It’s almost National Women’s History Month. I revisited a book of nursery rhymes and was again struck by some of the notions about women and girls.

“Here’s Sulky Sue,

What shall we do?

Turn her face

To the wall

Until she comes to.”

* * * * *

“Little Polly Flinders

Sat among the cinders,

Warming her pretty little toes!

Her mother came and caught her

And whipped her little daughter,

For spoiling her nice new clothes.”

* * * * *

“Hush-a-bye, baby,

Daddy is near,

Mamma is a lady,

And that’s very clear.”

* * * * *

“What are little girls made of?

Sugar and spice and all that’s nice

And that’s what little girls are made of.”

Women have come a long way in many parts of the world, but still have far to go. Here in the United States (and elsewhere), women are still subdivided in the struggle for women’s rights based on race, ethnicity, age, religion, et cetera. Historically, we are reminded of this division in a section of a speech by Sojourner Truth – an African-American, born Isabella Baumfree (or Van Wagener), 179?-1883, abolitionist, orator, and women’s rights advocate, born a slave:

“That man over there says that woman needs to be lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helped me into carriages, or over mud puddles, or gives me the best place, and aren’t I a woman?” (paraphrased)

This statement captures the “catch 22” situation among women when the group divides/dilutes itself based on discriminatory notions. There has and does exist the misconception that African-American women are “strong,” able to handle any- and everything. Wrong! Humans (a species to which African-American women belong) cannot handle everything.

The nursery rhymes below are presented to show that women come in varieties of strength and character, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, religion, et cetera, that one version does not define all the members of a group.

“Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet,

Eating of curds and whey.

There came a big spider,

Who sat down beside her,

And frightened Miss Muffet away.”


Little Miss Rough-it

Had to tough it,

Eating her curds and whey.

There came a big spider,

Who plopped down beside her;

Miss Rough-it just shooed it away.


– The coagulated part of milk, from which cheese is made; after milk sours. Whey – Thin, watery part of milk which separates from thicker part (curds) after coagulation.

Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...