WOMEN
07/31/2015 10:16 am ET

The 'Battle Hymn Of The Republic' As Feminist Anthem

Why can't it be the Year Of The Woman every year?

The "Battle Hymn Of The Republic", one of America's most famous songs, has a long history of being adapted for activist causes since it was written by Julia Ward Howe in 1861.

In fact, it was rewritten as an anthem for both the Women's and the Civil Rights movements over the years. In 1890, women's rights activists created "Battle Hymn of the Suffragists"; it's been made into a famous union tune, "Solidarity Forever"; and years later, Len Chandler, a folk singer and Civil Rights activist, changed the lyrics of the original ("Glory! Glory ! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!") to "Move On Over... Or We'll Move On Over You".  

In 1970, Meredith Tax, then living in Boston and writing her first book, The Rising of the Women, gave it her own spin. The lyrics were published by "Sing Out!" magazine in 1971.  

A similar version of Tax's anthem was sung by feminist activists, including Gloria Steinem, at the 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami. That Convention was filmed by Sandra Houch and turned into the once-lost documentary, "The Year of the Woman."

It's alarming how much the lyrics -- of both versions -- ring true today. It's an awesome battle hymn, one we should remember and reflect on often.

Below are Tax's lyrics, reprinted with her permission:

THE BATTLE HYMN OF WOMEN
 
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the flame of women’s rage
Kept smoldering for centuries, now burning in this age.
We no longer will be prisoners in that same old gilded cage
That’s why we’re marching on.
 
CHORUS:
Move on over or we’ll move on over you
Move on over or we’ll move on over you
Move on over or we’ll move on over you
For women’s time has come!
 
You have told us to speak softly, to be gentle and to smile
Expected us to change ourselves with every passing style.
Said the only work for women was to clean and sweep and file
That’s why we’re marching on!
 
             CHORUS
 
It is we who’ve done your cooking, done your cleaning, kept your rules.
We gave birth to your children and we taught them in your schools.
We’ve kept the system running but we’re laying down our tools.
That’s why we’re marching on!
 
             CHORUS
 
You think that you can buy us off with crummy wedding rings
You never give us half the profit that our labor brings
Our anger eats into us, we’ll no longer bend to kings,
That’s why we’re marching on.
 
            CHORUS
 
We have broken through our shackles, now we sing a battle song
We march for liberation and we’re many thousands strong
We’ll build a new society, we’ve waited much too long,
That’s why we’re marching on!
 
            CHORUS
 
 

Check out the trailer for "The Year of the Woman" below. 

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