Peggy Quotes

For decades, Seeger has been one of the most authoritative voices in American and English folk...While she is acknowledged as an esteemed interpreter of traditional material and a gifted instrumentalist, she is perhaps best known for her observant and caustic original songs about women. - Chris Morris, Billboard

Peggy Quotes 2

I am writing to thank you for making your wonderful music, doing your wonderful activism, and for letting the two commingle as you have. I am a young woman and a feminist. Your music has shaped my life and guided me through disappointment, disenfranchisement, and cynicism.
- Loren Grace


I'm Gonna Be An Engineer


1994  was the Year of the Family. 1971 was a year in which women were celebrated.  (We also have an annual day, as Mothers! They  bring us around in rotation regularly now, alternating us with Year for the Disabled, Year of the Children, Year to Combat World Hunger and so on.  Mind you, these do not displace Years of the Men - they simply accompany them.)  So the Festival of Fools 1971  concentrated on women. Ewan wrote the script at a stressful high speed.  He was having trouble with a long musical section and I got involved in the writing of it.  Engineer  appeared so fast on the page that it almost seemed to write itself - you’d think I’d been brooding on discrimination and prejudice all my life.  Not so.  I had been encouraged personally, academically, musically and sartorially to do whatever I wanted.  And I never wanted to be a boy or an engineer ... or operate a turret-lathe.  Despite its complexity, the song took off quickly and a lot of women sing it now. It’s even being used in some higher educational establishments as teaching material.   It takes lung power, stamina, a large vocal range, a good sense of pitch and quite a number of guitar chords.

alternative title: Gonna Be an Engineer
words and music: Peggy Seeger
disc 2, 5, 15, 19A, 23,  29
© 1979 Stormking Music, Inc. (2)

When I was a little girl, I wished I was a boy,
I tagged along behind the gang and wore my corduroys,
Everybody said I only did it to annoy
But I was gonna be an engineer.
    Momma told me, ‘Can’t you be a lady?
    Your duty is to make me the mother of a pearl.
    Wait until you’re older, dear, and maybe
    You’ll be glad that you’re a girl.’

    Dainty as a Dresden statue,
    Gentle as a Jersey cow;
    Smooth as silk, gives creamy milk,
    Learn to coo, learn to moo,
    That’s what you do to be a lady now -

When I went to school I learned to write and how to read,
Some history, geography and home economy.
     And typing is a skill that every girl is sure to need
     To while away the extra time until the time to breed,
Then they had the nerve to say, ‘What would you like to be?’
I says, ‘I’m gonna be an engineer!’
        No, you only need to learn to be a lady,
        The duty isn’t yours for to try and run the world.
        An engineer could never have a baby!
        Remember, dear, that you’re a girl.

        She’s smart (for a woman).
        I wonder how she got that way?
        You get no choice, you get no voice,
        Just stay mum, pretend you’re dumb,
        And that’s how you come to be a lady today -

Then Jimmy come along and we set up a conjugation,
We were busy every night with loving recreation.
I spent my day at work so he could get his education
And now he’s an engineer!
        He says, ‘I know you’ll always be a lady,
        It’s the duty of my darling to love me all her life.
        Could an engineer look after or obey me?
        Remember, dear, that you’re my wife.’

Well, as soon as Jimmy got a job, I began again,
Then, happy at my turret-lathe a year or so and then:
The morning that the twins were born, Jimmy says to them,
‘Kids, your mother was an engineer.’
        You owe it to the kids to be a lady,
        Dainty as a dish-rag, faithful as a chow;
        Stay at home, you got to mind the baby,
        Remember you’re a mother now.

Well, every time I turn around there’s something else to do,
It’s cook a meal, mend a sock or sweep a floor or two;
I listen in to Jimmy Young, it makes me want to spew,*
I was gonna be an engineer!
        Don’t I really wish that I could be a lady?
        I could do the lovely things that a lady’s s’posed to do,
        I wouldn’t even mind if only they would pay me,
        And I could be a person too.

        What price for a woman?
        You can buy her for a ring of gold.
        To love and obey, without any pay,
        You get your cook and your nurse for better or worse,
        You don’t need your purse when the lady is sold -

Ah, but now that times are harder and my Jimmy’s got the sack,
I went down to Vickers, they were glad to have me back,
But I’m a third-class citizen (my wages tell me that)
And I’m a first-class engineer.
        The boss he says, ‘We pay you as a lady,
        You only got the job ‘cause I can’t afford a man.
        With you I keep the profits high as may be,
        You’re just a cheaper pair of hands.’

        You got one fault: you’re a woman.
        You’re not worth the equal pay.
        A bitch or a tart, you’re nothing but heart,
        Shallow and vain, you got no brain,
        You even go down the drain like a lady today -

Well, I listened to my mother and I joined a typing-pool;
I listened to my lover and I put him through his school;
But if I listen to the boss I’m just a bloody fool
And an underpaid engineer!
        I been a sucker ever since I was a baby,
        As a daughter, as a wife, as a mother and a ‘dear’.
        But I’ll fight them as a woman, not a lady,
        Fight them as an engineer!

* Music note:  I remade this line when I moved to the United States: ‘Holding out the potty when the baby wants to poo.’  I re-worked much of the song when I was asked to sing it at the 1995 Knoxville celebration of the 75th anniversary of women’s suffrage.  The event was the result of the inspiration and work of a group of women lawyers.  The new version, I’m Gonna Be a Lawyer, outlines the problems that women have in the legal field.  Opens up all kinds of vistas for female doctors, politicos, professors,....

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