Thinking About Women

The New Year has barely begun as I sit to write this column. I am still flush with the blessings and pleasures of the break I take at Christmastime to spend with family and friends, enjoying special food and visits that are difficult to plan into my normally jammed schedule. The beginning of each year is a time of reflection, and for me this year, my thoughts turn to the women in my life. I am very fortunate that my mother, 87, is still a lively conversationalist and cheerful family historian. My sisters, both in their 50s, are wonderful life companions, sharing bits of their trials and life experiences with me, and permitting me to share mine. Then there is my daughter, 25, who delights me more each year with her growing maturity, adventurous nature, and loving spirit. And there are my lovely women friends, from their 20s through their 90s, each of whom adds something unique and special to my life, a patchwork quilt of luminous souls. One of the things I treasure most about the women in my life is their willingness to share: insights, warmth, companionship, advice, stories, laughter, tears, and love.

Two articles this month focus on issues of deep concern to many women, although they are by no means limited to a female audience. Judith Fetterley writes movingly in "On Sexism as a Spiritual Disaster" (p.6) about her long involvement with the feminist movement and her very deep sense that we Quakers need to witness, now more than ever, against the injustice and violence toward women that is so pervasive in this world. "To challenge sexism at its deepest level," she writes, "we must find ways to include women in the definition of the person and in the category of the sacred." Here at Friends Journal, we’ve been endeavoring to do just that through judicious use of language for many decades. I believe that careful use of inclusive language can be quite transformational in itself. In a second article, Janeal Turnbull Ravndal gives us a remarkable portrait of one wonderful woman, a victim of domestic abuse, who changed the lives of others while endeavoring to change her own in "Patricia and Her Church" (p.10). "One of the first things I learned," Janeal Ravndal observes about the domestic abuse safehouse where she works, "was that everyone comes. No category of people escapes domestic abuse." Most of those people are women and their children, fleeing from environments where women clearly are not regarded as persons of equal worth, nor as fellow participants in the sacred. Given how much women can do for each other—and others—often in the most trying of circumstances, the level of abuse and disenfranchisement still endured by women in this comparatively liberated culture is appalling.

On a different note, one female colleague whose work I’ve admired and enjoyed for many years is Ellen Michaud, a professional writer and editor whose work appears in many Rodale and other national publications. We have been blessed here at the Journal to have Ellen’s able assistance as our Book Review Editor since 1999, when she eagerly offered to take on that important volunteer position for us. This past November, Ellen let me know, to our regret, that other responsibilities necessitate her handing this position over to another volunteer. In this space, I want to give her our heartfelt thanks for a big job very well done for many years. I also want to encourage aspiring book review editors to consult our advertisement on page 30 and to apply for this open position. For those who love books, it has many rewards and satisfactions, including an opportunity to render significant service to Friends through our pages.