“Don’t tell me that women are not the stuff of heroes.” —Qiu Jin
Qiu Jin (1875 – 1907) was a Chinese revolutionary and poet. An early feminist, she published a women’s magazine that encouraged women to gain financial independence through education and to resist oppression in a time when women’s feet were still bound at the age of five. In order to provide female role models, she wrote articles about historical Chinese women. She also believed in a more democratic government. As a revolutionary, she lost her life in a failed uprising against the feudalist Qing Dynasty. Today she is an honored as a national hero in China.
Here is a translation of one of her poems. Be warned, there are no hearts and flowers here.
Sun and moon have no light left, earth is dark;
Our women’s world is sunk so deep, who can help us?
Jewelry sold to pay this trip across the seas,
Cut off from my family I leave my native land.
Unbinding my feet I clean out a thousand years of poison,
With heated heart arouse all women’s spirits.
Alas, this delicate kerchief here
Is half stained with blood, and half with tears.