Women are Phenomenal

Women in Tree

Art of Autism Board member Kimberly Gerry-Tucker shares poetry and art honoring women. March is Women’s History Month.

By Kimberly Gerry-Tucker

Women in Tree

(Artwork: Kimberly Gerry-Tucker)

What is Dorothy Catherine Draper thinking in this 1840 Daguerreotype photo; taken by her brother?

Dorothy Catherine Draper

So many images of women have been captured in photographic processes since then. But hers is the first photographic image ever taken.

Edna St. Vincent Millay, an American poet and playwright, received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923 and was also known for her feminist activism. She used the pseudonym Nancy Boyd a lot.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

SPRING

By Edna St. Vincent Millay

To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only underground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
April
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

The next poem, I wrote myself; in homage to Edna; one of my favorite poets ever, with her poem “Spring” as my inspiration:

AUTUMN

By Kimberly Gerry-Tucker

What scheme is this, October; with your paraded shows of color?
Grandstanding is not so praiseworthy.
This time my summer weariness is not soothed by the yellow
And scarlet leaves rustling crisply.
I have lived what I have lived.
The breeze is brisk upon my face as I regard
The nervous squirrels.
The smells in the air are pleasing.
It is clear that no ugliness exists.
But what does that represent?
Even in the brains of beautiful people
Morals are decayed.
Vitality in itself
Is fleeting.
A cup too full, the elevator instead of the stairs.
It is not pleasing that yearly, up this vibrant hill,
October
Swaggers in like a braggart, bellowing and brandishing colors.

Edna St. Vincent Millay’s lyrical writing was certainly an artful ode to all that is nature and I love that about her. Another Edna quote:

“Nobody speaks to me. People fall in love with me, and annoy me and distress me and flatter me and excite me and—and all that sort of thing. But no one speaks to me. I sometimes think that no one can. Can you?”

Jane Colden

Jane Colden (1724-1776) was our first female botanist. Her handmade manuscript is a collection of drawings and descriptions of more than 300 plants observed in the landscape around her home. A product of her times, she died so young- only aged 42, and few know of her passion and accomplishments, her contributions to the world. But her manuscripts, her drawings, her legacy exists if you seek them out. Truly, she laid the foundation stone in her work, for what was to follow in the study of Botany. Here is a poem about remembering women through artifacts found by chance:

THE ARCHAELOGISTS

By Julia Shipley (Source: Poetry, 2004)

found pins
by the millions
while meticulously
stripping
a portion
of Manhattan
worked over
by women who
mended between
appointments:
the harlot’s
artifacts include
extracts of
old wax
paper wrappers
filled with pin
after pin,
— imagine
all sixteenths
spilled
from the inch
ruler;
imagine each
a singular
spoke
of tin,
each one fell stroke
in a ledger;
less than
a cent
of metal
total,
a dowry. Her
nicks of time,
dropped stitches,
poke-throughs
taken in,
how each
man may
have fit
against
the satin hem
of her memory.

Sarah Jane Woodson

In 1858, Sarah Jane Woodsen Early was the first black woman college instructor and the first black American to teach at an historically black college or university. What she left behind was not physical artifacts, but a legacy few know about- as a distinguished influential mentor and teacher. As a principal of schools in four cities, her popular speeches encouraged others to follow careers in education and the sciences to lead their race.

BARBIE DOLL

By Marge Piercy

This girlchild was born as usual
and presented dolls that did pee-pee
and miniature GE stoves and irons
and wee lipsticks the color of cherry candy.
Then in the magic of puberty, a classmate said:
You have a great big nose and fat legs.

She was healthy, tested intelligent,
possessed strong arms and back,
abundant sexual drive and manual dexterity.
She went to and fro apologizing.
Everyone saw a fat nose on thick legs.

She was advised to play coy,
exhorted to come on hearty,
exercise, diet, smile and wheedle.
Her good nature wore out
like a fan belt.
So she cut off her nose and her legs
and offered them up.

In the casket displayed on satin she lay
with the undertaker’s cosmetics painted on,
a turned-up putty nose,
dressed in a pink and white nightie.
Doesn’t she look pretty? everyone said.
Consummation at last.
To every woman a happy ending.

Marge Piercy

On the subject of poetry, here is another one I wrote, decades ago.

RAISIN MOUTH

By Kimberly Gerry-Tucker

The snowperson, there; in the snow…
Do you see it?
Inanimate, what does it know?
Stare – bare;
Mute – there…

Its face puddles south; watch it cry all day!
See its raisin mouth?
It will fall away.
No matter that; it shan’t speak anyway…

If I chose to expend the effort, you see,
I’d add a few raisins each day;
To assure that it maintains expression.
“What a smile!” Onlookers would say

Of course, I could go out and build it a friend.
But no, I’ll watch till it tumbles, then build it again.
It melts in the face of its enemy: sun.
And’s tainted yellow by dogs’ lifted legs.
I think it knows that the world can be
Sparkling, beautous in the details; and Unfun.

Look there: Its raisin mouth did fall away.
I won’t repair it…It doesn’t matter;
It shan’t speak anyway.
BY: Kimberly Gerry-Tucker

I wrote that poem when I thought my voice was a whisper. In retrospect I know, that voices come in many forms: Teaching, Art, Writing… and that though the act of me writing this poem about not having a voice, I was actually using my voice.

PHENOMENAL WOMEN

By Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Maya Angelou was quite literally, mute for a long time. This phenomenal woman is gone now physically, but her voice will never die. March is Women’s History Month. Have any neurodiverse children artists in your lives? Art of Autism is giving away prizes but time is running out. To have your child’s art online and considered for a prize, please send your child’s art depicting women that inspire your child-past or present to PODSartofautism@gmail.com

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Kimberly Gerry-Tucker is an artist, QA tester, and writer. She is the author of Under The Banana Moon, living, loving, loss and aspergers/selective mutism. She resides in Connecticut with her pets and significant other Al and serves on the board for Art of Autism.

Kim Tucker

Maya Angelou poems
First woman Photographed
Lovely Edna Quotes
Jane, Our First Botanist
Sarah, 1st African-American Professor
Maya Quotes

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