To The Indifferent Women

A Sestina

Original Text: 
The Later Poetry of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, ed. Denise D. Knight (Delaware: University of Delaware Press, 1996): 114-15.
1You who are happy in a thousand homes,
2Or overworked therein, to a dumb peace;
3Whose souls are wholly centered in the life
4Of that small group you personally love;
5Who told you that you need not know or care
6About the sin and sorrow of the world?
7Do you believe the sorrow of the world
8Does not concern you in your little homes? --
9That you are licensed to avoid the care
10And toil for human progress, human peace,
11And the enlargement of our power of love
12Until it covers every field of life?
13The one first duty of all human life
14Is to promote the progress of the world
15In righteousness, in wisdom, truth and love;
16And you ignore it, hidden in your homes,
17Content to keep them in uncertain peace,
18Content to leave all else without your care.
19Yet you are mothers! And a mother's care
20Is the first step toward friendly human life.
21Life where all nations in untroubled peace
22Unite to raise the standard of the world
23And make the happiness we seek in homes
24Spread everywhere in strong and fruitful love.
25You are content to keep that mighty love
26In its first steps forever; the crude care
27Of animals for mate and young and homes,
28Instead of pouring it abroad in life,
29Its mighty current feeding all the world
30Till every human child can grow in peace.
31You cannot keep your small domestic peace
32Your little pool of undeveloped love,
33While the neglected, starved, unmothered world
34Struggles and fights for lack of mother's care,
35And its tempestuous, bitter, broken life
36Beats in upon you in your selfish homes.
37We all may have our homes in joy and peace
38When woman's life, in its rich power of love
39Is joined with man's to care for all the world.
Publication Notes: 
Woman's Journal 27 (February 1904): 66; Suffrage Songs and Verses (New York: Charlton, 1911): 19-20.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: