a woman’s a woman for all that

by William Hunter Maxwell

Image: Mary L. Martin, Ltd.
Image: Mary L. Martin, Ltd.

Women grow different with the years,
Old Father Time will tell you so.
They string along with the cup that cheers,
And hate the modes of long ago.

Oh, yes, they smoke and drink a lot.
Some like to be thin, but few like fat.
And even though hard knocks they’ve got,
A woman’s a woman for all that.

They love to go to a baseball game,
You’ll find ’em at the ring-side too.
In many things their taste’s the same
As the men who see them through.

Some of them dress just like a man,
Sport a cane and wear a soft hat;
They even talk base when they can.
Still, a woman’s a woman for all that.

In every sport you’ll find her name;
They row, they drive, they conquer the air.
In law and medicine they’re not lame,
And in the pulpit they’re more than fair.

They can gamble, they can swear,
And still knock a fresh man flat.
The ballot is theirs most everywhere.
Still, a woman’s a woman for all that.

They’ve got men eating out of their hands;
In many places, they’re cock o’ the walk.
Big business and trade, woman understands,
And thoroughly knows her salesman’s talk.

Upon the heels of man, she’s steadily treading;
Both his shoulders are near on the mat.
But no matter now, which way she’s heading,
A woman’s a woman for all that.

Among Maxwell’s papers at the New Jersey Historical Society is a manuscript of this poem, showing the concluding stanza’s “Both his shoulders are near on the mat” altered to read “In the political ring, she flings her hat.” We give the text as printed in Maxwell’s 1937 volume The Life to Live and Other Plainpoems.

and why not?

by William Hunter Maxwell

Image: The Graphics Fairy
Image: The Graphics Fairy

On the stage of life they say,
Each must play a part;
My sister’s part is merry and gay
And why not?

Her thoughts are free, her smiles allure,
And why not?
Her sighs are light, for she is pure,
And why not?

The Summer Sun makes us glad,
And why not?
My sister though is never sad,
For in sunshine she is clad.

The flower, the tree, the grass is new
And why not?
They are happy for spring and sister too,
And why not?

How sweet the song of the early bird,
And why not?
A word from sister they have heard,
It makes them glad and never sad,
And why not?

Her soft sweet breath is like the rose,
And why not?
Why she is happy she always knows,
And why not?

And why not? I ask. Why, this is it:
On the stage of life they say,
Each must play a part.
My sister’s part is merry and gay,
And thus a soft, sweet heart.

These verses are preserved in journalist Maxwell’s papers at the New Jersey Historical Society.

city of a hundred years

by William Hunter Maxwell

Image: Library of Congress

A Tribute to Newark, New Jersey, Honoring by Celebration the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Granting of a Charter to the City by the State of New Jersey

Our City of a Hundred Years,
Born of rugged ideals,
Conquering fears and tears,
A soul sublime reveals.
Men of might hewed the way,
For Newark’s march ahead;
Their eyes visioned another day,
And other paths to tread.
Our City of a Hundred Years,
Pride of the Garden State,
Stalwart among its peers,
Grateful for its fate.
Service is King in our Realm,
Common comfort is the goal,
Since early fathers at the helm
Inscribed the Charter Roll.
Our City of a Hundred Years,
We honor its Charter Birth;
A home each worker fain reveres,
And gives his manhood worth.
’Tis for steerers of the ship,
As a crowded future nears,
To plan for others on the trip
Of another Hundred Years.
For yea, today, we reap the fruits
Of seeds that zeal hath sown,
So for tomorrow let’s set new roots,
For the glory of a Newark now unknown.

On March 18, 1836, Newarkers approved the incorporation of the city by a vote of 1,870 to 325. Twenty-four days later, on Monday, April 11, they elected Newark’s first mayor, William Halsey. The cornerstone of the first city hall was laid during his term, which lasted one year.

Journalist William Hunter Maxwell was a member of the Committee of One Hundred overseeing the 1916 anniversary celebrations, but had resigned in protest over the racism of some of its pronouncements. Still, his love of the city was constant and he often committed its praises to verse. This ode on the centennial of Newark’s charter was printed in The Life to Live and Other Plainpoems (1937).

wait for light

by William Hunter Maxwell

Image: Newark Story

At Market and Broad I stood one day;
Market Street traffic was on its way.
I looked to the left; I looked to the right;
I looked at the warning—“Wait for Light.”
There it was—planted in the street;
Letters white and tall at pedestrians’ feet.
“Wait for Light”—in the asphalt there,
A traffic caution of wisdom rare.
I thought to myself as the phrase I read,
“Wait for Light”—means use your head.
And again I thought, at the green Light’s nod,
“Wait for Light”—means wait for God.
When the road is rocky and the way is dark,
’Tis then we crave the tiniest spark.
And time and again, if we’d “Wait for Light,”
The Invisible Hand would lead us aright.

“Wait for Light” was featured in the December 9, 1944, installment of “Evenings Out” by Maxwell’s colleague at the Star-Ledger, longtime columnist Jerry Nusbaum. The following week the Director of Public Safety, John B. Keenan, personally read the poem into the records of the Newark City Commission.

what makes a city

by William Hunter Maxwell

These tall buildings of steel and stone,
They’re not the city.        
These paved streets and gorgeous homes,
They’re not the city.        
This modern equipment and trappings high-tone,
That’s not the city.        
These cathedrals sublime with mighty domes,
They’re not the city.        
No! None of this is the city!
The city is not in steel nor stone,
Howe’er splendid that may be;        
The city is not in things alone,
That only express a material degree.        
The city is made of manhood worth,
The warp, woof, and web of life;        
Those whose labors while on earth
Help in lessening hate and strife;        
Human being with right heart-beats,
Men whose lives are lived for others;        
Folks who never play at cheats,
Or do aught to harm their brothers.        
What makes a city are folks who’re real,
Endowed with a spirit for the common weal.

William Hunter Maxwell was a groundbreaking journalist who founded the first African American newspaper in New Jersey, the Herald News.  He also worked as Sunday editor at the Newark Ledger and features editor at the Newark Star-Ledger, the first black writer to hold those positions. “What Makes a City” appeared in The Life to Live and Other Plainpoems (1937).