Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Emily Dickinson and Hope

Honoring Emily Dickinson for Women’s History Month

Poet Emily Dickinson

Poet Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson, 1830-1886, was born in Amherst, Massachusetts. Mount Holyoke College, then called Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, is ten miles away in South Hadley.

Emily attended Mount Holyoke for just one year. Then she returned to Amherst and barely ever left again.

She was a prolific correspondent though. She often sent poems to friends and acquaintances. But very few of her poems were published while she was alive.

After she died in 1886 her family discovered forty hand-bound volumes of nearly 1,800 poems. The first publication of her poetry was in 1890.

The poem I know best is a lovely description of hope. We sang it in one of the choirs at The Unitarian Church in Westport. I looked online and found several versions, but not the one we sang. Maybe the music was by Rev. Dr. Ed Thompson, our Director of Music.

The first verse is

‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

The poem makes me think of a young Mount Holyoke friend. She had a stroke recently. She is in rehab. Like her family and friends, I am hopeful.

Nigeria's Vice President Osinbajo, in charge while Buhari is on medical leave

Nigeria’s Vice President Osinbajo, in charge while Buhari was on medical leave

President Buhari Back Home

President Buhari is now safely back in Nigeria. He has resumed official duties. The nature of the illness that made him remain in London for six weeks has not been disclosed.

Is his return helpful? Or should he have stayed away a little longer? Before he returned, The Economist, in the March 4, issue, said, “If Mr Buhari remains in London much longer, his absence could provide a window for Nigeria’s technocratic vice-president Yemi Osinbajo to push through a proper devaluation.”

So what will happen now? Buhari appears reluctant to let the Naira find its true level. The central bank is apparently unable to act without his consent.

He had originally said he would let his vice-president handle economic matters. Why doesn’t he do that now? He certainly has enough to do to fight corruption and confront Boko Haram.

Nigerwives Newsletters

I have been reading through Nigerwives’ newsletters from the 1990’s and 2000. I’m writing a chapter for my new book about Nigerwives, the organization for foreign women married to Nigerians that I co-founded in 1979.

With other Nigerwives at their January meeting in Lagos

With other Nigerwives at their January meeting in Lagos

In one newsletter I found a list of donors to the Nigerwives Bazaar in 1992. One donor was a law firm. Osinbajo was the first name listed. I wonder if it’s the same person as Nigeria’s current vice-president? Probably; I know he is a lawyer. Is there a Nigerwife connection?

Among other papers from Nigerwives, I found a small booklet printed in 1983. I must have been active in the organization then, but I don’t remember it.

Near the beginning, they list the early members. They didn’t include me at all! Did I pull away after I lost the election for president in 1981 or ’82? I didn’t think so.

This will require some sleuthing. I feel compelled to correct the record. I’d like to know my name stays associated with the beginning of this useful and important organization.

Three panelists. Iyabo in center. President of USNC Lalita 2nd from left. ED Susan 2nd from right.

Three panelists. Iyabo in center. President of USNC Lalita 2nd from left. ED Susan 2nd from right.

From Equity to Equality

On Monday this past week I attended the panel presented by the US National Committee for UN Women. My friend and board colleague Dr. Iyabo Obasanjo helped set it up and was one of the panelists.

Iyabo is the Thomas Bahnson and Anne Basset Stanley Professor of Ethics and Integrity at Virginia Military Institute. She teaches Global Health and Contemporary African Politics. Her PhD in Epidemiology is from Cornell.

All four panelists presented fascinating stories about Strategies for Women’s Economic Empowerment, to match the theme of this year’s Commission on the Status of Women, CSW.

Azadeh Kahlili is Executive Director of the Commission on Gender Equity for New York City. She came to the U.S. as a political refugee from Iran. She was undocumented for 10 years, she said. Her commission has an initiative they call “Level the Paying Field.” You can imagine the goal – getting equal pay for women for equal work.

With the two Igbo Sisters at the panel presentation

With the two Igbo Sisters at the panel presentation

Iyabo said that in her years in politics in Nigeria and in research on women holding political office, she has seen that as gender equity improves, so does economic growth. It’s a fact, she said.

Dr. Josefin Wiklund is from Sweden. She is the Advisor to the Director for UNAIDS New York. She spoke about the importance of keeping girls in school and delaying marriage. A frightening statistic she shared: twenty eight girls under age 18 are getting married every minute around the world.

Sr. Rosemarie, an Igbo woman I met during CSW last year, had contacted me a few days before. I told her about the USNC event. She came with a friend.

I invited my friend Marilyn. We met for lunch first for wonderful conversation about our writing and our books.

The final question at the panel was, “How do we make sure more girls get a full education? Don’t we need parents involved, so they want it for their daughters?”

Iyabo said, “We do, but especially in Africa, this change will be slow. A mother puts more emphasis on her son. Why? Because her son is her social security.”

Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.


  1. Hi, Catherine. Thanks for your latest communique with its valuable news about Nigeria. Glad you are working on a new book!

    Yes, I love the poetry of Emily Dickinson. She was one of our truly great American poets. Very appropriate to honor he for Women’s History Month.

    • Thank you, Jackie. I’m pleased to know you like keeping up to date on Nigeria. I have 3 more posts during Women’s History Month. Any suggestions for someone to honor on one of them?