Thursday, July 3, 2008

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, born on this day in 1860, is perhaps best known today for her short story The Yellow Wallpaper, an account of severe depression written from her own experience. She was a member of the extended Beecher family and grew up aware of her prominent great-aunts Harriet Beecher Stowe, Catharine Beecher, and Isabella Beecher Hooker, all famed for their involvement in progressive causes.

Gilman's book Women and Economics (1898) argued that women must attain economic independence of their husbands in order to attain true equality of the sexes. Though her writing supported feminist causes, she preferred not to be called a feminist, but a humanist.

In 1911 she published Suffrage Songs and Verses, from which today's selection is taken. It's been adapted from a women's suffrage anthem into a text about freedom and equality for everyone, with a tune I think you will recognize. (You can see her original five-verse text here.)

Day of hope and day of glory! After slavery and woe,
Comes the dawn of human freedom, and the light shall grow and grow
Until every man and woman equal liberty shall know,
In freedom marching on!

Glory, glory hallelujah!
Glory, glory hallelujah!
Glory, glory hallelujah! In freedom marching on!

Not for self but larger service has our cry for freedom grown,
There is crime, disease and warfare as we face the world alone,
In the name of love we're rising now to serve and save our own,
Together marching on!

We will help to make a pruning hook of every outgrown sword,
We will help to knit the nations in continuing accord,
In humanity made perfect every freedom is restored,
As Peace goes marching on!

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, 1911; adapt. 1990
William Steffe (coll.), c.1856

This tune will be sung all over the place this Independence Day weekend, though with a much more familiar text. William Steffe was almost certainly not the composer of the tune, though; he included it in a collection of campmeeting songs he published in 1856. But I don't want to get sidetracked with a discussion of the Battle Hymn or its tune - it's Gilman we're commemorating today. You can learn even more about her at the site of the Charlotte Perkins Gilman Society.


Leland Bryant Ross said...

Thanks for the text alternative text. We sing the Battle Hymn frequently at Fremont Baptist (two stanzas figured in a medley of "Special Music" this last Sunday, which was also graced by three bagpipe numbers) and we don't require patriotism as a trigger.

Let me take this opportunity to point out an alternative tune for Mine eyes have seen the glory, and thus for Day of hope and day of glory!. The Lost Voice Found in this case is Ann E. Beatty, compiler of the first American Esperanto-language hymnal, Espero Internacia (c. 1920). She translated most of the hymns in her hymnal, including Mine eyes have seen the glory, for which she wrote a new refrain and tune. I don't think it's really an improvement over "glory, glory hallelujah", but it is available for those who covet variety and the minor oddity. Ms. Beatty is the eponymous ancestor of my hymnal collection (a special collection within the Sidney & Ruth Culbert Memorial Esperanto Library).

While it's still Independence Week, let me link, too, a post I just left at, covering everything from yesterday's Denver brouhaha over the National Anthems to Katharine Lee Bates's song on the Magi...

Leland aka Haruo

C.W.S. said...

Very interesting material on Ann Beatty. Did she write many other tunes? Sounds like a good entry for your blog.

Leland Bryant Ross said...

Ms. Beatty wrote a number of other songs/hymns in Espero Internacia, I don't recall how many but it's at least a dozen; it appears that in all cases she wrote both the words and the music. It isn't clear to me whether she wrote the lyrics originally in Esperanto or whether she translated her own English songs (now lost, presumably) into Esperanto. Most of her own contributions are less "religious" than the rest of the hymnal (see this scanned page from the Esperanto Wikipedia, where her text and tune "Unuiĝinta Eŭropo (United States of Europe)" appears side by side with "Leaving All" (text by Lyte, tune by Excell). Others pieces of hers are entitled "Kara Ohio, Ne Estas Loko Simila (Dear Ohio, No Place Like It)", "Savu Usonon de Rumo (Save United States from Rum)", "La Kristnaska Gajeco (The Christmas Cheer)", "Ho, Vidu Mi La Devon! (O, May I See My Duty!)", "Malarmiĝu Nacioj (Lay Down Your Arms, Ye Nations)", etc., etc. You're right, I should blog about her, and just generally I should blog more myself instead of trying to hang all my information on other people's topics. ;-) Sounds like a good Independence Day resolution...

Leland aka Haruo

Dorothy said...

Harriet Beecher Stowe is a particular favorite of mine so thanks for the information about another of her relatives.

C.W.S. said...

I have also been fascinated with Mrs. Stowe for a long time - read several of her novels and much of her poetry, so I was intrigued to learn some years ago of Gilman's relation to the Beecher family. Charlotte's father (the Beecher descendant) abandoned his family when she was a young girl, so the personal connection was apparently not close, but she certainly knew of her famous relatives.