It’s been a week of interesting conversation with three fearless women in Boston. We met in the park along Commonwealth Avenue. The significance of the street name is interesting – a common wealth.
Each morning this week, as I walked my daughter’s dog, Dalton, I listened to Abigail, Lucy and Phyllis. They gathered together in a very public circle – a trifecta of powerful inspiration for me as I struggled to hold Dalton back from every dog that approached.
The women were stoic and shone under the cool cover of the tree-lined pathway. Abigail stood the tallest, upright and first in line as I approached. As the wife of the second President of the United States and mother of the sixth President, she reminds walkers like me about the importance of women’s voices. They must be included in state matters and anything that affects our governance. The Fathers of Confederation are only part of our July 4th celebration.
Lucy Stone agreed and spoke up in 1891 for the legal right for women to record her vote. Her pen was mighty and, as one of the first women to graduate from a college in Massachusetts (Oberlin), this suffragist and abolitionist thought nothing of speaking in public to all those who would listen.
I no longer needed to imagine Lucy’s truth. I felt it and had benefited from it. My freedom was earned on the backs of women like Lucy and Abigail. So it was with great humility and admiration, that I spent my last moments each day with Phyllis. Phyllis Wheatley. She was the first published African-American female poet who arrived in Boston in 1760. The Wheatley family purchased her at the slave market but taught her to read and write when they realized her prodigious talent.
Phyllis had a difficult life despite publishing volumes of poetry on Subjects Religious and Moral. She received praise from fans like George Washington and other Fathers of Confederation. But I knew life was filled with hardships for Phyllis, who had lost two children in child birth and died in poverty. Phyllis’ hadn’t just earned a place next to Abigail and Lucy. Her beautiful figure elegantly carved over a stone writing desk spoke to the power of imagination.
Her mind soared high above pernicious judgment and unjust slavery. Her fearlessness, education and determination offered its own form of emancipation even before it was officially granted.
Thank you Abigail, Lucy and Phyllis for the freedoms and principles that still ring true, perhaps with greater volume today as we celebrate this Fourth of July 2019. To the city of Boston and the sculptures of Meredith Bergmann, I look forward to more great conversations in history beyond this beautiful 2003 Boston’s Women’s Memorial.