A Revolutionary Woman

philis-wheatleyI’ve got misogyny on my mind. It’s not surprising, since I am closely following every aspect of the United States’ presidential race.

I have spent considerable time, especially this past week, trying to comprehend how the apparent personification of misogyny can possibly be a legitimate candidate for the highest office in my country in 2016. While I respect every American’s right to support whomever they choose as a part of our democratic process, I simply can’t wrap my mind around how there can possibly be so many people who support what this candidate represents – especially women, and anyone else who is part of a minority group that has been targeted by this candidate’s demeaning statements.

I spent a lot of time in the Boston area this past week. Since many crucial events of the American Revolution occurred in this area, I was frequently reminded of the actions of historical figures that resulted in my opportunity to live in a land of freedom. Considering that misogyny has been ruling the media cycle lately, I was especially impressed recently by the bold actions that many women took to aid the Revolution and help secure freedom.

During my trip, I kept encountering references to one woman that really impresses me: Phillis Wheatley. She was born in Africa and became a slave as a child when she was brought to Boston around the age of seven. Her owner’s children taught her to read. Phillis published her first poem at the age of fourteen and became a notable writer when she published Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. She died in Boston. Her gravesite is unknown, but her owner, John Wheatley, who bought her at a slave auction, was buried in Boston’s Granary Burying Ground. A sign in the graveyard lists Phillis as one of the Colonial Women of significance. It states: One of Boston’s most famous Africans was Phillis (Wheatley) Peters (ca. 1753 – 1784), the poetess, Wheatley was named after the slave ship, Phillis, that brought her to Boston. She was taught to read and write by her owners and she became an internationally recognized poet. Freed at the time of her master’s death, she bore and lost two children before dying with her third in 1784. The sign doesn’t even begin to cover what Phillis accomplished during her time in this land. She transcended potential  limitations caused by her sex, her race, her country of origin. She strove to break free of the shackles her society placed on her with her literary voice. She attempted to help secure freedom from oppression for others. Her writing impressed powerful leaders on both sides of the Atlantic. I was able to visit the house in Cambridge, Massachusetts where George Washington, who would eventually become my nation’s first president, arranged a meeting with Phillis because he was appreciative of her words. I think it’s safe to say that if Phillis had lived long enough to participate in the day that an African American woman could finally vote for president, she would not have cast her support for a misogynist who has insulted several minority groups. Unlike many of today’s American women, Phillis did not take her freedom for granted.

Various polls are claiming that the Republican and Democrat candidates for the U.S. presidency are currently tied. Apparently a blatantly misogynistic racist who freely mocks people that he considers weaker than himself has a real shot at running my country for the next four years. So many women throughout history have devoted their lives to keep this from happening in 21st century America. Phillis Wheatley spoke out on behalf of all Americans faced with oppression delivered at the hands of tyrants 300 years ago. Why have we, as a nation, made so little progress since then?

 

I wish every woman could find the courage to be revolutionary in her own life and refuse to support any form of misogyny.

 

 

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© 2016 by Julie Ryan. All rights reserved
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