Girl on the Run

Harry Seymour

“Girl on the Run,” is inspired by and commemorates the 100 years of suffrage and International Women’s Day, March 8.  The 100 years since suffrage have spawned amazing changes in America for women. As with most significant social changes in this country, the prominence of race is intrinsically woven into the very fabric of U.S. history, as is the intersection between race and gender. In profiling and honoring the progress of women in America, I do so by recognizing the common nature and struggle of all women. However, the distinction between black and white women is important given the median wealth disparity of 10 cents on the dollar. When examined for single women, blacks earn one cent for every dollar by whites. One can easily understand the impact of race on life’s experiences since suffrage despite great progress in general. 

As metaphor, I’ve painted a little girl running alone on a seaside jetty. The relevance of this piece is the fragility of a young girl, running as if away from the past and toward the future on more or less unsteady and precarious foundation. Indeed, a woman’s past, before and since suffrage, has been fraught with discrimination, second class citizenship, and domestic, gender and sexually based violence in the loneliest of circumstances. My poem “Girl on the Run” highlights many of these issues but suggests a past as prologue to a promising future. 

Girl on the Run

A cry of anguish, “Ain’t I a woman,” was Sojourner’s truth

So deeply felt by abolitionist Harriet Tubman too

No less a plea from suffragettes Stanton and Anthony

Whose hope was for a vote long overdue

Although more powerful than might for all to pursue 

Except for descendants of slavery in Jim Crow.


Southern belles of gentility owned forty percent of all slaves in perpetuity 

These victims of sexism were also perpetrators in slavery

Accomplices in the most sinful and avarice period of US history

There for all to see in the infamous census of 1860

How ironic is this complicity for the oppressed to be the oppressor 

In a family affair without repent.


Husband, father, brother and son

Wife, Mother, Daughter and Sister

Girl on the run


Unwitting sexual objects, so statuesque, in lipstick, makeup and perfume

On pedestals they do display those wares that sway and allure

These fragrant flowers in disguise, so “fragile” and demure

Allegedly weaker of mankind with marriage paramount on the mind

Hoping for Mr. Right to tie the knot as life’s deceptively enduring prize

In a tomb of domesticity by vows to honor and obey.


Femininity overcome in a playground of masculinity

Jekyll and Hyde swing the swings, climb the monkey bars and ride the rides 

Where lovers, predators and even molesters show their true sides

Sexual vulnerability succumbs to violence as common place 

On a merry go round and round for those bound and never found

Out of sight and mind without a trace in the darkness of night.


Husband, Father, Brother, and Son

Girl on the run


So many years of being polite despite how egregious the plight

Glass ceilings broken by those previously token

Audacity of screams — ME TOO! – against sexual harassment and misogyny

Accusers emboldened while the accused cowed and broken 

Wild fires of lies out of control in an avalanche of denials 

Where few tears appear for careening careers. 


Although womanhood has withstood society’s turpitude

Those who could, should, and now would in a more unified sisterhood

A little girl’s intention to be President no longer a pipe dream of the indentured 

As female officeholders and voters have unparalleled power to really matter

Suffragettes Stanton and Anthony dreamt all this would come true

As Abolitionists Truth and Tubman would ponder how much more still to do. 


Wife, Mother, Daughter and Sister

No longer Mister as chosen one

Girl on the run


Harry Seymour is Professor Emeritus of the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His 2012 scratchboard art, Cigar Smokers, is in the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital Permanent Art Collection.