Think of the pictures you’ve seen of the venerable and supreme suffrage leader, Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906). She starting campaigning for suffrage in her early 30s and kept it up for more than half a century -- and still didn't get to see success in her lifetime. She famously said "failure is impossible," but, yikes, what a long slog.
Anyway, I believe these photos and the very serious cause suffragists fought for could cause reasonable people to conclude that humor was perennially absent. But then along comes Alice Duer Miller to destroy that stereotype of dour suffragists.
The multi-talented Duer Miller wrote verse for the New York Tribune in a column called Are Women People? Many of these columns were reprinted in her 1915 book with the same title.
Since this is National Poetry Month, I’ll aim to share more of her verse and her life in the next few weeks. (I'm really looking forward to Poem in Your Pocket Day -- April 21.) Here are a couple of selections from Are Women People? to get things rolling.
*Many early suffragists, including Susan B. Anthony, were Quakers, and Quakers were opposed to oath-swearing, so maybe they came up with a clever alternative?
**The lack of smiling faces old photographs isn't merely because of lengthy exposure requirements. Check out this Smithsonian video and this Guardian article for some context.
***Often referred to as the “The Hoosier Poet” or the “The Children’s Poet,” James Whitcomb Riley was famous in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Here Duer Miller is riffing on his poem, A Life-Lesson, which begins with these lines:
There! little girl; don't cry!
They have broken your doll, I know …