; give me justice,
That I may guard my children and myself.
My brother, you and I were reared together;
We played together, even-handed quite;
We went to school in every kind of weather,
Studied and ranked together as was right.
We work together now and earn our living,
You know how equal is the work we do;
Come, brother, with the love you're always giving,
Give justice! It's for me as well as you.
And you, my lover, kneeling here before me
With tender eyes that burn, warm lips that plead,
Protesting that you worship, aye, adore me;
Begging my love as life's supremest meed,
Vowing to make me happy. Ah, how dare you!
Freedom and happiness have both one key!
Lover and husband, by the love I bear you,
Give justice! I can love you better, free!
Son, my own son! Man-child that once was lying
All rosy, tender, helpless on my breast,
Your strength, all dimples, your stern voice but crying,
Looking to me for comfort, food and rest,
Asking your life of me, and not another—
And asking not in vain till life be done—
Oh, my boy-baby! Is it I, your mother,
Who comes to ask of justice from her son?
Now to the voter—tax-payer (or shirker)
Please lay your private feelings on the shelf;
O Man-at-large! Friend! Comrade! Fellow-worker;
I am a human being like yourself.
I'm not your wife and mother. Can't be, whether
I would or not: each to his own apart;
But in the world we're people altogether—
Suffrage is not a question of the heart.
We'll talk at home. This thing concerns the nation;
A point of justice which is to be granted
By men to women who are no relation.
Perceive this fact, as salient as a steeple,
Please try to argue from it if you can;
Women have standing-room on earth as people
Outside of their relation to some man.
As wife and sweetheart, daughter, sister, mother,
Each woman privately her views explains;
As people of America—no other—
We claim the right our government maintains.
You who deny it stand in history's pages
Withholding justice! Pitiless and plain
Your record stands down all the brightening ages—
You fought with progress, but you fought in vain.
Last updated April 02, 2023