“We As Women”

There‘s a cry in the air about us–
We hear it, before, behind–
Of the way in which “We, as women,”
Are going to lift mankind!

With our white frocks starched and ruffled,
And our soft hair brushed and curled–
Hats off! for “We, as women,”
Are coming to save the world.

Fair sisters! listen one moment–
And perhaps you‘ll pause for ten:
The business of women as women
Is only with men as men!

What we do, “We, as women,”
We have done all through our life;
The work that is ours as women
Is the work of mother and wife.

But to elevate public opinion,
And to lift up erring man,
Is the work of the Human Being;
Let us do it–if we can.

But wait, warm-hearted sisters–
Not quite so fast, so far.
Tell me how we are going to lift a thing
Any higher than we are!

We are going to “purify politics,”
And to “elevate the press.”
We enter the foul paths of the world
To sweeten and cleanse and bless.

To hear the high things we are going to do,
And the horrors of man we tell,
One would think, “We, as women,” were angels,
And our brothers were fiends of hell.

We, that were born of one mother,
And reared in the self-same place,
In the school and the church together,
We of one blood, one race!

Now then, all forward together!
But remember, every one,
That ‘tis not by feminine innocence
The work of the world is done.

The world needs strength and courage,
And wisdom to help and feed–
When, “We, as women” bring these to man,
We shall lift the world indeed.

More by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Anti-Suffragists

Fashionable women in luxurious homes,
With men to feed them, clothe them, pay their bills,
Bow, doff the hat, and fetch the handkerchief; 
Hostess or guest; and always so supplied
With graceful deference and courtesy; 
Surrounded by their horses, servants, dogs—
These tell us they have all the rights they want. 

Successful women who have won their way
Alone, with strength of their unaided arm, 
Or helped by friends, or softly climbing up
By the sweet aid of "woman's influence"; 
Successful any way, and caring naught
For any other woman's unsuccess—
These tell us they have all the rights they want. 

Religious women of the feebler sort—
Not the religion of a righteous world, 
A free, enlightened, upward-reaching world, 
But the religion that considers life
As something to back out of !— whose ideal
Is to renounce, submit, and sacrifice. 
Counting on being patted on the head
And given a high chair when they get to heaven—
These tell us they have all the rights they want. 

Ignorant women—college bred sometimes, 
But ignorant of life's realities
And principles of righteous government, 
And how the privileges they enjoy
Were won with blood and tears by those before—
Those they condemn, whose ways they now oppose; 
Saying, "Why not let well enough alone?"
Our world is very pleasant as it is"—
These tell us they have all the rights they want. 

And selfish women—pigs in petticoats—
Rich, poor, wise, unwise, top or bottom round, 
But all sublimely innocent of thought, 
And guiltless of ambition, save the one
Deep, voiceless aspiration—to be fed!
These have no use for rights or duties more. 
Duties today are more than they can meet, 
And law insures their right to clothes and food—
These tell us they have all the rights they want. 

And, more's the pity, some good women too; 
Good, conscientious women with ideas; 
Who think—or think they think—that woman's cause
Is best advanced by letting it alone; 
That she somehow is not a human thing, 
And not to be helped on by human means, 
Just added to humanity—an "L"—
A wing, a branch, an extra, not mankind—
These tell us they have all the rights they want. 

And out of these has come a monstrous thing, 
A strange, down-sucking whirlpool of disgrace, 
Women uniting against womanhood, 
And using that great name to hide their sin!
Vain are their words as that old king's command
Who set his will against the rising tide. 
But who shall measure the historic shame
Of these poor traitors—traitors are they all—
To great Democracy and Womanhood!

She Walketh Veiled and Sleeping

She walketh veiled and sleeping,
For she knoweth not her power;
She obeyeth but the pleading
Of her heart, and the high leading
Of her soul, unto this hour.
Slow advancing, halting, creeping,
Comes the Woman to the hour!—
She walketh veiled and sleeping,
For she knoweth not her power.

Boys Will Be Boys

“Boys will be boys,” and boys have had their day;
Boy-mischief and boy-carelessness and noise
Extenuated all, allowed, excused and smoothed away,
Each duty missed, each damaging wild act,
By this meek statement of unquestioned fact–
Boys will be boys!

Now, “women will be women.” Mark the change;
Calm motherhood in place of boisterous youth;
No warfare now; to manage and arrange,
To nurture with wise care, is woman’s way,
In peace and fruitful industry her sway,
In love and truth.