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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Put on the Dress

Track 11: Put on the Dress

album: American History + Rock-n-Roll = The Deedle Deedle Dees
words & music by Lloyd Miller, arrangement by Chris Johnson, Ely Levin, Lloyd Miller, and Anand Mukherjee
lead vocals: Otto von Dee (Ely Levin)
guest vocalist: Bill Childs


Put on the dress
Put on the wig
Put on the little round classes, I said

Stand up in class
You know what to say
Read your report
then shout "ERA!"

Nobody told me to be Susan B. Anthony
Nobody told me to be Susan B. Anthony

They said write a report, make it biography
They never said I'd have to dress up and be
The person I researched for the whole world to see
But even if I'd known...

I'd still be Susan B. Anthony!

This song was inspired by a story that Bill Childs, host of the award-winning family radio show, Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child, told me. When he was in school, he was assigned to do a report on an important historical person. Bill, without any prompting from his family, chose Susan B. Anthony. Pretty awesome. Only after he had made this choice did he learn that the assignment required dressing up as one's subject and delivering the report in front of the whole class. Bill was the only kid in the class who chose a historical figure from the opposite gender -- a variable the teacher apparently hadn't considered when she created the assignment.

Bill didn't, however, change his report topic nor did he try to get out of the dress-up clause in his teacher's instructions. True to form, he "put on the dress" and did the presentation. And now, you can hear the adult Bill Childs speaking the lyrics during the second verse of the song.

More important than this fun story, though, is the story of Susan B. Anthony herself. Ever since elementary school, I've known that she was an advocate for the right of women to vote. But until recently, this is where my knowledge of this extremely important activist stopped. Instead of just listing some of the cool stuff I found out, I thought it might be more fun to make a little quiz. If you answer all three questions correctly, you'll get a free copy of American History + Rock-n-Roll = The Deedle Deedle Dees.

Susan B. Anthony Quiz
1. For what crime was Susan B. Anthony arrested?

2. When Susan B. Anthony was a child, what did one of her teachers refuse to teach her because she was a female?

3. Why did Susan B. Anthony split with fellow activist Frederick Douglass?

You can find the answers to these questions pretty easily online. But if you'd like to read more extensively about her and other activists, try one of these books.

for grown-ups:

Voices of Protest! Documents of Courage and Dissent by Frank Lowenstein, Sheryl Lechner, and Erik Bruun -- I just got this book as a present. Looks terrific.

Not For Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns -- Ken Burns' documentaries are all right, but I prefer the companion books.

Failure is Impossible: Susan B. Anthony in Her Own Words by Lynn Sherr --
Definitely read some of her speeches and essays: he knew how to hit people where it hurt.

for kids:

Susan B. Anthony: A Photo-Illustrated Biography by Lucile Davis -- lots of interesting pictures from her era

Susan B. Anthony: Fighter for Women's Rights by Deborah Hopkinson and Amy June Bates -- an early-reader chapter book, good for elementary students

- Lloyd (Ulysses S. Dee)