Poetry Friday: Celebrating International Women’s Day


“It is always better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
~ Eleanor Roosevelt ~

Hello, and welcome to the Poetry Friday Roundup! (Visit Renée LaTulippe at No Water River to learn more about Poetry Friday.) 

Two months ago, when I was efficiently filling out my calendar with important dates, I realized I was hosting Poetry Friday on International Women’s Day I never pass up the opportunity for a theme, so I suggested that we share poems celebrating women.

I found this to be a bit more challenging that I anticipated. Right after I posted my idea, astronomer Nancy Grace Roman passed away. After reading about this amazing woman, I thought I might write a poem to honor her. But then I found a post by Maria Papova on BrainPickings about Ellen Harding Baker, an Iowa teacher who lived from 1847-1886. During her short life, she created a quilt depicting our solar system to use during her lessons. Her stunning creation is now part of the collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

The National Museum of American History,
Gift of Patricia Hill McCloy and Kathryn Hill Meardon

This confluence of needlework and astronomy drew me to Ellen’s story and made me want to celebrate her life. This poem has proven quite a challenge to write, and I hope it does her justice.

An Ode to Ellen Harding Baker

Silenced by society’s
rules and regulations,
she adhered to its conventions,
fulfilling expectations.

Smiling on her sister,
Minerva granted her a gift:
The skill and creativity
to share her story visually.

Denied the power of the pen,
she embroidered woolen cloth.
Inspired by the spangled sky
and swirling stars above,
she stitched a blazing tapestry
detailing our corner of the galaxy.

Her masterpiece invited
wonderment and awe,
spreading knowledge and delight,
helping imaginations to take flight.

© Catherine Flynn, 2019

Today’s post is also doing double-duty as my Slice of Life. Thank you to StaceyBetsyBethKathleenDebKelseyMelanie, and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories every day in March and each Tuesday throughout the year. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

And now for the Roundup! Please join today’s celebration of poetry by sharing your link.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter



43 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Celebrating International Women’s Day

  1. Catherine ~ thank you for shining a light on this creative, smart woman, who found a work-around…with needle and thread!

    In the TeachingAuthors’ treehouse these days we’re talking about how we use Mentor Texts. I write about my all-time favorite picture book mentor text which shows us how to Show Don’t Tell.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had not heard of Ellen Harding Baker, but I think she would have embroidered you an amazing thank you note for honoring her in this way. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Thanks for this tapestry-rich post promoting a woman whom I’m learning about today via your poem! Her artwork-quilt is stunning and so contemporary looking, I’d love to see it in person someday. Lovely tribute in your “Ode to Ellen Harding Baker” my imagination has definitely taken flight from your poem and her art! Thanks for hosting the Roundup Catherine, and inviting us all to write poems on women. I have a poem on two contemporary indigenous women working to help with climate change.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. First, THANK YOU, Catherine, for hosting and for sharing Ellen Harding Baker with us! “Inspired by the spangled sky…” – lovely line. Second, I’m sorry that even though I mentioned your theme two weeks ago in my own host post, I STILL forgot to post on it today. I have a pretty path in an Irish woodland, though, and a Yeats poem, in honor of March!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is one of the things I love most about poetry….in the reading and the writing, I learn so much. Thank you so much for introducing us to Ellen Harding Baker. What a devoted educator she must have been to create such a work of art to teach with. I am wowed and inspired. I have some poems for International Women’s Day.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Love that you found a woman that we can now all know, Catherine, and that you mentioned Minerva in your tribute to Ellen Harding Baker, so apt! “Smiling on her sister,/Minerva granted her a gift:” Thanks so much for hosting and bringing us together on this special day!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for introducing us (well, me, anyway) to Ellen Harding Baker, Catherine. I can’t get inlinkz to work for me. It tells me to create a new account using my old email address, but when I do, it says the email address isn’t registered. I can’t use either the old or the new inlinkz. Sigh. I’m in at https://laurasalas.com/poems-for-teachers/introducing-in-the-middle-of-the-night-poetry-friday/ with an introduction to my poetry collection that publishes on Tuesday. If by chance you see this and are able to add it to the roundup, I’d be grateful. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Catherine, it is just like a teacher to create an amazing artifact to use as an instructional tool for her students. I find her story quite interesting and congratulate you on finding someone who has not had much acclaim but should be honored. I’m wondering about these lines, “Denied the power of the pen,
    she embroidered woolen cloth.” Perhaps, it was the time she lived in that she could not reach out into the world as a writer (???) but her cloth work lives on as a historical artifact, Your work is a lovely tribute. I have been thinking about your offer for us to join in this effort. I wrote about two strong women who came before and left a legacy of love: my Nonnie (grandmother) and my Mother. Thank you for suggesting this topic and for hosting.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for bringing this inspiring woman’s story to my attention Catherine. I was particularly taken by the lines in your poem :
    ‘Denied the power of the pen, she embroidered woolen cloth. Inspired by the spangled sky
    and swirling stars above,’
    Those words serve to remind us that expression may take many forms and Ellen Harding Baker not to be denied, clearly found her special form of expression.Thank you for this and thank you also for hosting.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I think it’s really special that Ellen Harding Baker created this beautiful a beautiful quilt to teach her students. And your ode is a lovely tribute to her and her art. I didn’t realize there was a theme this week, but I happened to celebrated a woman, a 19th C poet. Thank you for hosting, Catherine.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh my! I am so glad you included those links, so we could click across and see the detail in that quilt – and also the photo of the creator. You’ve created a wonderful tribute poem that feeds curiosity.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I love that you found a lesser-known woman to spotlight. That was my intention, but instead, I thought back on the women from my childhood who made me who I am today.

    Thanks for hosting! And thanks for the timely theme!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you for hosting, Catherine. I fell in love with your poem & your subject & her quilt + with the Smithsonian Institutions all over again. I am so grateful for all the creative, dedicated teachers, who Ellen Harding Baker represents. I am so angry about the US era she worked in & that she couldn’t publish under her name or be a practicing scientist. And your eloquent & lyrical poem reminds me that today in this international world, women are still held back, as Ellen was. Your post makes me want to march. At the very least, I want to come back & follow all the links you provide. Appreciaations.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. So glad I clicked to read your inspiring post today. That quilt is amazing and rightfully should hang in a museum! What an amazing teaching tool!! Thanks for sharing. Also glad to know more about your involvement with Poetry. I may need to return regularly! Hope you are well. I’m coming to the Reunion Saturday. Maybe we will cross paths. I so enjoyed learning with you summers ago.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Your poem is spot on with its poetic voice and biographical information. Makes me think one of our great anthologists needs to do a collection of poems about great women of history.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. A beautiful poem. I love the observation that embroidery could be a powerful way to communicate especially if you are not allowed or encouraged to write. Thanks for this tight poem with beautiful word choice and thanks for handing this story over to me now.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Your poem is a beautiful tribute to an amazing teacher. It’s important for us to remember the past and the tribulations of the women who came before us.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Just gorgeous! “Inspired by the spangled sky…” I love how people find a way, find a way, find a way. Thank you for your poem and for hosting. Beautiful! This is my wonderful mother’s birthday! xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  19. The artwork is stunning as is the first line. Thank you for hosting. I am having a terrible time using the InLinkz…said it would send me a confirmation link and hasn’t. I don’t want to use social media to log in but may need to.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Catherine, your poem is such a moving tribute to Ellen Harding Baker. These lines and the wonderful word choice moved me: “Denied the power of the pen,
    she embroidered woolen cloth.
    Inspired by the spangled sky
    and swirling stars above,
    she stitched a blazing tapestry”
    From denial to blazing accomplishment. Wonderful! I had hoped to share a strong woman poem today, but despite my best efforts, my rough drafts remain in that state. Thanks so much for hosting!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I enjoyed your poem about Ellen Harding Baker–I hadn’t heard of her before. You describe well her creativity and courage in the face of society’s limitations. And I love the quilt image, too!

    Thanks for hosting.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Today I attended the Needlework Show at Woodlawn Plantation in Virginia. It was Nellie Custis’ home. I saw some of her needlework, a chair cushion stitched by Martha Washington, and needlework by present day men and women. The needle arts have been such an important part of our history and especially the legacy of women. The needle may be as powerful as the pen! I absolutely adored the precise word choice in your poem. Thank you so much!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Catherine, I’m circling back late to thank you for this ode. I love how your poem and post shows the threads between women and how we hold each other up, promote each other’s work, remember each other’s accomplishments when history makes it easy to forget the names of women pioneers.


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