Sadie and Maud
By Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks
Maud went to college. Sadie stayed home. Sadie scraped life With a fine toothed comb.
She didn't leave a tangle in Her comb found every strand. Sadie was one of the livingest chicks In all the land.
Sadie bore two babies Under her maiden name. Maud and Ma and Papa Nearly died of shame.
When Sadie said her last so-long Her girls struck out from home. (Sadie left as heritage Her fine-toothed comb.)
Maud, who went to college, Is a thin brown mouse. She is living all alone In this old house.
The poem Sadie and Maud by the phenomenal poet Gwendolyn Brooks was written in the forties when ideals and expectations for women were more enforced and precedent to follow. In a very contemporary fashion she compares two sisters by emphasizing their lifestyle choices. Sadie, meaning “ Princess” in Old English lives a life unapologetically when she breaks all the ideals and standards that have been put forth for her to follow by society and the hegemonic groups that determine what those standards are. Sadie bore two babies out of wedlock which, back then was a big taboo for any women to do let alone, an African American one such as herself who is already looked down upon due to her skin color. Sadie demolishes the gender roles that have been ingrained in society by going into motherhood without a husband therefore, “ Putting Ma, Pa, and Maud to shame.” In the Poem it states that, “ Sadie scraped life With a fine toothed comb.She didn't leave a tangle in. Her comb found every strand. Sadie was one of the livingest chicks. In all the land.” Sadie is evidently unfazed by the ridicule and lives life without missing a single strand, in other words taking life for what it is and loving every minute of it proving that going against society is at times acceptable and even necessary to be truly happy.
Maud the other sister, is the individual who follows the societal rules by being very meek and mousey. The dominating hegemonic groups have set forth very strict gender guidelines that must be followed and Maud does just that throughout her life. But at the end of the poem it is determined that, “Maud, who went to college, Is a thin brown mouse.She is living all alone.In this old house.” Maud is a prime example of the fallacies that come with the misconception that following rules and socially constructed guidelines does not equate to happiness in the present and in the future. Socially constructed ideals pretty much state that if a women goes to college and gets an education, listens to her parents, and stays within the imaginary moral box she is very likely to be happy in the future. Maud conformed to society and was left to live alone in a house while her sister Sadie who is a rebel ends up happy with two daughters.
Sadie and Maud represent the double bind issue that is present with women in Western Culture. Maud who follows all the socially constructed guidelines ends up alone. Sadie who is happy with her choices and lifestyle is ridiculed by society and is shunned by her own family. The story of Sadie and Maud demonstrate the impossible standards that are set forth for women. Whether you follow the hegemonic ideals or not you will eventually be shunned and looked down upon like Sadie or become alone and unhappy like Maud.
Gwendolyn Brooks addresses many themes in the poem, “Sadie and Maud.” Some mentioned include the issue of women being in a double bind situation, socially constructed guidelines that are impossible and pointless to follow, gender roles that only oppress women if they are not followed, and social and moral expectations that women are to follow during motherhood such as being married to a man when pregnant. The culture that Gwendolyn Brooks represents is the black, feminist, and female community. The culture she stands for is the oppressed and unfairly treated groups. These themes that come into Gwendolyn Brooks' poems help to influence her culture in a positive way. By writing poems such as, “Sadie and Maud” Gwendolyn Brooks is raising awareness to her audience that these themes should not dictate our actions or our lives or even the way we perceive ourselves because they are not factual. She is providing examples and evidence through her poems that socially constructed guidelines are not ideal nor necessary to follow. She is influencing her culture to rise above the false roles that biological essentialism has given to women and to achieve happiness through our own standards and guidelines. By recognizing stereotypes and predetermined prejudice towards women, we as women in the same culture can better recognize fallacies as they occur and rise above them.