There was an Old Woman….

I was thinking of nursery rhymes as I was crocheting this morning, my fingers and my mind both wondering along. If you pay attention to content, many nursery rhymes are really not appropriate for children.There are sad rhymes, violent rhymes, and sexist rhymes. I know I tend to overthink, but I have several examples of nursery rhymes that are not rated PG.

There was an old woman
Called Nothing-at-all,
Who lived in a dwelling
Exceedingly small;
A man stretched his mouth
To its utmost extent,
And down at one gulp
House and old woman went

This rhyme screams of sexism, ageism and has the icky element too. The old woman is called “Nothing -at- all”, invisible to the world. She is so without merit that her house is “exceedingly small”. Put her away so we can’t see her. We don’t want to be reminded that we too will grow old and become worthless. Of course, it is “a man” who takes care of the “problem” by eating the old lady and her house. He does it in one gulp! This is not warm and fuzzy.

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children she didn’t know what to do.
She gave them some broth without any bread.
She whipped them all soundly and put them to bed

Where is the Father or Fathers of all these children? Child support? Joint custody?  The overwhelmed Mother/old woman whipped the children “soundly”. She gave them a “hard and severe” whipping. What a pleasant thought. This old woman needed lots of therapy. I hope the child abuse was investigated. What a dysfunctional mess!

There was an old woman had three sons,
Jerry and James and John,
Jerry was HANGED, James was DROWNED,
And there was the end of her three sons,
Jerry and James and John!

What a sad tale for children. Old women have miserable lives; they get eaten, whip their children, or all their children die before them. Of course, we make them the stars of nursery rhymes for our children. This is not how I want to earn my gold stars.  Old women are not even valued in nursery rhymes, and certainly not by our culture.  I bet Jill tried to talk Jack out of going up the hill to get water….

1 thought on “There was an Old Woman….”

  1. I never was a big fan of nursery rhymes. You have reminded me why. The rhymes have been around for too long, as have some of our cultural pressures. As a couple of “older women”, let’s help break down some of those pressures and let the natural grace and wisdom that comes with age shine through. Oh, I just realized we already are! Thanks Danita!


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