Women’s History Month was created to remember history, highlight issues women face, and showcase the talent and contributions of women that might otherwise go unnoticed. One of my favorite parts of Women’s History Month is the different ways women are empowered through this remembrance and the spaces created. When I think of an empowered woman, one of my first thoughts is Maya Angelou and her poem “Phenomenal Woman.” I do not recall when or why I first came across this poem, but it has stuck in my mind, especially when I need some encouragement.

Maya Angelou was a renowned American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist. Born in 1928, her life was marked by resilience and a commitment to social justice. Angelou’s literary works, including her acclaimed autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and her poetry collection “And Still I Rise,” explored themes of identity, race, and womanhood. She became a prominent voice for marginalized communities, using her art to inspire and provoke change. “Phenomenal Woman” was first published in 1978 in her collection “And Still I Rise.” It came from Angelou’s experiences and thoughts on what true beauty was and has served as empowerment for women ever since.

Click Below to read the poem:

Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou | Poetry Foundation

The speaker in the poem seems to have this “it” factor to her. Everyone around her can see it and is drawn to her, but they do not understand what it is about her that is so intriguing. In the poem our speaker says she tries telling others, but that they do not believe her answer or understand what she means.

Her beauty and allure comes from more than just physical beauty. The speaker says she does not fit the mold of a “cute” person or the size of a model. The attributes she starts to list have some physical elements to them, but it is not all the normal things associated with female beauty standards. She says it is things like “It’s the fire in my eyes” or “The sun of my smile” that contribute to how she is beautiful. The speaker is proud of her body, her personality, and who she is. She also does not need to compete or act in a certain way for the attention of others, but simply walking by seems to entrance others.

This is one of the reasons why I love this poem. She repeats over and over that she is a phenomenal woman, yet she shows she does not have to prove that to others. She is what she is, and that is what draws people in. The speaker is phenomenal and beautiful in her own way, and a large part of that is self-confidence in herself. She might not fit the expectations of those around her, but she is more loved for this rebellion against what she is told is the standard for beauty. To me, this poem is a great reminder that true beauty can come from a confidence, self-love, and authenticity that transcends age, size, or skin color.

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