Do any of you remember this childhood rhyme or something similar?
Miss Lulu had a baby, she called him Tiny Tim.
She put him in the bathtub, to see if he could swim.
He drank up all the water! He ate up all the soap!
He tried to swallow the bathtub, but it wouldn’t go down his throat!!
Call for the doctor!
Call for the nurse!
Call for the lady with the alligator purse!
“Mumps!” said the doctor.
“Measles!” said the nurse.
“Vote!!” said the lady with the alligator purse!!
When I was a kid, I remember singing a variation of this as part of a clapping song. I haven’t thought of it in years until I recently learned that “the lady with the alligator purse” was actually Susan B. Anthony!
Over the years, the words have changed, but this original version was apparently recorded by the press in California where Ms. Anthony was campaigning for women’s sufferage. She was known for her alligator purse, which she used (like a briefcase) to carry her speeches and papers.
I learned this little tidbit while visiting the National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House recently. She’s best known for her pioneering efforts toward securing women in the U.S. the right to vote.
Listening to the tour guide relate anecdotes of her life, looking at photographs, and walking through one of her homes, I was fascinated by the actual personality behind the public figure of Susan B. Anthony.
How her Quaker family and their circumstances influenced her life choices. Her keen intellect which questioned society’s customs. Her early insecurities but also sheer tenacity through decades of fighting for women’s sufferage, despite the infighting amongst the movement’s members. Her most famous quote: “Failure is impossible.”
As a woman today, I know I owe Miss Anthony and those like her a debt of gratitude. Just learning a little of the injustices and daily miseries she and women like her suffered make me truly appreciate the comfortable life I live in comparison.
Having also just celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day this week, these two historical figures remind me of the many freedoms we enjoy because of the hard work and sacrifice of previous generations. I sometimes have to remind myself not to become too complacent.
Freedoms can erode. Freedoms can be taken away. We must not forget.