Here’s something I found on Brain Pickings, a newsletter that is a work of love for its author, Maria Popova

Each week, she publishes this ad free newsletter filled with all manner of interesting things related to topics of her choice. Links within each edition take the reader to the sources that inspired her comments. Most of the sources are either in the public domain or available through a public library. So although there are some commercial links, this newsletter is designed, not to sell, but rather to prompt readers to think, perhaps to pursue some interest they find in the material presented.

This one caught my interest because of the recent increase in mass protests related to political concerns. It was the opening lines of a piercing poem titled “Protest” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (November 5, 1850–October 30, 1919), from her 1914 book Poems of Problems (public domain | public library), written at the peak of the Women’s Suffrage movement and just as WWI was about to erupt.  “To sin by silence, when we should protest makes cowards out of men.”

Seeing that the poem was written back in the early part of the 20th century, by a woman, made me wonder if I could ever fully appreciate the importance of our right to protest. Beyond that, I reflected on occasions when I might have “sinned by silence when I should have protested.”  That took me a while as those occasions have been more numerous that I like to admit to myself.

I also thought that the word protest most often calls to mind action by groups, making public statements—marches, petitions, acts of civil disobedience—all of which can produce powerful results. But protest can take other forms. That poet, a female writing during the Women’s Suffrage movement, may have marched in public protest. I don’t know whether she did. But I do know, from reading that poem, that she “spoke” through her art, an important way in which protest can be lodged.

The link above (public domain) takes you to a fully readable, free edition of that poet’s work. “Protest” is on page 154. Once there, you’ll find in her art a strong voice raised in protest.

What are your thoughts on the forms protest can take, the issues that demand protest, and the value of the right to protest, personally, professionally, publicly? Use the comment icon on this post to open a comment window. I’d love to hear from you.