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Mabel Lee, 1912 (2020)

for SATB choir | 00:03:15

by Melissa Dunphy | text by Esther Lin

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Commissioned by Classical Movements’ Eric Daniel Helms New Music Program for the 2020 Serenade! Washington, D.C. Choral Festival.

MABEL LEE, 1912

Leading the New York women’s parade,
a Chinese girl named Mabel Lee.

She cries, Unbound feet, untrammeled
minds!
Mabel Lee is sixteen.

This won’t be the last thing she does.
Her mother’s feet are bound; she can’t

climb up or down a flight of stairs
[by herself]. Mabel Lee cries,

The women of China must be deadly!
She rides for her mother.

The women of New York must be deadly!
She rides for them, too.

Mabel Lee waits five years
before New York women can vote.

And before Chinese Americans
can vote, she waits thirty-one.

Unbound feet, untrammeled minds!
All her life, Mabel Lee says this.

—Esther Lee

Artwork by New York Tribune, April 13, 1912