‘At The Purchaser’s Option’

Today is International Women’s Day, and I struggled to think of a way to mark it here without seeming frivolous or clueless. Then I thought about something I saw last weekend as I caught up with Rhiannon Giddens’ performance on Austin City Limits.

During that performance, recorded last April, Giddens introduced “At The Purchaser’s Option” like this:

I came across this advertisement for a newspaper . . . for a human being, a woman for sale, from 1828. It just listed her attributes like it would list anything’s attributes. So you’re reading this thing and it gets down to the end of the ad, and as an afterthought, it mentions that she has with her a nine-month old baby who is at the purchaser’s option. And it just kinda made me think a lot about what that woman’s life was like and, you know, what I get to – how I get to live my life, and so, this is a song that came out of that.

“At The Purchaser’s Option” is the first track on Giddens’ new album, Freedom Highway.

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