Credits — from Folkways FS 8561
Sleeve Notes — from Folkways FS 8561
WHAT DO YOU DO ALL DAY?
It always distresses me to hear the housewife put down. A good housewife is a genius, an artist, an organiser par excellence. It is a high calling and a woman should not be made to feel an escapist if she wishes to undertake it. Nor, if she happens to be inefficient at it, should it reflect upon her as a woman. Unfortunately, in our society, women enter motherhood and domesticity with a headful of preconceived , often romantic, notions and by then it is too late to turn back.
The right to choose whether or not to have a child has become one of the most vital platforms on which women's personal freedom rests.
LITTLE GIRL CHILD
Written for our six-year old daughter.
RECLAIM THE NIGHT
The last five years have seen the mushrooming of rape crisis centres, legal reforms, women's self-defence programs, organisation of legal defence for women in rape trials, street demonstrations. The general cry of this movement is "Reclaim the Night!" so that women may be free of the fears that darkness and solitude often bring in either city street or home. It has to be understood that rape is not just a misdemeanor but a crime that can cause permanent damage.
WINNIE AND SAM
Like "Union Woman", this song is based on tape-recordings. Its subject (whose name has been changed) referred to herself with bitter humour as one of the 'high-neck blouse brigade' — i.e., the middle-class battered wife. Another song, on the same subject (entitled "Emily") may be found on Blackthorne BR 1059 (HOT BLAST).
I'M GONNA BE AN ENGINEER
Written in 1970, this piece is rapidly becoming the anthem of the women's movement in Both Britain and America. The various metal trades which are included in the engineers union were once considered outside the province of women's activity (except in wartime, when women are welcomed into men's jobs and generally make unprecedented advances in their own cause, education and opportunities). Although our heroine wants to be an engineer, the song seems to have enormous appeal to women and men in all walks of life, representing as it does the constant fixing of women into stereotyped roles, usually within the orbit of the family structure.
In August, 1976, 160 workers at the Grunwick film processing plant in West London, struck for the right to join a trade union. A large proportion of the strikers were Asian ladies and in the course of the struggle Mrs. Jayaben Desai was thrust into the role of strike leader. Pitched battles took place on the picket line. APEX, the union which the strikers joined, failed to call for a mass picket. ACAS, the mediating body, and the Trades Union Congress, were equally reluctant to come to the aid of the strikers. After 14 months of bitter fighting, the strike was lost. Mrs. Desai is still looking for a job. This song is the result of three tape-recorded interviews with her.
PEGGY SEEGER has been singing and playing American folkmusic all her life. Brought up in Washington DC, she settled in England in 1958 when she began working and living with Ewan MacColl. She has made her life a combination of singer, housewife, songwriter. Her daughter Kitty (9) sings on this disc. Her sons Neill (23) and Calum (19) are excellent guitarists. In case there is any confusion as to credits, the boys play the lead guitars.
Way back in 1956 I met an Israeli boy in Copenhagen. I was seeing the world from underneath a knapsack, a banjo and a guitar. He was on his way to Alaska to do a two-year stint in a logging camp. He was intrigued by the American folksongs that I had been brought up with. He knew very little about traditional music but when I told him I was intending to stay in England he said I'd have to get over the idea of singing American folksongs on stage. Stung by his equating the music I loved to a bout of influenza, I protested, but he insisted: "Your songs will become more English every year. They'll change because you change." I took this with many grains of salt and continued to sing the songs in two dozen countries over the two dozen years that followed.
The crisis didn't really hit me until the mid-1970's when I discovered that there were a number of my favorite indigenous American songs that I just never seemed to sing any more: Old Joe Clark, Cindy, and many of the banjo tunes. I was definitely leaning towards that section of American music which had originated in Britain, and indeed I became a fine ballad-singer. But I was a prime case of cultural displacement and disorientation. I had always been interested in industrial and protest songs and I now became interested in contemporary American topical music. Not having been brought up in a "traditional" setting (other than that of sitting by the phonograph playing Carter family records) I had to start looking for roots. Lacking a proper southern drawl with which to do justice to a Sarah Ogan song, or the mid-Western laconic delivery necessary (to my mind) for The Ludlow Massacre, I drifted forward in time to the newer, urban-orientated songs, the kind of songs on this record. I need these musical ties that make me feel as if I am still part of the action of the land of my birth. They make it possible for me to continue singing the folksongs on stage. Songs like Taft-Hartley may now be part of history, but then so are Woody Guthrie's songs — and I am deeply indebted to the many writers whose songs I sing, for they make it possible for me to keep forging links in my cultural chain.
I speak with a kind of English accent now (Canadians ask me what part of Ireland I am from), but when I sing I slip naturally into American inflections. I write songs that have some American elements in them, but they arise from my British experience. I have included three of my own songs on the album because this is where I stand, where I live, with one foot in each country and a perspective that is mid-Atlantic.