I was sitting with her, pouring out some woeful stories close to my heart. And when I finished, she chuckled and said this:

“Weak men are intimidated by strong women. They don’t know what to do with them. They’re afraid of them.”

And I’ve been mulling that over for two weeks.

I call myself a feminist for these reasons. I have been hurt by the church and her male leaders. But I’ve always had a core of unshakable certainty in my own worth, that I have things to say and they are good things worth saying. And I don’t hate men or think that they’re a bunch of scumbags or idiots. I have some wonderful, caring, smart, thoughtful men in my life. They’re showing me good things about what the full potential of the body of Christ can be at its best.

But I think there’s a lot of truth in that quote.

You could find a whole host of famous historical examples of this, but my thoughts went to the strong women in my life.

Photo from Alfred T. Palmer,US Office of War Information during World War II

My great-grandmother, who gave us our blue eyes, lived in Chicago during WWII, deaf and smart and beautiful. One day she trapped her supervisor in the hold of the ship she was building (she said she welded him into a corner) when he tried to molest her. She got his boss and the whole crew to see her innocence and see justice done. When she finished telling me that story, she chuckled to herself, and added “he was afraid of me and showed respect, after that.”

rita

My grandmother, her daughter, who was smart and beautiful like her, was tricked into marrying her first husband when he told her that the doctor’s office had mailed her pregnancy test results to him as planned, and that the result was positive (it wasn’t). But before that, she had turned down three other fellows to pursue her dreams of college and a career. She even chucked an engagement ring in a pond when her beau suggested she stay home and have babies instead of going to college to get her English degree. But then she got stuck, thinking she was pregnant.

When she actually was pregnant and a mother, later, she worked in an office to put her husband through his Ph.D. program and made herself more professional in a Northern workplace by losing her Texan accent. And then she put herself through a masters program to get her teaching degree, with her little ones quietly next to her in the back of the classroom each evening.

Later, she taught me a passion for good writing and edited my childish short stories and middle school attempts at writing a novel. When I went to college, I became an English major, just like her. When she died, I got her National Honor Society pin. I keep it pinned to the inside of my wallet. I am her kin.

My mother isn’t her daughter, but she is yet another smart and beautiful woman. She graduated from the University of San Francisco with her RN and a 4.0, and then worked night shift for a year in the intensive care unit in a SF hospital, caring for patients suffering after receiving liver transplants. When she quit her job, it was to give life to and homeschool nine energetic, stubborn, fiercely creative children. She threw herself into this role with passion, but never lost herself. Her love of learning and her independent drive to nurture creative talents has been a stable and beautiful part of my family culture from day one. I am proud to be her daughter.

And my New England grandmother, her mother. A more reserved woman, but her self-sustained contentment and independence in her long years of widowhood have fascinated me. She sings in the church choir, she takes athletic classes, she reads voraciously and has fine taste in music, literature, musicals, and food. She has quiet but firm opinions on how things should be, but bites her tongue and lets people make their own mistakes. I’m realizing that under her reserve is a depth of soul and intellect that I under-appreciated previously.

This is my heritage: strong women who know what they want and why. And they know how to get it, how to live well, and how to preserve their dignity and integrity.

And I want to be like that. And maybe I intimidate people sometimes, but I don’t need to worry about it, I suppose, if I’m making sure to walk in the little way as much as I can. I am also a strong woman.


  • http://www.facebook.com/debra.baker.79677 Debra Baker

    I enjoyed reading about the strong women that make up the strong backbone of your geneology. Your daughters will have a heritage of strong women to emulate.
    Your great grandmother needed help giving you the blue eyes, however because blue is a recessive trait and you would need the allele your father gave you as well as the allele your mother gave to have blue eyes. Also, you can have brown eyes and have a blue eyed child if one allele is brown which is a dominant trait and needs only one allele leaving the second allele able to be blue or brown.
    All the women in my family tree are strong like yours and my daughters are amazing women as well, we wouldn’t be here today if it was not for our strong grandmothers.

    • http://www.wineandmarble.com/ Hännah

      Isn’t it a wonderful heritage? So glad for them, and glad that you can enjoy a similar family experience.

      And, yes, I know about the alleles and dominence. It’s more a way of describing her than a scientific observation. :)

      • http://www.facebook.com/debra.baker.79677 Debra Baker

        The Biologist DB had to point that out, no worries :-)
        Actually, my mom moved back to the east coast whe we were still members of our PDI (sgm) church, took stock of where we were and said, “What are you doing? You come from a long line of strong women, would any of them put up with that nonsense?” That was the beginning of the end. The other thing that sealed my fate was to realize that I was setting up a pattern that would include my daughters being oppressed as they went through puberty. I wanted more for my daughters.

  • http://twitter.com/NatalieTrust Natalie Trust

    A beautiful tribute to the women in your family…

  • Marvia Davidson

    Love this. you have such a wonderful heritage! i’m inspired to keep being and doing what is me, what is in my veins, and what i’ve seen the women in my family overcome too!

  • http://almostreadytogoamish.blogspot.com/ Rational νεόφυτος

    Too…much…estrogen…. must….get….away….