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Womansong Collection CD

Lyrics and Historical Notes

Please note: Due to copyright restrictions, all of the songs from the CD are not included here. But complete lyrics to all songs are found in the booklet accompanying the CD.

Updated 6/27/05

All content of this site is copyright 2002 Gerri Gribi

 About the author:

Gerri Gribi is an award-winning musician, historian and educator who strives to bring the "unsung" history of women and minorities to life. Her CD The Womansong Collection, featuring 24 woman-positive traditional and composed songs with historical notes and lyrics, has been widely and enthusiastically reviewed at home and abroad. In addition to presenting classes and workshops, she travels North America performing her one-woman show A Musical Romp Through Women's History. To learn more about her work and programs, please visit her homepage.

Lyrics & Historical Notes for The Womansong Collection

Women's folk music, like women's history, has been a neglected area of study. Too often, the traditional "women's" music we do hear is about victims: murder ballads, songs of unrequited love and downtrodden wives. Though such songs are a valid part of the tradition, they must be balanced with other views so we can fully appreciate and understand woman's role in history.

Women past and present have developed a vibrant oral tradition which documents their concerns, joys, struggles and achievements. I began searching for these "woman-positive" songs in 1982, and in 1984 recorded an album called Womansong. A second album, Prince Charming Doesn't Live Here, followed in 1991. The Womansong Collection CD features a wide selection of favorite songs from both albums, plus two new songs.

This project is a small, eclectic sample of a rich heritage, a celebration of women's creativity and determination. I dedicate it to my foremothers, whose lives and dreams are part of my cultural inheritance. Gerri Gribi

In a Hurry? Just need a couple songs? Download Gerri's Music

Index of Songs:

The Cruel Youth // Download this song

The Crafty Maid's Policy // Download this song

Single Life

Hushabye (All The Pretty Little Horses) // Download this song

The Old Maid's Song

Equinoxial & Phoebe // Download this song

Sister Thou Wast Mild and Lovely

When I Was A Fair Maid // Download this song

Cotton Mill Girls

Oh Dear, What Can the Matter Be? (Suffrage Song) // Download this song

Bread & Roses

I Didn't Raise My Boy to be a Soldier // Download this song

I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart

Which Side Are You On?

I'm Gonna Be An Engineer

The Hunting Song (Animals Love Vegetarians) // Download this song

We Will Not Stop // Download this song

Union Maid

Prince Charming Doesn't Live Here // Download this song

Whole People

The Wings of a Song // Download this song

The Hills of Kentucky // Download this song

Lament for a Soldier // Download this song



The Cruel Youth - Traditional Download this song

Folk historian Alan Lomax estimates that over half of the ballads created by white singers in America were murder ballads. Like many modern books and movies, the victims are frequently young women, portrayed as defenseless, dim, and almost eager, victims. This ballad is unusual in that the woman single-handedly triumphs over her assailant, feels no remorse about having defended herself...and delivers a classic parting shot!

This version of the song is found in The Liberated Woman's Songbook. It is the Americanized version of a British song, "The Outlandish Knight" which is Child Ballad #4.

There was a youth, a cruel youth,

he lived beside the sea

Six pretty maidens he drowned there

by the lonely willow tree


As he walked forth with Sally Brown,

as he walked by the sea

And evil thought came into his mind

by the lonely willow tree


"Turn your back to the waterside,

your face to the willow tree

"Six pretty maidens I've drowned here,

and you the seventh shall be


"But first take off your golden gown,

take off your gown," said he

"For though I'm going to murder you,

I'll not spoil your finery."


"Then turn around, you cruel young man.

Turn around," said she

"For it's not right that such a young boy

a naked woman should see."


He turned around the cruel young man,

around about turned he

And seizing him boldly in both arms,

she threw him into the sea


"Lie there, lie there, you cruel young man,

Lie there lie there," said she

"Six pretty maidens you've drowned here,

now go keep them company."


He sank beneath the icy waves,

he sank beneath the sea

No living thing cried a tear for him,

but the lonely willow tree.

Back to Index


The Crafty Maid's Policy - Traditional Download this song

This song, found in a London broadside dating back to 1860, is one of many in the "trickster" genre. Folklorist Robert Rodriguez first suggested to me that the song was probably a response to the type of ballad in which the carefree lords ride over the hill and "frolic" with a defenseless servant. Our Crafty Maid is far from defenseless, however; she outwits a potential assailant with a bawdy double entendre, and steals his horse in the bargain. I found this song in All Our Lives: A Women's Songbook.

Come listen awhile and I'll sing you a song

Of three merry gentlemen riding along

They saw a fair maid and to her did say

"We're afraid this cold morning will do you some harm."


"Oh no, kind sir, you are vastly mistaken

To think this cold morning could do me some harm

There's one thing I crave and it lies twixt your legs

If you'll give me that, it will keep me warm."


"My dear, if you crave it, well then you shall have it

If you'll come with me under yonder green tree

And since you do crave it, my dear you shall have it

I make these men witness I'll give it to thee."


So the gentleman 'lighted, straight-way she mounted

And staring the gentleman hard in the face,

Said, "You knew not my meaning,

you wrong understood me"

And away she went galloping down the long lane


"Oh gentlemen! Lend me one of your horses!

That I might ride after her down the long lane

When I overtake her, I warrant I'll make her

Return to me my own horse again!"


But as soon as the maid she saw him a'coming

She instantly then took her pistol in hand

Saying "Doubt not my skill, it is you I would kill

I will have you stand back or you are a dead man."


"Oh why do you spend your time here in talking?

Why do you spend your time here in vain

Just give her a guinea, it's what she deserves

And I warrant she'll give you your horse back again."


"Oh no, kind sir, you are vastly mistaken

If it is his loss, well it is my gain.

And you were the witness that he'd give it to me"

And away she went galloping down the long lane.

Back to Index

Single Life - Traditional

There are many traditional songs which are known by the name of "Single Life" and the theme is a common one for both men and women. They are often sung from the view of a wistful married person, as in "I wish I were single again!" The modern tone of the chorus is striking; I did not update it, and the song was old by the time Roba Stanley first recorded it commercially in 1925 for Okeh Records. I heard this version on the album Banjo Picking Girl, Rounder Records.

Single Life is a happy life, single life is lovely!

I am single and no man's wife,

and no man shall control me.


The boys come by on Saturday night,

some come by on Sunday

If you give 'em half a chance,

they'll be there on Monday


A boy falls in love with a pretty little girl,

treats her gentle as a dove

He calls her "honey" and spends all his money,

to prove he's true to his love


I would not marry a red-haired boy,

I will not marry for money

All I want is a brown-eyed boy,

to kiss and call me "honey"

Back to Index

Hushabye (All The Pretty Little Horses) - Traditional Download this song

This lullaby has been in the oral tradition throughout the South ever since slavery. Sung by slave nurses tending white children, it protests their being forcibly separated from their own children, the "poor little lamby" of the second verse. It was a strong statement against a prevailing myth of that period...that blacks were content with their lot and better off than they'd been in Africa.

Slave songs and spirituals frequently had dual or coded meanings. For example "De Gospel Train" and "Follow de Drinkin' Gourd" refer to the Underground Railroad. The admonishment to "Git on board, little children" may have been a signal that Harriet Tubman was coming through! Tubman, an escaped slave called "the Moses of her people" led at least 19 separate groups North to freedom, rescuing about 300 people in all.

I've known this song since I was a child, but didn't realize it was a slave song until I was doing research for this album. According to Living Documents in American History from Earliest Colonial Times to the Civil War, edited by John A Scott, (Trident Press 1963) the song was collected by Alan Lomax, who learned it from his mother, who took it from North Carolina to Texas after the Civil War.

Hushabye, don't you cry, go to sleepy little baby

When you wake you shall have

all the pretty little horses

Blacks and bays, dapples and greys,

coach and six little horses

Hushabye, don't you cry, go to sleepy little baby


Hushabye, don't you cry, go to sleepy little baby

Way down yonder in the field there's a poor little lamby

Bees and butterflies pecking out his eyes

Poor little thing cries "Mammy"

But hushabye, don't you cry, go to sleepy little baby

Back to Index


The Old Maid's Song - Traditional

Our nomenclature presumes that men are single by choice, women by default. Adjectives ascribed to bachelors are "carefree" or "happy-go-lucky," while single women are pitied as "old maids" or "spinsters."

I found this gem in Sweet Rivers of Song: Traditional Songs from the Southern Appalachian Mountain Region. (Berea College: 1967) Perhaps our foremothers had a less disparaging view of "spinsterhood!"

I'll take my stool and sit in the shade

I'm determined to be an old maid

I'll not marry at all at all

No I'll not marry at all


I'll not marry a man that's poor

Cause he'd go begging from door to door


I'll not marry a man that's rich

Cause he'd get drunk and fall in a ditch


I'll not marry a man that's fat

Cause he'd look bad in a derby hat


I'll not marry a man that's little

Cause he can't play that big bass fiddle


But I will marry a man that's kind

Who's honest and wise

and will always be mine


Then you'll not marry at all at all

Then you'll not marry at all

Back to Index

Equinoxial and Phoebe - Traditional Download this song

People often wax nostalgic for the good-old days "before women had to work." I've yet to figure out when that time was! Women have always worked...their work has been undervalued and underpaid, but they have always worked.

Songs such as the well-known "Housewife's Lament" serve as oral diaries, and detail the never-ending work day of the pioneer woman. I like this particular song because the "lament" takes a positive form; no doubt this song survived because it also provided a humorous lift, a pat on the back for the weary and overworked housewife.

Folk themes are always being recycled: compare this story to modern films like "Mr. Mom" or "Mrs. Doubtfire" And on a 2005 episode of "Dr. Phil" a husband similarly swapped roles with his wife after complaining that she was "lazy and disorganized." With similar results! This version of the song is found in The Liberated Woman's Songbook, and was collected in Arkansas from Ozark balladeer Emma Dusenberry, a blind singer whom the Alamanac Singers used as a resource.


Equinoxial swore by the green leaves on the tree

He could do more work in a day

than Phoebe could do in three


So little Phoebe said to him, "This you must allow

"You can do the work in the house and

I'll go follow the plow


"And you must feed the little pig

that stands in yonder sty

"And you must milk the brindle cow

for fear she will go dry


"And you must churn the crock of cream

that I left in the frame

"And you must watch the fat in the pot

or it will go in flame


"And you must weave the hank of yarn

that I spun yesterday

"And you must watch the speckled hen

or it will run away."


Then little Phoebe took the whip

and went to follow the plow

And Equinoxial took the pail

and went to milk the cow.


The brindle cow she turned around,

and sniveled up her nose

She gave him a lick upon the lip

and the blood ran to his toes


He tried to feed the little pig that stands in yonder sty

he hit his head upon the beam, and how the blood did fly


He tried to churn the crock of cream

that she'd left in the frame

But he forgot the fat in the pot and so it burst in flame


He tried to weave the hank of yarn

that she'd spun yesterday

But he forgot the speckled hen,

and so it ran away


He looked to the east, he looked to the west,

he saw the setting sun

He swore it had been an awful long day,

And Phoebe hadn't come


Presently litle Phoebe came

and saw him looking sad

She clapped her hands upon her hips,

and said that she was glad!


Now Equinoxial swears by all the stars in heaven

Phoebe could do more work in a day

than he could do in seven.

Back to Index

Sister Thou Wast Mild and Lovely Traditional

Historically, women have been intimately involved in life's cycles; it was "women's work" to birth the babies as midwives, tend the sick with natural remedies, prepare the dead for burial. Only in modern times and modern societies have these roles become professionalized and dominated by men.

This Primitive Baptist hymn belongs to women; it has traditionally been sung by women at the death of a sister of the church. I learned this version from Ginny Hawker in West Virginia. The bit of a "holler" you hear is a traditional style of singing.

Sister thou wast mild and lovely

Gentle as the summer breeze

Pleasant as the air of ev'ning

As it floats among the trees

Peaceful be thy silent slumber

Peaceful in thy grave so low

Thou no more wilt join our number

Thou no more our song shall know


Dearest sister, thou hast left us

Here thy loss we deeply feel

But if tis God that hath bereft us

He can all our sorrows heal

Yet again we hope to meet thee

When the days of life are fled

Then in heav'n with joy to greet thee

Where no farewell tears are shed

Back to Index

When I Was a Fair Maid - Traditional Download this song

There are many songs which tell us of women who served in the military disguised as men. "The Female Drummer," "The Handsome Cabin Boy," and "Cruel War" are but a few. I like this one because, even though we don't know who wrote this song, the boast in the second verse makes me think it just had to be a woman!

Deborah Sampson, who served in the Continental Army during the American Revolution, is probably the most famous of the "secret soldiers," but there is quite a bit of photographic evidence of women who served in the Civil War disguised as men. (See the January 1994 issue of Smithsonian Magazine for a taste.)

Even when not in disguise, women's military contributions have been obscured. Few people know that over 1000 women invaluably served this country as Women's Air Service Pilots (WASPs) during WWII. The government kept their service quiet, however, for reasons of "national security;" they feared such a reliance upon women might have been misconstrued as weakness in our military.

For a scholarly look at the subject, see Dianne Dugaw's Warrier Women and Popular Balladry, 1650-1850. Cambridge: University Press, 1989.

When I was a fair maid about seventeen

I listed in the navy for to serve the queen

I listed in the navy, a sailor lad to stand

For to hear the cannons rattling

and the music so grand


The officer who listed me was a tall and handsome man

He said, "You'll make a sailor lad

so come along my man."

My waist be tall and slender, my fingers long and thin

But the very soon they taught me,

I soon exceeded them


They sent me off to London town to guard the Tower

And I'm sure that I would be there

till this very day and hour

But a lady fell in love with me, I told her I was a maid

She went unto the captain, and my secret she betrayed


The captain called me to his side

and demanded was this so

I dare not, I dare not, I dare not say no

"What a pity it is to lose you,

what a sailor lad you made!

"What a pity it is to lose you,

such a handsome young maid."


So fare thee well my captain, you've been so kind to me

And likewise my sailor lads, I'm sorry to be leaving thee

But if ever the navy needs a lad, a sailor I remain

I'll pull out my cap and feathers,

and I'll run the rigging again.

Back to Index

Cotton Mill Girls - Traditional

The first strike by women workers occurred in 1828 when 400 women in Dover, NH walked off their jobs to protest working conditions. Life in the factories had not improved by the start of the 20th Century, and by the 1930's cotton mill girls were "turning out" in force with other workers demanding unionization, better pay and humane working conditions.

This song of protest was widely sung throughout the south in the early part of the 20th century. I first heard it growing up in Cincinnati amidst a large Appalachian population. I sometimes receive email asking whether I realize Hedy West wrote this song. The confusion comes from the fact that she has copyrighted her arrangement of the song, which leads some to assume she wrote it. According to an article in Sing Out! Vol 27:3, 1979, pps. 11-13, "Cotton Mill Girls," West "...learned this song near her native Cartersville..." so she's not claiming to have written it, either. The melody and words I grew up with and recorded here differ from West's arrangement (which you'll find in that same article.) Yet another version is found in Here's to the Women: 100 Songs for and about American Women.

Hard times cotton mill girls, hard times cotton mill girls

Hard times cotton mill girls, hard times everywhere.


I've worked in a cotton mill all my life,

ain't got nothing but a barloh knife

It's hard times cotton mill girls, hard times everywhere


In 1915 I heard it said,

"Move to cotton country, get ahead!"

It's hard times cotton mill girls, hard times everywhere


We cotton mill girls work hard all day,

for fourteen cents of a measly pay

It's hard times cotton mill girls, hard times everywhere


Now when I die don't bury me at all,

hang me up on the spinning-room wall

Pickle my bones in alcohol, hard times everywhere.

Back to Index

Oh Dear, What Can the Matter Be? L. May Wheeler Download this song

For the first 150 years of our nation's history, "democracy" excluded more than half the population. This changed only after one of the longest, most remarkable and successful nonviolent efforts the world has ever seen.

The suffrage movement was born in 1848, at a time when women were not legal entities. They had no rights to their property, their children, or even their own bodies...which makes their achievement even more remarkable!

Like any civil rights movement, this one used music to rally the "troops." Wheeler set her words to a popular turn-of-the-century parlor tune; it satirizes some reasons popularly given for denying women the vote.

The 19th Amendment was certified on August 26, 1920. This song is found on the wonderful album, Songs of the Suffragettes.


Oh Dear, what can the matter be

Dear dear what can the matter be

Oh dear, what can the matter be

Women are wanting to vote


Women have husbands, they are protected

Women have sons by whom they're directed

Women have fathers, they're not neglected

Why are they wanting to vote?


Women have homes, there they should labor

Women have children whom they should favor

Women have time to learn of each neighbor

Why are they wanting to vote?

Women can dress, they love society

Women have cash with all its variety

Women can pray with sweetest piety

Why are they wanting to vote?


Women are running about here and there.

Women are working like men everywhere

Women are crowding then claiming "Tis fair"

So why are they wanting to vote?


Women have reared all the sons of the brave

Women have shared n the burdens they gave

Women have labored this country to save

And that's why we're going to vote


Oh dear, what can the matter be

Why should men get every vote?

Back to Index

Bread and Roses Lyrics: John Oppenheim, 1912 Tune Adapted by Mimi Farina, 1976

In Lawrence, Massachusetts, textile companies were angered when in 1911 state law reduced the work week for women and children from 56 to 54 hours. They retaliated by increasing the work load, but not the wages. The workers responded with a massive strike; over twenty thousand men, women and children won concessions by staying out of work for ten weeks.

This classic song was inspired by a strike banner the women carried proclaiming "We want bread and roses too." It's a demand for quality of life beyond the hand-to-mouth existence of the working class. The original tune has been credited to both Martha Coleman and Caroline Kohlsaat, and can be found in both Here's to the Women and The Liberated Woman's Songbook.


As we come marching marching,

in the beauty of the day

A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill-lofts gray

Are touched by all the radiance

that a sudden sun discloses

For the people hear us singing

Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses


As we come marching marching, we battle too for men

For they are women's children

and we mother them again

Our lives shall not be sweated

from birth until life closes

Hearts starve as well as bodies,

give us bread but give us roses


As we come marching marching,

unnumbered women dead

Go crying through our singing

their ancient call for bread

Small art, or love, or beauty their drudging spirits knew

Yes it is bread we fight for but we fight for roses too


As we come marching marching,

we bring the greater days

For the rising of the women

means the rising of the race

No more the drudge and idler,

ten that toil where one reposes

But the sharing of life's glories bread and roses,

bread and roses

Back to Index

I Didn't Raise My Boy to be a Soldier

Lyrics: Alfred Bryan 1915 Tune: Al Piantadosi

This was one of the most popular songs of 1915, as Americans resisted involvement in a European war. The original sheet music calls it "a mother's plea for peace."

It's appropriate for in April of 1915, for the first time ever, women of different nations met at a time of war to express opposition and consider ways of ending the conflict. The International Congress of Women, or the Hague Congress, was the offspring of the International Suffrage Alliance, and ultimately led to the formation of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom in 1919. (WILPF)

Sheet music for this song is available at the Duke University Collections

Ten million soldiers to the war have gone

Who may never return again

Ten million mothers' hearts may break

For the ones who died in vain

Head bowed down in sorrow through the lonely years

I heard a mother murmur through her tears:


I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier,

I brought him up to be my pride and joy

Who dares to place a musket on his shoulder,

To shoot some other mother's darling boy?

Let nations arbitrate their future troubles

It's time to lay the the swords and guns away

There'd be no war today, if mothers all would say

"I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier."


What victory can calm a mother's heart

When she thinks of her blighted home?

What victory can bring her back

All she cared to call her own?

Let each mother answer in the years to be

"Remember that my boy belongs to me!"

Back to Index

I Wanna Be A Cowboy's Sweetheart

Patsy Montana, 1935 © Leeds Music

Music first graced the airwaves in the 1920's. In the early days of country radio, it was nearly impossible for a woman-authored song to get played, because programmers believed music of interest to men would appeal to both sexes, but music about women would only appeal to women.

Patsy Montana finally broke this gender barrier in 1935 when she became the first woman to sell a million records, opening the door for other women songwriters. The song experienced renewed popularity in the 1950's, and before her death in 1996, Patsy recorded it yet again...and debuted the album on David Letterman's show!

At first glance the title of this song doesn't sound too "liberated," but listen closely to the words, and you'll discover a young woman full of spirit and adventure! The maverick west allowed women many more freedoms than the east. For example, Wyoming included women's suffrage in its state constitution; women of that state were voting for 40 years before women nationwide were granted the right to vote in 1920.


I wanna be a cowboy's sweetheart,

I wanna learn to rope and to ride

I wanna ride o'er the plains and the desert,

out west of the Great Divide

I wanna hear those coyotes howling,

while the sun sinks in the west

I wanna be a cowboy's sweetheart,

that's the life that I love best


I wanna ride Old Paint a going at a run,

I wanna feel the wind in my face

A thousand miles from bright city lights,

going at a cowhand's pace

I wanna pillow my head by the sleeping herd

while the moon shines down from above

I wanna strum my guitar, and yodellaheehoo,

that's the life that I love!

Back to Index

Which Side Are You On?

Florence Reece © 1947 Stormking Music Inc.

In 1931, when the coal miners of Harlan County, Kentucky were on strike, company-hired thugs roamed the countryside terrorizing workers and their families to "persuade" them back to work. Florence Reece, whose husband Sam was a union organizer, stood firm against them and refused to reveal her husband's whereabouts. She expressed her anger by writing this song on the back of an old calendar, borrowing the tune of a Baptist hymn.

Printed versions are widely available, including Here's to the Women and All Our Lives.

*I have updated one of the verses to acknowledge the growing number of women miners.

Which side are you on, which side are you on?

Which side are you on, which side are you on?

My mamma was a miner, and I'm a miner too *

I'm sticking with the union until our struggle's through


They say in Harlan county, there are no neutrals there

You'll either be a Union Man, or a thug for J.H. Blair.


Come all of you good workers, good news to you I'll tell

Of how the miner's union is coming here to dwell


Don't scab for the bosses, don't listen to their lies

Us poor folk haven't got a chance unless we organize.


(*My daddy was a miner, and I'm a miner's son

And I'll stick with the union till every battle's won.)

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I'm Gonna Be An Engineer Peggy Seeger, 1970

Peggy Seeger lives in England where she collects traditional music and creates contemporary songs about social issues. She said this abbreviated version of her classic song was introduced into the U.S. by her half-brother, Pete Seeger. You can hear her original version on Different Therefore Equal, Folkways. It is also published in My Song is My Own: 100 Women's Songs and in Peggy Seeger's songbook Warts and All.

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The Hunting Song (Animals Love Vegetarians) Download this song

Gerri Gribi © 1984 BMI All Rights Reserved

Deer Hunting Season...only a brave soul would spoof this annual ritual in which thousands of city-folk do battle with nature in the woods. I collected these "hunting tales" from men and women, and feel they are a valid part of contemporary urban folklore; seems like everyone has heard these same stories in one form or another!

Some farmers in Luxemburg, WI liked the song so much they named a Jersey calf in my honor...


Each fall in Wisconsin, a man's duty is quite clear

He leaves the comfort of his home

to stalk the ferocious deer

They arrive in armored divisions,

with a year's supply of booze

Not content to just shoot at the animals,

they shoot each other too


Animals love vegetarians,

and the reason is plain to see

I don't shoot at the animals,

and they don't shoot at me


Old farmer Johnson gets worried right about now

Last year some Chicago fella

shot the ear right off his milking cow

So he's bought a bucket of bright orange paint,

knows just what he's gotta do

Gonna paint old Nelly from front to rear:



It's autumn in the northwoods,

and despite the snow and ice

The forest soon'll be ringing out

with the sounds of a hunters' paradise

One fella shot his Chrysler, after shooting out his TV

And another one winged his brother,

'cause he thought he was a deer sittin' up in a tree

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We Will Not Stop, We Will Not Go Away Gerri Gribi, © 1983 BMI All Rights Reserved Download this song

These words echo a speech made by NOW president Judy Goldsmith in 1983, the day that the newly introduced Equal Rights Amendment was defeated in Congress. (The first Equal Rights Amendment was introduced in 1920, shortly after women gained suffrage.)

She reminded her audience that it had taken 72 years for women to win the right to vote, and declared, "We will not stop, and we will not go away."

Seventy-two years our foremothers fought

Just to win our right to the ballot box

But even then they knew that our fight had just begun

And their daughters will not rest until equality is won.


When they say "NO" to equal rights,

whatever the excuse

They're telling me it's woman's lot to suffer their abuse

Please put aside the prejudice,

please put aside the fears

We've debated this amendment for over sixty years


We will not stop, we will not go away!

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Union Maid Woody Guthrie © 1947 Storm King Music Inc.

Guthrie borrowed the tune of "Redwing" to pay tribute to an unnamed organizer for the Tenant Farmer's Union in Oklahoma City. As he recounts in his Songbook, she had been "stripped naked and beat up, and then hung to the rafters of a log cabin until she was unconscious." Nevertheless, she was soon back to her rabble-rousing!

This song provides an example of how women's history gets lost or minimized: while the first two verses are a fitting tribute to her courage, the third reduces her to a supporting role.

According to David Joseph Arkush of Washington University in St. Louis, Woody wrote the first two verses for Ina Wood, a feminist union organizer who chided him for not having any songs which included women. The discordant third verse was added soon after by Millard Lampell to make the song longer, and has become part of the "canon."

Rather than drop it, I "complete" the song with a fourth added by Fanchon Lewis and Rebecca Mills, recorded by the New Harmony Sisterhood Band on their 1977 album entitled ...And Ain't I a Woman? That's the folk process!

You can find a printed version in The Liberated Woman's Songbook and Here's to the Women. You can visit Woody Guthrie Related Links

There once was a union maid, who never was afraid

Of the goons and the ginks and the company finks

And the deputy sheriff who made the raids

She went to the the union hall

When a meeting it was called

And when those company boys came round she always stood her ground


Oh you can't scare me I'm sticking to the union

I'm sticking to the union, I'm sticking to the union

Oh you can't scare me I'm sticking to the union

I'm sticking to the union till the day I die


This union maid was wise

to the tricks of company spies

She couldn't be fooled by company stools

She always organized the guys

She always got her way when she asked for higher pay

She'd show her card to the National Guard

And this is what she'd say:


You girls who want to be free, just take a tip from me

Find you a man who's a union man

And join the Ladies Auxiliary

Married life ain't hard, when you got a union card

A union man leads a happy life if he's got a union wife


We modern union maids are also not afraid

To walk the line leave jobs behind

And we're not just the Lady's Aid!

We fight for higher pay, and we will have our say

We're workers too, the same as you

And we fight the union way

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Prince Charming Doesn't Live Here Download this song

Gerri Gribi © 1986 BMI All Rights Reserved

I wrote this for the award-winning video documentary "Poverty Shock: Anywoman's Story" produced by Northeast Wisconsin Instructional Television (NEWIST) in Green Bay. The content of the video was guided by an advisory committee of women who had been on welfare, and had worked very hard to get off.

In discussions with these women, one shattered myth which consistently arose was that of the "Prince Charming:," the person who would magically whisk them away and make their lives perfect. I am indebted to those women for their candor and spirit, which I hope I've captured here.


It was such a pretty story when I was a little girl

Didn't need an education to survive in this world

Just be sugar and spice, make a man a good wife

And he will take care of you all of your life


So I found my Prince Charming, and raised a family

First one child, then two, and soon there were three

Knee-deep in diapers I worked night and day

While my "prince" drank whisky and sat in the way


When he started to hit me, I finally woke up

Now it's me and the kids alone, down on our luck

A business can go bankrupt, and start over again

But a single mom's a "Welfare Queen,"

scourge of the land


Being poor, being hungry, it's not what I planned

I can hardly move forward, I lose ground where I stand

I don't need your pity, and I don't need your hate

Just give me a chance and I'll set my life straight


Because there is no Prince Charming,

there's no magic wand

I'm the one I've got to lean on if I'm gonna to carry on

I'm gonna get an education,

then I'll set the system right

I'm not a "princess" or a "welfare queen,"

and I've learned to fight


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Whole People

Beth Wamble Stiver © 1995 All Rights Reserved

Beth is a tireless worker for gender equity. We met when I played at a conference in Kentucky, and she taught me this song. Her daughter, Carrie, was her inspiration.

Strong and tender, brave and kind

Healthy body soul and mind

My child you have so much to give

Just play, and learn, and live


Young woman wanting to relate

If you're smart and strong, will you still date?

Be who you are, don't give up your voice

You'll find others like you and you will rejoice.


Young man where'd your feelings go?

You try so hard not to let them show

It's a heavy load, to have to "win"

It's ok to be human, it means we are kin


Young couple joined in heart and soul

That is only part of the goal

Help each other become all they can be

Be "you," be "me,"

And then you can be "we."

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The Wings of a Song Download this song

Gerri Gribi © 1996 BMI All rights reserved

I wrote this song after a common "mid-life" experience: my parents sold the family home of nearly 40 years, and moved into an apartment. I was surprised at how "orphaned" this made me feel, even though I hadn't lived there in over 20 years. But songwriting is good therapy...this song reminds me that "home" is something we carry inside us.


Won't you carry me home on the wings of a song?

We'll glide on the breeze of a warm summer night

Rock me to sleep as we float o'er the trees

And drift on the breath of the flowers

Good night, sleep tight

As we drift on the breath of the flowers


If you look down below you can see the old hollow

The creek and the hills I roamed as a girl

I'd be covered with clay by the end of the day

Then get scrubbed and kissed for the night

Star Bright! I wish I might

Dream in my old room tonight



The Hills of Kentucky Download this song

© Gerri Gribi, 1982 BMI

I wrote this my first winter in Wisconsin, when it seemed the snow would never melt and I was longing to go home!

I wish I could fly to the hills of Kentucky
It's April and the Cumberland's busting with spring
Through the magnolias and maples I'd wander
The thick grassy banks of a tumbling stream.

White painted fences grace the hills of the Bluegrass
They roll on for miles, then fade out of sight
Violets and clover peek out with shy faces
Where thoroughbreds play in the warm sunlight

Slowly the Bluegrass gives way to the highlands
A highway winds carefully through a sharp pass
Past coal and black rock, through Corbin and Pineville
And home to my Cumberland mountains at last.

Fragile white blossoms drift down from a dogwood
A sparrow-hawk soars over cliffs and through trees
A forgotten grey barn topples down into long grass
The wind's kicking up and it's rustling the leaves.

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Lament For A Soldier Download this song
Gerri Gribi © 1980 BMI All Rights Reserved

I once saw a poster which read: It will be a great day when we have all the money we need for education, and the military has to hold bake sales to build bombers. This song grew out of my friendship with a nuclear bomber pilot.

Gentle soldier, love me in the grey cold morning
Hold me till sorrow escapes to the dawn
Could these tears that I spend find a worthier end?
Could they melt to your heart, and keep you at home?

For I'm so afraid of you dying, but I'm more afraid of you killing
some other lonely woman's gentle friend

Now you tell me a man's got to fight for his country
And you tell me to learn to be "patient and strong."
But with the patience I have I will try to convince you
I don't care for your reasons, this killing is wrong.

Late at night I awake from a dream where you were soaring
And far below you the children cowered at the sight
Till with the push of a button you rained flames and destruction
But lucky you could not hear their anguished cries...

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