The Power of Women’s Voices

Portrait of Mary Anning, British Museum.

Image via Wikipedia

The post I had planned on writing before I was sidetracked by the disaster in Japan speaks louder because of that same incident.

Given the disturbing attempts in the United States toward limiting women’s freedom, rights, and basic equality I have been thinking a lot about women’s roles in society. I wanted to write about women–specifically women who stood strong and defiant in the face of adversity in order to pursue their dreams, follow their goals, and fight for what is right. I’m not talking necessarily about the women who have been recognized by history, or allowed into history as written by men. I’m talking about the women who quietly left their mark in history by simply living their lives and pursuing their passions, and then somehow passing that on.

I’ve been fascinated by the history of women like this for a long time, and plotting (at least in my hidden writer’s dream vault) about writing some kind of historical fiction exploration that brings some of these women together. I was reminded of that fascination as I started reading Tracy Chevalier‘s Remarkable Creatures which shares the fictionalized story of Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot, both fossil hunters who contributed much to paleontology (particularly Anning) but would not have been welcomed into true scientific circles because they were women. Women like these fascinate me, but one of the problems is that I can never figure out who I want to write about, or what kind of story I want to tell.

So, how does that relate to the events in Japan? Well, the events of the day reminded me that there are so many amazing women out there who are still, quietly, doing things that impact our world. I’ve met many of them in this virtual community we call home, and I hope to get to know many of them better. (I’ve met a lot of wonderful men on here too, but men’s voices tend to be heard more, even now–so please forgive my feminist slant.)

I was reminded of the strength and power of women throughout the course of the day. It started when I read AmblerAngel’s post called “We’re Being Shaken and Stirred in Japan” which was Freshly Pressed later in the day (deservedly so). What she did, by writing a humorous but honest post about her experience of  the earthquake in order to let people know she was safe did something else truly powerful–her post reached across the world and gave people hope on a day when many people (myself included) felt the world crumbling beneath them (no pun intended).  In my eyes, AmblerAngel did what so many women have done before, she told her story in a quiet way that spoke volumes to the world. She also faced the tragedy with bravery and opened her home to her Sensei as she waited for her children to make it back safely. I’m sure she will deny this, but to me that was an act of kindness and of courage that all should emulate.

But, I’m not going to put her alone on a pedestal. Just reading the comments on her post reminded of two other amazing women who travel the world to help others in the face of disaster. Kathryn McCullough, who shares her story on “Reinventing the Event Horizon,” and her partner Sara are just preparing to leave Haiti after a year there, and will then (after a short time in the States) move on to the next area that needs their help. Who knows, perhaps they will end up in Japan next. If that isn’t impressive enough, Kathy is also embarking on a memoir journey into her own issues with mental illness that will be so helpful to many people in this world. That too is an amazing act of courage.

Lest you think I am simply stalking people on WordPress (and I am not, I’m just recognizing important patterns that speak to me), another act reminded me of the quiet strength of women. One of my dear friends from Hawaii, who I have not seen in a while but still think of often, wrote this note to me on Facebook. I hope she does not mind my sharing:

“I just got home from evacuation of the nursing home . . . Looks like we did get up to 6 foot waves and have had a bunch of damage but nothing at all like Japan. A bunch of boat marinas. . .  came loose and boats went everywhere and they are saying La Marianas is “no more”. It sounds crazy but they keep showing this dead fish in the middle of a parking lot in Haleiewa on TV. We are still having waves…smaller but still there. Amazing it is daylight and I still haven’t gone to sleep :-) Anyway thanks for asking about us. :-)

She makes it sound like nothing, but she spent the whole night helping evacuate a nursing home. Yes, it is her job, but I think committing to work in a nursing home is an act of heroism in itself. It takes special people to work with the elderly and with children on a regular basis, and many of them are women.

That leads to teachers, after the earthquake in New Zealand I quoted another dear friend of mine who, like AmblerAngel, shared her story in a way that meant so much. She always amazes me with her passion for educating young people and her innovative approach to everything. Teacher’s like her (and a few others I know) are truly voices that should be recognized and heard in the history of this world.

This list could go on forever: from the blogger who battles for equal rights in the classroom to my friend and fan Leseley who has spent her life creating and providing theater and music programming for people of all ages (I hope to learn more of her story soon);  from A. Hab who confronts some of the hypocrisy’s of higher education to my young friend Caroline who helps battered women in New York and supports cause after cause any way she can (I still remember spending days making puppets with her while her Mom was at work). One last post that I need to mention is this one from a few weeks back at Broadside “Women, Speak Up! I Can’t Hear You” which made me reflect on my own use of voice and the examples that I set for younger women.

As you can see, the list can go on forever. It is a list of women who, even in small and subtle ways, influence the world around them. That list moves forward, but it also extends back into history. I want to learn more of the story of these women. I want to write more of their story as well. But, perhaps more importantly, I want the voices of women to become louder in our story and not be silenced anymore.

[Addition, I just saw this post on Facebook and wanted to add the link as it goes well with my discussion today. I think this could be an exciting opportunity for women:

Sec. Clinton Announces State Department Partnership with Seven Sisters Schools - The Daily Beast.]

Whose story do you want to know? What voice do you want to hear? Which women do you think have stories that need to be told?