Ma Rainey, mother of the blues, was able to make huge strides for women with her subversive lyrics, shrouded in blatant metaphors. At a times when women were not able to be heard, she served as a voice that screamed about what was happening in the lives of black women. She is truly a woman that transcends time, and despite her lack of traditional education, outsmarted and outwitted the white men who recorded her albums, not realizing what it was she sang about. Her voice and tradition lives on today, but no one has been able to attain quite the subversive power and sexuality that Ma Rainey was able to harness in a single song. I could go on for quite some time, analyzing lyrics, explaining parallels, and what not. I have an entire thesis on her influence and importance (really, I do, but I will spare you) Instead, I will leave you with a song, thus allowing her to voice to carry on.
To the best of our knowledge, she was born today in 1886.
Join in celebrating the life of a pioneer in women’s music and feminism.