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About this poet

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was born on September 24, 1825, in Baltimore, Maryland, and raised by her aunt and uncle. A poet, novelist, and journalist, she was also a prominent abolitionist and temperance and women's suffrage activist. She traveled to multiple states to lecture and give speeches about these issues. 

In May 1866, she delivered the speech, "We Are All Bound Up Together" at the National Women's Rights Convention in New York, sharing the stage with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. "You white women speak here of rights," she said. "I speak of wrongs."

With Margaret Murray Washington, the wife of Booker T. Washington, Harriet Tubman, and other prominent African American women, she helped found the National Association of Colored Women and served as its vice president in 1897.

She authored numerous books, including the poetry collections Forest Leaves (1845) and Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects (1854), the novel Iola Leroy, or Shadows Uplifted (1892), and several short stories. Before marrying Fenton Harper, a widower, with whom she had a daughter, she worked at Union Seminary in Ohio, where she taught sewing.

She died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on February 22, 1911. 

Songs for the People

Let me make the songs for the people,
   Songs for the old and young;
Songs to stir like a battle-cry
   Wherever they are sung.

Not for the clashing of sabres,
   For carnage nor for strife;
But songs to thrill the hearts of men
   With more abundant life.

Let me make the songs for the weary,
   Amid life's fever and fret,
Till hearts shall relax their tension,
   And careworn brows forget.

Let me sing for little children,
   Before their footsteps stray,
Sweet anthems of love and duty,
   To float o'er life's highway.

I would sing for the poor and aged,
   When shadows dim their sight;
Of the bright and restful mansions,
   Where there shall be no night.

Our world, so worn and weary,
   Needs music, pure and strong,
To hush the jangle and discords
   Of sorrow, pain, and wrong.

Music to soothe all its sorrow,
   Till war and crime shall cease; 
And the hearts of men grown tender
   Girdle the world with peace.

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was born on September 24, 1825. She was a prominent abolitionist and temperance and women's suffrage activist, as well as a poet. 

by this poet

poem
Do you see this grain of sand
Lying loosely in my hand?
Do you know to me it brought
Just a simple loving thought?
When one gazes night by night
On the glorious stars of light,
Oh how little seems the span
Measured round the life of man.
poem
The dying words of Goethe.
 
"Light! more light! the shadows deepen,
   And my life is ebbing low,
Throw the windows widely open:
   Light! more light! before I go."
 
"Softly let the balmy sunshine
   Play around my dying bed,
poem
God bless our native land,
    Land of the newly free,
 Oh may she ever stand
    For truth and liberty.
 
 God bless our native land,
    Where sleep our kindred dead,
 Let peace at thy command
    Above their graves be shed.