"The March of the Women" was a song composed by Ethel Smyth in 1910, to words by Cicely Hamilton. "The March of the Women" was first performed on 21 January 1911, by the Suffrage Choir, at a ceremony held on Pall Mall, London, to celebrate a release activists from prison. A famous rendering of it took place in 1912, at Holloway Prison, after many women activists were imprisoned as a result of a window-smashing campaign. Smyth's part in this had been to break the window of Lewis Harcourt, the Secretary of State for the Colonies. The conductor Thomas Beecham visited Smyth in prison and reported that he found the activists in the courtyard "...marching round it and singing lustily their war chant while the composer, beaming approbation from an overlooking upper window, beat time in almost Bacchic frenzy with a toothbrush." While Emmeline Pankhurst undertook her hunger strike which she did not expect to survive. She told Smyth that at night she would feebly sing "The March of the Women".
The March of the Women
"Dedicated to the Women's Social and Political Union”
Shout, shout, up with your song!
Cry with the wind, for the dawn is breaking;
March, march, swing you along,
Wide blows our banner, and hope is waking.
Song with its story, dreams with their glory
Lo! they call, and glad is their word!
Loud and louder it swells,
Thunder of freedom, the voice of the Lord!
Long, long—we in the past
Cowered in dread from the light of heaven,
Strong, strong—stand we at last,
Fearless in faith and with sight new given.
Strength with its beauty, Life with its duty,
(Hear the voice, oh hear and obey!)
These, these—beckon us on!
Open your eyes to the blaze of day.
Comrades—ye who have dared
First in the battle to strive and sorrow!
Scorned, spurned—nought have ye cared,
Raising your eyes to a wider morrow,
Ways that are weary, days that are dreary,
Toil and pain by faith ye have borne;
Hail, hail—victors ye stand,
Wearing the wreath that the brave have worn!
Life, strife—those two are one,
Naught can ye win but by faith and daring.
On, on—that ye have done
But for the work of today preparing.
Firm in reliance, laugh a defiance,
(Laugh in hope, for sure is the end)
March, march—many as one,
Shoulder to shoulder and friend to friend
With thanks to Caitlin Davis