March 6, 2009

some poems for the woman of the world – international women’s day

Filed under: manifesto,poetry,testimonies — newritings @ 11:52 am

8 March is International Women’s Day  earmarked to celebrate the struggle for recognition of women’s worth as human beings. That women have been written out of history, their work undervalued, experience discrimination and violence and much more is now more than ever been highlighted. This day  has been observed since in the early 1900’s and according to the



Great unrest and critical debate was occurring amongst women. Women’s oppression and inequality was spurring women to become more vocal and active in campaigning for change. Then in 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.


In accordance with a declaration by the Socialist Party of America, the first National Woman’s Day (NWD) was observed across the United States on 28 February. Women continued to celebrate IWD on the last Sunday of February until 1913.


In 1910 a second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen. A woman named a Clara Zetkin (Leader of the ‘Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day. She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day – a Women’s Day – to press for their demands. The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, socialist parties, working women’s clubs, and including the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament, greeted Zetkin’s suggestion with unanimous approval and thus International Women’s Day was the result.

As a tribute to women all over the world, we publish some poems: one by Jean Binta Breeze, who perfomed at Urban Voices 2008 festival. The final two poems courtesy of Marta’s blog: girafas se escribe con j

They are found in the a book written by feminist scholar and activist Sheila Rowbotham’s The past is before us: Feminism in Action since the 1960s.

But first some poets of today…

Jean Binta Breeze

Jean "Binta" Breeze

We speak through the silence of our stares
we who dare
shake a shoutin pharisee
from the ego tree
and bigotry
of telling we
what to be
and not to be
of weary waiting
holding hands with humour
seeds of struggle
mapping ideas
for the crossing
of our dreams
to reality
we speak through the silence
of our stares
looking through your
looking glass reflection
noting the curl
of index finger
signal your desire
we, the figures
on the abnormal curve
of your five year plans
your long range missile
for words
even true words
can betray

Poem by Jean Binta Breeze

Though each remembers little of it
and some remember nothing at all
resting in crazy houses
from the long spin of history
drinking the grief of their sex
easting it in bitter pills
muttering in kitchens
telling their daughters the story
of a sleeping princess;
but knowing it takes more than a man’s kiss
to wake one so bent on sleeping her life away.

Sharon Barba, “A cycle of women”


One Friday night it happened some years after we were wed,
When my old man came in from work as usual I said
“Your tea is on the table, clean clothes are on the rack,
Your bath’ll soon be ready, I’ll come and scrub your back.”
He kissed me very tenderly, and said “I’ll tell you flat,
The service I give my machine ain’t half as good as that!”

I said “I’m not your little woman, your sweetheart or your dear
I’m a wage-slave without wages, I’m a maintenance engineer.”

So then we got to talking, I told him how I felt,
How I keep him running just as smooth as some conveyor belt,
For after all it’s I’m the one provides the power supply,
(He goes just like the clappers on my steak and kidney pie),
His fittings are all shining ‘cos I keep ‘em nice and clean
And he tells me his machine tool is the best I’ve ever seen…

The terms of my employment would make your hair turn grey,
I have to be on call you see for twenty-four hours a day.
I quite enjoy the perks though when I’m working through the night,
For I get job satisfaction, well he does then I might.
If I keep up full production I hall have a kid or two,
For some future boss to have another labour force to screw!

The truth began to dawn then how I keep him fit and trim
So the boss can make a nice fat profit out of me and him.
And as a solid union man he got in quite a rage
To think that we’re both working hard and getting one man’s wage.
I said “And what about hte part-time packing job I do?
That’s three men that I work for love, my boss, your boss and you!”

He looked a little sheepish and he said “As from today
The lads and me will see what we can do on equal pay.
Would you like a housewives’ union? Do you think you should be paid
As a cook and as a cleaner, as a nurse and as a maid?”
I said “Don’t jump the gun, love, if you did your share at home,
Perhaps I’d have some time to fight some battles of my own.”

“I’ve heard you tell me how you’ll pull the bosses down;
You’ll never do it, brother, while you’re bossing me around,
Till women join the struggle – married, single, white and black,
You’re fighting with a blindfold and one hand behind your back.”
The message has got over for he’s realised at last
That power to the sisters must mean power to the class.

Sandra Kerr, “The Maintenance Engineer”



  1. as the gay sibling of lesbian poet Sharon R. Barba, it is ,even after all these years since her death, surprising how I still need to be reminded of the loss by women who only knew her from her words. thank you

    Comment by wounded1949 — November 22, 2010 @ 3:14 pm | Reply

    • Hello. I was a friend of Sharon’s, and I miss her still. Nancy Gage (

      Comment by Nancy Gage — July 25, 2012 @ 2:28 am | Reply

  2. This is for all the Hardworking Women out there that feel under appreciated.

    Comment by Yvonne Hardgrave — March 8, 2012 @ 6:17 pm | Reply

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