Conferences and Events Girl Power and Women's Wiles Poetry Friday Reading Themes

Poetry Friday: Woman to Man by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

For today’s Poetry Friday, hosted by the lovely Tabatha Yeatts from The Opposite of Indifference, I share with you a poem by the late poetess, Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Her poem, Woman to Man, was among the random search results I found on the Internet in keeping with our bimonthly theme – Girl Power and Women’s Wiles. Ella Wheeler Wilcox was an American poet, a journalist, and a free thinker. David Arthur Walters shares some background information about her:

The poetess Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919) is seldom heard of today. Her fall from grace coincided with the rise of the so-called New Criticism, a special domain of the stronger sex. Ella had committed unpardonable mortal sins in the judgment of the largely failed and frustrated poets of that empyrean realm: she was sentimental, optimistic, and wildly successful – she made a small fortune writing.

Anyone who is truly interested in succeeding in any walk of life will find Ella’s life illuminating, especially women who might find themselves living in a man’s world. That world is, as everybody knows, fundamentally a reasonable, masculine world, as opposed to the feminine, sentimental one – although we do find a few foolishly romantic men crying over silly poems throughout recorded history.

Fortunately for Ella, she did not live in Marguerite Porete’s time – Marguerite was burned at the stake in 1310 for daring to elevate Love over Reason in her banned book about annihilated souls. Still, Ella in her own time was subjected to scathing, contemptuous, “scientific” criticism for identifying Heart with Art.

The feisty Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Here is an excerpt of her poem, Woman to Man:

Woman to Man
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

You do but jest, sir, and you jest not well,
How could the hand be enemy of the arm,
Or seed and sod be rivals! How could light
Feel jealousy of heat, plant of the leaf
Or competition dwell ‘twixt lip and smile?
Are we not part and parcel of yourselves?
Like strands in one great braid we intertwine
And make the perfect whole. You could not be,
Unless we gave you birth; we are the soil
From which you sprang, yet sterile were that soil
Save as you planted. (Though in the Book we read
One woman bore a child with no man’s aid
We find no record of a man-child born
Without the aid of woman! Fatherhood
Is but a small achievement at the best
While motherhood comprises heaven and hell.)
This ever-growing argument of sex
Is most unseemly, and devoid of sense.
Why waste more time in controversy, when
There is not time enough for all of love,
Our rightful occupation in this life.
Why prate of our defects, of where we fail
When just the story of our worth would need
 Eternity for telling, and our best
Development comes ever thro’ your praise,
As through our praise you reach your highest self.

As a small tribute to Ella Wheeler Wilcox, I was fortunate to find this old-school video of a song written for and about women. The song, I Am Woman, dates back to 1975 and sung by the lovely Helen Reddy. Enjoy!

I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an’ pretend
‘Cause I’ve heard it all before
And I’ve been down there on the floor
No one’s ever gonna keep me down again

Oh yes, I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to
I can do anything
I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am woman

You can bend but never break me
‘Cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
‘Cause you’ve deepened the conviction in my soul

Oh, yes, I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to
I can face anything
I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am woman

I am woman watch me grow
See me standing toe to toe
As I spread my lovin’ arms across the land
But I’m still an embryo
With a long, long way to go
Until I make my brother understand

Fats is the Assistant Manager for Circulation Services at the Wayne County Public Library in Wooster, Ohio. She considers herself a reader of all sorts, although she needs to work on her non-fiction reading. Fats likes a good mystery but is not too fond of thrillers. She takes book hoarding seriously and enjoys collecting bookmarks and tote bags. When she is not reading, Fats likes to shop pet apparel for her cat Penny (who absolutely loathes it).

10 comments on “Poetry Friday: Woman to Man by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

  1. i like this very much

    Like

  2. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of poetry and music – just perfect for our bimonthly theme. Love it. Thanks for introducing me to Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

    Like

    • Fats Suela

      Fits well with our theme, doesn’t it? Glad to have discovered her as well. 🙂

      Like

  3. Susan Taylor Brown

    Love your theme for the month and the pairing of the poem and one of my all time favorite songs.

    Like

  4. Oh, my goodness, I used to sing this song when I was a little kid. Brings back funny memories.

    Like

  5. Love these lines:
    (Though in the Book we read
    One woman bore a child with no man’s aid
    We find no record of a man-child born
    Without the aid of woman! Fatherhood
    Is but a small achievement at the best
    While motherhood comprises heaven and hell.)
    She had a point! And thanks for the great Helen Reddy song – I actually remember her singing this on TV and loving it even as a teenager!

    Like

  6. Pingback: An April Round-Up: Reading Challenge Updates, Progressive Poetry, April AWB Winners and More… «

  7. Pingback: List of Girl Power Themed Books and Poems: Picture Books, YA, Adult Lit, and Poetry «

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