Poem celebrates a century of women’s suffrage

Utah State University professor Star Coulbrooke debuted her poem "Celebration" during the "Celebration of a Century, 1920 to 2020" event Aug. 26 commemorating the 100th anniversary of the ratification for the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

LOGAN – Among the artistic endeavors created to observe the recent 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was a poem by Star Coulbrooke entitled “Celebration.”

Coulbrooke is the inaugurial poet laureate of Logan and a member of the faculty of the English Department at Utah State University. She dedicated her composition to “Utah suffragists: past, present and future.

The poem was debuted by Coulbrooke to an appreciative audience during the “Celebration of a Century: 1920 to 2020” event held on the steps of the Cache County History Courthouse on Aug. 26.

Coulbrooke said “Celebration” was written following a collaborative walk-about poetry writing gathering in October of 2019. She credits some of the ideas in the poem to Amy Gomez, Flora Schrode, Brock Dethier, Aaron Timm, Shanan Ballam, Terysa Dyer and Gail Griswold.

 

CELEBRATION

Praise to our mothers
and sisters, to grandmothers,
all generations, women of courage,
quiet, bold.

Women from across the nation,
milliners, managers,
seamstresses, nurses.
Educated. Activated.

Women of guts and grit
who dug down deep for dreams
that seemed unattainable.

Utah’s Martha Hughes Cannon,
physician, polygamist,
first seat in the Senate
twenty-four years before
women back east got the vote.

Women whose brothers said

Don’t be political. Don’t
go to school. But they did anyway.

Utah’s Sarah M. Kimball, teacher,
whose husband and sons
built a schoolroom at home,
students spilling over
the sitting room threshold.
Her motto, Education, agitation.
Utah Woman Suffrage
Honorary President
for life.

Women men labeled and sorted
and would not hire.

Utah’s Mignon Barker Richmond,
“Little flower of Africa,” defying
a racist professor to get her degree.
Twenty-seven years she waited, working,
hoping for jobs in her field, and finally
they came, rafts of programs, her name
on a plaque in a Utah park,
civil rights leader, humanitarian.

Women who carried the scars
from a past of loss and abuse:
boarding school, polio, poverty,
interracial marriage ban, divorce,
brutality. These mothers of Suffrage
put on their moxie and took up the vote,
radiating auras of fiery courage.

Utah’s Mae Timbimboo Parry,
writing her way through Indian School,
sharing the truth of the Bear River Massacre.
Educator, matriarch, Mother of the Year.

Women of heart and spirit,
living their way, unafraid.

Utah’s Ivy Baker Priest, poor miner’s daughter,
raised women’s wages, then signed her name
on all the money in the US Treasury.

Women of resilience, climbing and falling
and pulling themselves back up
however droughted and brittle
the branches of politics.

We believe in women, spirited, youthful, aspiring
to history, threads of story and memory
stitching us all together.

We have lived among strong women
all our lives,
women of intellect, women of restlessness,
women who won
on the ground of rights,
women who won’t go back.

Women whose task to live
free and equal
began with ratification, decades of sacrifice
laying the groundwork,
1848, 1870, 1896,
first a sponsor,
then both Chambers,
then three-fourths of states,
all men.
Rejected. Rejected. Rejected.

We may say this was not
a good time for justice.

We may say there was suffering.
In suffering is strength.

There is strength
in the arch of an eyebrow
lifted to counter illogic
and power.

Strength in the stride of a woman
who crosses the country
to speak in conventions.
Strength in her story, her truth.

Strength in the vote
we gained, Seraph
Young, Utah’s first one.
Strength to regain it
when Edmunds Tucker
retracted it from women
who voted their interest, their
family, their lifestyle.

We celebrate those Utah women
who fought for justice
alongside eight courageous 0men,
Cache County delegates
at the convention
that brought suffrage back
to the women of Cache.

Lettie Thatcher, Armenia
Parry, Adeline Hatch
Barber, Farrs, Mooreheads,
Thanes,
Townsends and Hendricksons,
Lucretia Boynton, Jane Molen,
women who gathered
in Logan, Utah,
democrats, republicans, Relief Society
presidents, rallying
for suffrage, city, county, state
and country,
women of the silk industry, women
of business, with children
and grandchildren, women who went
to Washington
persisting, insisting, resisting,
winning the vote
for their daughters and sisters.

One hundred plus fifty
years later, look
where we are, votes counted,
voices heard,
a century to celebrate.

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