Phenomenal Woman

Every year, International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated in many countries worldwide on March 8 to honour all women and celebrate women’s social, economic, cultural, and political achievements.  

Today, I would like to share a beautiful poem by Maya Angelou. “Phenomenal Woman” is one of Angelou’s most famous poems, and it celebrates the most remarkable beauty and female strength, freshness, and vigour. The poem addresses the traditional expectation that the ideal feminine beauty was fashion models. But first, here’s a little bit about Maya Angelou.

Maya Angelou, born Marguerite Ann Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, was born on April 4, 1928. Her nickname “Maya” was given to her by her older brother, Bailey. Angelou was an American poet, memoirist, writer, actor, director, and producer. She published several autobiographies, books of essays, and several books of poetries. Angelou had a distinguished career as a singer and dancer and performed professionally in the US, Europe, and northern Africa. She was a civil rights activist working with Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X (Poetry Foundation, n.d.).

Angelou lived with her paternal grandmother when she was young after her parents divorced. Four years later, Angelou returned to her mother briefly but was raped by her mother’s boyfriend when she was seven. He went to jail and got killed after being released from prison. She believed her confession led to the man’s death because she said his name. Angelou refrained from speaking and became temporarily speechless for six years. During this period of silence, Angelou developed her love for books and literature. She returned to her grandmother’s care in Arkansas.

Before the start of World War II, Angelou moved back in with her mother in California and went to George Washington High School, and attended dance and drama courses at California Labor School. When the war broke out, Angelou worked as a streetcar conductor. She worked for a while but decided to return to school, graduated from Mission High School in 1944 and gave birth to her only child, Clyde Bailey Johnson. In 1949, Angelou married Tosh Angelos, an electrician in the US Navy. They divorced in 1952, and she kept his surname throughout her life.

In 1981, she became a professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, despite her lack of a college education. The Wake Forest University Writers Hall of Fame inducted Angelou in 2012. She composed and delivered a poem, “On the Pulse of Morning”, for the inauguration of US President Bill Clinton in 1993. In 2000, President Bill Clinton awarded her the National Medal of Arts. In 2011, President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour (Spring, 2017), for her outstanding and inspiring career in the arts. She was awarded 50 honorary degrees in her lifetime. Maya Angelou died on May 28, 2014.

Phenomenal Woman

By Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size

But when I start to tell them,

They think I’m telling lies.

I say,

It’s in the reach of my arms,

The span of my hips,

The stride of my step,

The curl of my lips.

I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

I walk into a room

Just as cool as you please,

And to a man,

The fellows stand or

Fall down on their knees.

Then they swarm around me,

A hive of honey bees.

I say,

It’s the fire in my eyes,

And the flash of my teeth,

The swing in my waist,

And the joy in my feet.

I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered

What they see in me.

They try so much

But they can’t touch

My inner mystery.

When I try to show them,

They say they still can’t see.

I say,

It’s in the arch of my back,

The sun of my smile,

The ride of my breasts,

The grace of my style.

I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

Now you understand

Just why my head’s not bowed.

I don’t shout or jump about

Or have to talk real loud.

When you see me passing,

It ought to make you proud.

I say,

It’s in the click of my heels,

The bend of my hair,

the palm of my hand,

The need for my care.

’Cause I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

Till next time, enjoy the pleasures of life.



Angelou, M. (n.d.). Phenomenal Woman. Poetry Foundation.

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. (2023, January 5). Maya Angelou. Britannica.

Poetry Foundation. (n.d.). Maya Angelou.

Spring, K. A. (2017). Maya Angelou. National Women’s History Museum.

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