The Women's Doxology

Words by Mira H. Pitman; tune "Old Hundred," 1920

These lyrics were written in 1920 to celebrate passage of a constitutional amendment. What amendment was it and what did it change? Federal Suffrage Amendment (19th) gave women the vote.

Line 6 reads: "Long did we labor …" How long had it taken the Suffrage Movement to win women's right to vote? How did women wage their "mighty fight"? How did their strategy and tactics change over the years? Why did it take so long? Did the 19th Amendment give the vote to all women? Who still couldn’t vote?

They sing, "We are free!" What is the relationship between voting and freedom? Weren't they still protected by the Bill of Rights? Why wasn't that enough?

What do the last four lines suggest women intended to do with their votes? How realistic were these hopes? What impact did women voting have in the 1920s and 1930s, if any? What impact do women have today? To what extent do women vote in a bloc, as this song seems to predict?

Why choose the tune of a hymn for this song—why not a rousing rally song? What other causes were many suffragists involved with over the years? Abolitionism, temperance, social work, etc. What do these causes suggest about the motivations of the suffragists and their choice of this tune to celebrate the 19th amendment? Close ties to religious causes.

The lyrics state that now “all women” can “raise our voices high.” Who was included in this group of “all women”? Who was excluded? What does this say about the suffrage movement’s connection to the struggle for racial justice in the early 1900s? How had this relationship changed from the antebellum period?

"Woman's Doxology" performed by Paula Purnell. All rights reserved. © 2004.

In this recording Paula Purnell and friends recreate what a spontaneous performance may have sounded like. The unaccompanied women's voices gradually join in with increasing conviction in this interpretation of the well-known psalm tune.

View the score and lyrics for "Women's Doxology."

On January 10, 1918, the Federal Suffrage Amendment was finally passed by one vote in the House of Representatives. "As women poured out of the galleries a Woman's Party member from Massachusetts struck up the doxology. The marble halls reverberated to the sound of 'Praise God from which all blessings flow,'" (Wolfe, p. 138). In 1920, Mira Pitman wrote new words to "Old Hundred" to celebrate the successful ratification of the 19th Amendment by the required number of states.

The tune "Old Hundred," also known as "The Doxology," was a favorite of the Puritans for singing Psalm 100 (see Unit 1).Political cartoon

E. W. Gustin, "Election Day!" 1909. Courtesy of Library of Congress.

Compare this song to other songs about women taking on new roles:

"Going to the Polls" (Unit 5)

"New America" (Unit 5),

"Rosie the Riveter" (Unit 7)

"I am Woman" (Unit 8).

Pick a rally-type tune that would have been available in 1920 and write lyrics to celebrate the same occasion.

Draw a political cartoon commenting on the 19th Amendment's passage. Half the class take the position of the suffragists; half their opponents.

hosanna: Biblical shout of adoration.

race: Descent; humankind; or division of humankind.



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