We Need a Mormon Feminist Anthem

A few weeks ago, I hosted a discussion on Mormon feminist practice, ritual and product creation at the Sophia Gathering.  While thrilled with recent projects like Let Women Pray and Ordain Women which advocate for institutional change, I had the growing sense that pressuring the institution for change is only one part of our feminist struggle. We also need to begin developing our own community practices, our own rituals, and our own traditions. We need practices we can pass on to the next generations of Mormon women, so that our granddaughters and great nieces can turn to these traditions and find insight and inspiration in them.

Part of this conviction about developing Mormon feminist practices and rituals was sparked by some of my readings of womanist theology and ethics. I love the fact that a crucial source of authority and inspiration for womanists is the experiences and insights of their foremothers. Womanists turn to diaries, novels, letters, essays, practices, and oral wisdom from African American women of generations past to find insight into how to navigate racism, sexism, and other oppressions. Reading works by womanists has made me think of my own daughter and the women who will come after her. To what will they turn that will illuminate a path forward for them when they feel themselves disappeared and discounted by patriarchy? Can Mormon feminists today create traditions and rituals which will help them navigate their lives, which will inspire them to raise their voices, claim their own spiritual authority, and reject any cultural understanding that posits women as secondary or less-than?

One such practice or product that I would love to hand down to the next generation is a Mormon feminist anthem.  Or many anthems. Over a hundred years ago, our Mormon suffragist foremothers sang “Woman, Arise” during their Relief Society meetings.

Woman, ‘rise! thy penance o’er,
Sit thou in the dust no more;
Seize the scepter, hold the van,
Equal with thy brother, man

I’ve sung this song at many retreats, and it is always stirring to sing these words and feel that moment of connection with my foremothers. Can we come up with a new Mormon feminist song? Is there a song out there that Mormon feminists can adopt that speaks to our experiences, hopes and convictions? Are there any poets out there who can come up with terrific lyrics and set those lyrics to an already established tune? Any musicians who can create a brand new song? As one possible model, I was moved by this Catholic Women’s Ordination Conference song, Ordain a Lady. It’s fun and lighthearted, but seeing those women claiming their spiritual authority actually made me tear up. Can we produce something similarly catchy and powerful?

Off the top of my head, I can’t think of too many songs that speak directly to the Mormon feminist experience. Of course, I loved the Wear Pants to Church Day uke song. Totally brilliant, but obviously specific to that particular project. I’m not really a Lady Gaga fan, but a friend recently brought my attention to this amazing suffrage themed version of “Bad Romance,” saying that he particularly identified with that moment when the politician at the end decides to stand up and vote for suffrage. Perhaps some Mormon feminists might identify with the “Reflection” song from Mulan? These songs all tangentially refer to themes like authenticity and equality, but I think we need something more specific.

Do any of you have any good ideas for Mormon feminist anthems? Or do you have ideas of other practices, traditions, and rituals we should create to pass on to the next generation?



Caroline is a PhD student in Women's Studies in Religion and mother of three.

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12 Responses

  1. Rachel says:

    I don’t have any good ideas (yet), but I really love this post and this idea.

    Anthem, please! More rituals, please!

  2. April says:

    Cate, the amazing woman who brought us the pants song, also has this great tune:

    Maybe we could talk her into writing one about Mormon feminists?

    I loved the Bad Romance suffrage video. It made me wish I were a high school history teacher so I could use it to get young minds interested in women’s history.

  3. TopHat says:

    Jena tried to do something with WAVE a couple of years back. http://likeuntoeve.blogspot.com/2011/09/awake-and-arise-feminist-anthem.html

    The Mormon feminist world has the talent, we just need to do it!

  4. Now I just keep getting “Sister Suffragette” from Mary Poppins stuck in my head.

  5. Jeff Amelang says:

    One comment about the “Reflection” song:

    I believe it’s worth pointing out that, while the Mulan version of “Reflection” is pretty good, the linked Jackie Evancho version is different and expanded. I feel it very applicable to Mormon Feminism, including a section that I find particularly poignant: “Why must we all conceal \ What we think, how we feel? \ Must there be a secret me \ I’m forced to hide?” :

    Look at me
    You may think you see
    Who I really am
    But you’ll never know me
    Every day
    It’s as if I play a part
    Now I see
    If I wear a mask
    I can fool the world
    But I cannot fool my heart

    I am now
    In a world where I
    Have to hide my heart
    And what I believe in
    But somehow
    I will show the world
    What’s inside my heart
    And be loved for who I am

    Must I pretend that I’m
    Someone else for all time?
    When will my reflection show
    Who I am inside?

    Why must we all conceal
    What we think, how we feel?
    Must there be a secret me
    I’m forced to hide?
    I won’t pretend that I’m
    Someone else for all time
    When will my reflection show
    Who I am inside?

  6. Libby says:

    “Woman, Arise!” We sing it each year at the Exponent retreat — it’s one of my favorites.

  7. EmilyCC says:

    I wish every Mormon feminist had the opportunity to sing “Woman Arise” with a group–so powerful.

    We published it in our political issue last year (see pg 23): http://www.exponentii.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Exponent-II-Magazine_Fall-2012-corrected-final.pdf

    I nominate Heather to write our new anthem, but maybe we could just adopt “The Modesty Song” until then (http://www.the-exponent.com/the-modesty-song/).

  8. Jenne says:

    Here is the link to the tune that Jena (aka Like Unto Eve) came up with:

    She has two verses so far and was hoping to get more, especially since Sisters in Zion used to something like 11 verses!

    Awake and arise, my sisters,
    Awake and arise, my friends!
    Arise from the dust (Come shake off your dust?)
    For labor we must.
    It’s time for our work to begin.

    Awake and arise, my sisters,
    Awake and arise, my friends!
    Come shake off your chains
    Of heartache and shame
    It’s time for oppression to end.

    Two verses is a good start and the instrumental arrangement could be started with what is already there. It doesn’t seem like there is much more to do to make it a go with what is already here.

  9. BidTimeReturn says:

    Would love to see an anthem come together!

    During the Pantsapocolypse low point I found a jingle by Pink Martini called “Hang on Little Tomato.” It’s a light and silly song, but I love the references to future divinity and relying on internal strength during the difficult times of change. I’m now of the opinion that everyone should have a little ditty to hum through tough Sunday meetings!

    Track #3, lyrics start around 1:20

  1. January 14, 2016

    […] not to denigrate our Lord but to acknowledge the glorious truth of His Mother. As we talk about the need for an anthem, the need for answers and the need for knowledge, perhaps sacred music not subject to church […]

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