Music in History Workshops

"Through her music, her lyrics, and her presence, Marcia reminds us that the work of peace and justice is not work at all, but creative, witty, community-building, quirky, and magnificent, and needs all our voices over the long haul. She is a forever member of the chorus and cheerleader for what is possible."

–Cathy Hoffman, former director, Cambridge Peace Commission

Marcia has performed all occasion radical history in music workshops since the 1970s. Thanks to her access to Rounder Records, as an early  member of the collective, her Masters in Feminist Studies and Folk Music, and the book she co-edited, “All Our Lives: A Women’s Songbook,” she offers up dozens of rousing songs. She can also show accompanying archival slides if a projector is available.

Five programs are available, from which songs can be picked:

  • "Songs of Social Justice"
  • "When Hippies Roamed the Earth: Cambridge in the Counterculture Days"
  • "'Still Ain't Satisfied!' The Golden Age of Lesbian and Feminist Music in Boston"
  • "Women's History Through Song"
  • "'She Dressed Herself in Sailor's Clothes': Gender Smashing Songs Through the Ages"

    1. Songs of Social Justice

    This program of songs about civil rights, black liberation, the women’s liberation movement, GLBT rights, sanctuary for immigrants, and concern for green issues was performed in relation to the history of Old Cambridge Baptist Church.

    It can be adapted for various social justice events.


    View materials associated with this event.

    Marcia also performed antiwar songs for the Joiner Center, University of Massachusetts/Boston, June 2012 and 2013.

    2. When Hippies Roamed the Earth: Cambridge in the Counterculture Days

    Come with us to the thrilling days of yesteryear, when rent was controlled, communes were plentiful, transport was free, and women were hairy legged. See photos by category above.

    "Marcia’s love of the sixties and the seventies is a love of the aspects of those decades which were about “love, not war,” “the beloved community,” a struggle for justice and the dream about overcoming and walking together in equality and the specifics of Cambridge life at that time.

    Marcia is a wonderful chronicler/historian of her own active participation in so many movements which are part of Cambridge’s history. Her approach of séance, images, music of her own followed by the music which recalls social movements is a powerful reminder to what can be and an antidote to some of the despair of today. She is uniquely qualified for this concert as a founding member of The New Harmony Sisterhood Band whose lyrics and music still reverberate for me years later for their insightfulness and brilliance. Her direct experience with rent controlled living, The Blue Parrot, Club Passim, activism and music are critical for those of us in Cambridge who lived through it and for the increasing numbers of people today who don’t know this history.

    The Cambridge that Marcia wants us to remember with her may exist only in pockets today, or only in many peoples’ memories but it is a distinctive and compelling Cambridge which will be brought to life."

    –Abe Rybeck, Theater Offensive, Boston, MA

    3.  "Still Ain’t Satisfied!" The Golden Age of Lesbian and Feminist Music in Boston

    The decades of the 1970s were a hotbed of women’s concerts and feminist performers. National stars like Meg Christian and Kay Gardner came through the Boston area, and local groups, like The New Harmony Sisterhood Band, played for hundreds of benefits and coffeehouses.

    View materials associated with this workshop, as presented for Stonewall Communities

    Songs from 888 Memorial Drive Tribute and International Women’s Day Event   

    Listen to recreations of songs from the march:

     Battle Hymn of the Women

     Bella Ciao

    Read a great informative intervew about the New Harmony Sisterhood Band days with JD Doyle:

    888 Memorial Drive Occupation
      "Ladies Against Women"

    Hear "Priest" by Dean Morgan - from the set list below



    The "Click" of Feminist Consciousness (CR) 

    * We Might Come In A-Fightin’

      “When they say ‘Come in like a man’
      Well they just don’t understand,
      When we enter in the game
      We’re gonna change the goddamned rules.”

    * I’m Tired of F****** F****** Over Me

      “When I’m tryin’ to take a walk
      And some guy says he wants to talk
      And my way proceeds to block
      I get real sore.

      ‘Cause although I speak real fine,
      That ain’t what is on his mind;
      I’m a pretty piece that he’s just tryin’ to score.”

    * Don’t Put Her Down, You Helped Put Her There

      A song for sex workers

    * Still Ain’t Satisfied

      A sharp indictment of tokenism in the areas of women’s
      employment, fashion, day care, abortion rights, safety,
      and sexual preference

      “Well they got women on TV, but I still ain’t satisfied,
      ‘Cause co-optation’s all I see, and I still ain’t satisfied,
      They call me ‘Ms.’—they sell me blue jeans,
      Call it ‘women’s lib,’ they make it sound obscene.”

    Feminist Activism

    * Sojourner Truth

      Foremother and firebrand abolitionist and feminist activist

    * Bread And Roses

      Lawrence Massachusetts Strike; women demand a better quality
      of life as well as better wages

    * Ain’t No Way They’ll Ever Keep Us Down

      Union organizing 101

      “Your welfare ain’t on that rich man’s mind . . . ”

    Gender and Sexuality

    * Family Secret

      A closeted aunt from the WWII era

      “There’s two women kissing,
      Says mum ‘That’s disgusting,
      Sit down, I can’t see.’”

    * Masculine Women, Feminine Men

      A 1920s era flapper song

    * Female Drummer

      An old ballad on cross dressing

      "But a young girl fell in love with me and
      Found I was a maid;
      She went straightway to her officer,
      My secret betrayed.”

    * Ode to a Gym Teacher

      One of the first out lesbian love songs

    * Priest

      Based on an actual quote from an activist nun:

      “If you haven’t got a penis, you can’t become a priest.”

    * It’s Only a Wee Wee

      A children’s song for all of us:

      “Girls must use make up, girls’ names and girls’ clothes,
      Boys must use sneakers, but not panty hose,
      It’s all very formal and I think it smells,
      Let’s all be abnormal and act like ourselves!”

    * Song for Left Handed Rights

      A declaration of rights for the 10% minority

    * Sweden

      A true tale of solidarity:

      “Well if gayness is illness, if this be their schtick,
      On this coming Monday, let’s all call in sick . . .
      “‘I can’t possibly work,’ their employees would say,
      For I’m feeling quite homosexual today.’”

    Coalition Politics

    * I Wasn’t Surprised

      When white students were shot at Kent State in 1970, people
      were outraged. But “I Wasn’t Surprised” is taken from a quote
      by the mother the of one of the black students who was killed
      at Jackson State shortly after. He was a high school student,
      walking across campus to his job. Race and class, as well as
      culture and sexual choices, are all women’s issues.

    * When We Sing of Santiago

      Allende to Pinochet: for all “the disappeared” and the role of
      the U.S. in these sinister acts.

    * People’s Planet

      There’s a planet for every bigot:

      “If they want apartheid then why don’t they
      Get their rocket ready soon,
      They’ll find there’s a separate dark and light side
      When we send them to the moon.”

    4. Women’s History Through Song

    Sojourner Truth

    Women’s history was a singing history, from the suffragists to the 1912 Lawrence Strike song, “Bread and Roses” to modern songs about equality, lesbian rights, unions, and safety from violence.

    Elizabeth Gurley Flynn



    Female Drummer - An early (1860) case of job and gender discrimination: a traditional British ballad about a woman who dresses as a man to have fun as a soldier, is betayed by her female lover, and is fired.

    Sojourner Truth - Voting rights for all women from 1851. “Look at my arm, I can work as much as you . . . and ain’t I a woman?” Race and class assumptions.

    Bread And Roses - Words by Caroline Kohlsaat and Martha Coleman, music; James Oppenheim, words. Often associated with a 1912 strike in Lawrence, MA by women workers: “Give us bread, but give us roses!”

    Masculine Women, Feminine Men - Backlash - jug band song from the 1920s.

    Ain’t No Way - Mining union song for then and now.

    I’m Gonna Be An Engineer - Peggy Seeger’s early feminist manifesto. “The boss he says ‘We pay you as a lady; you only got the job ‘cause we can’t afford a man . . ’”

    I’m Settled - My song about turning 30 with “no hubby, no house, no car, no kid, and no regrets for what I didn’t or I did”

    “I Wasn’t Surprised” - Kent State v. Jackson State – few hear about the two black students who were killed in the 1970 anti war protests.

    Song for Left Handed Rights - The 10% ratio metaphor for gays, including a babysitter who is “ambidextrous.”

    People’s Planet - A solution to hate: Sending the bigots to the planet they fit in best, such as sending the "mongers of morality" to Jupiter, where they can have all the rings they want.

    Sweden - A true story about the whole country "calling in homosexual" on a given day to protest homosexuality as an "illness."

    Still Ain’t Satisfied - Watching out for co-optation: in the media, daycare, sexual identity choices, self defense, and abortion rights.

    Performed for the Athena Program (offered by Harvard's University's Phillips Brooks House) for public high school women, June 2010.

    5.  "She Dressed Herself in Sailor’s Clothes . . . " Gender Smashing Songs Through the Ages

    We’ve all heard of folk songs about women dressing as men to follow their (male) lovers into battle. But somehow we missed hearing the ones about who dress as men for other reasons: freedom of movement, adventure, and a passion for other women. Songs about gay liberation such as “We Are A Gentle, Angry People” and “Because She’s A Woman” emerged in the 1970s, but we didn’t hear much about the lives of the two-spirit people, then or now. Listen to the old folk songs about women dressing as men for reasons we never heard about.




    Female Drummer - An early (1860) case of job and gender discrimination: a traditional British ballad about woman who dresses as man to have fun as a soldier, is betrayed by her female lover, and is fired.

    Handsome Cabin Boy - A woman dressed as a man is desired by both the captain and his wife.

    Crafty Maid's Policy - A woman jokes with a man about wanting what he has between his legs and then surprises him.

    Masculine Women, Feminine Men - A 1920s jug band anti-"flapper" song.


    Family Secret - The bad old days, and for some, still true - a closeted WWII British lesbian missing her lover, is patronized and misunderstood by her family.

    Song for Left Handed Rights - The 10% ratio metaphor, including a babysitter who is “ambidextrous.”

    200% Song - An anthem to bisexuality.

    Sweden - A true story about the whole country "calling in homosexual" on one given day to protest homosexuality as an "illness."

    People's Planet - A solution to hate: Sending the bigots to the planet they where they most fit in, such as sending the "mongers of morality" to Jupiter where they can have all the rings they want.

    It's Only a Wee Wee - Gender roles as enforced, not natural.

    You Can’t Become a Priest - Based on a quote by Sister Eileen Brady. Women who want to be priests suffer gender discrimination. “You can’t wear the cleric collar, you can’t hold the holy chalice/You can’t celebrate the mass all because you lack a phallus.”

    Performed for the Radcliffe Union of Students and the Queer Student Alliance, Harvard University, June 2010.