The Music of the Suffrage Movement

By Kate MacKenzie

In light of today’s political climate, I’m taking this opportunity to examine the music used in protests throughout history, specifically the music from the woman’s marches during the Suffrage Movement. Suffragists used adapted tunes from soldier’s marches, popular songs, familiar hymns, and some even composed new music just for the occasion. Women activists were not as widespread or supported. Those who had the courage to speak up over their injustices faced sometimes very serious consequences. 

“Envision if you will, a small meeting hall, an over-sized parlor of the 1890's, where a dozen or so women have somehow managed to gather together to share their hopes and ideas and determination for equality...And at what a cost?! Scorn and social disapproval from the approved pillars of society: jeers and laughter from fathers, husbands, prospective boy-friends: butt of music hall jokes and popular songs. But, spurred on by a vision of equal rights, the women (and perhaps, a few male supporters) meet and discuss and plan and agitate. And then, in high, thin voices, to buoy up sagging spirits or to celebrate a new victory, these songs are heard.”

This is the scene that Elizabeth Knight set in the liner notes of the CD, Songs of the Suffragettes (1958). She then goes on to explain how each of the 16 songs were used to inspire hope and celebrate the incoming of a new age of equality at the turn of the Century. 

The following recording from Elizabeth Knight’s CD, The Promised Land, was featured at the National-American Woman’s Suffrage Convention in 1891. “Its flowery imagery and anthem-like pace are typical of the spate of ‘inspirational’ songs which the suffrage crusade produced.” 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVbJxN9Znx4

In discovering this CD, I am touched by how the power of music has been used, and is still used today, as we face political turmoil and personal struggles. Please take a moment to enjoy and appreciate Elizabeth Knight’s YouTube channel to remember the worthy causes our ancestors fought for. 

The Promised Land
Words and Music : Elizabeth Boynton llerlert

Our weary years of wandering o 'er, 

We Greet with joy this radiant shore; 

The promised land of liberty, 

The dawn of freedom's morn we see. 

O promised land, we enter in,

With "Peace on earth, good-will to men;" 

The '·Golden Age·' now comes again, 

As breaketh every bond and chain; 

While every race and sect and clime 

Shall equal share in this glad time.

 

Toilers in many fields have come 

With sheaves for this, our "Harvest Home," 

While spirits true in every age 

Have won for us this heritage. 

O golden dawn, O promised day, 

When error's lost in truth's clear ray, 

When all shall know that God is love , 

His kingdom here, around above, 

The world one equal brotherhood, 

And evil overcome with good . 

 

Then onward march in truth's crusade, 

Earth 's faltering ones implore our aid, 

The children of our schools and State, 

This coming of the mothers wait. 

O doubting hearts! O tempted ones! 

The shadows fade, the sunshine comes! 

Freedom for each is best for all, 

The "Golden Rule" our bugle call; 

And as to victory on we move, 

The banner over us is love.