One of my favorite words.
Inspired by three women. Maya Angleou, Gerda Lerner, and Starhawk.
Thank you, Dr. Angelou. Thank you so much.
The passing of Dr. Maya Angelou on May 28, 2014, reminded of my of my determination to work to empower women. Men, too, yes. But, mostly, women.
Women who aren't told often enough that they are good enough, just as they are. Women who aren't paid fairly, so that the inequality affects every aspect of their lives and self-esteem. Women who don't/can't feel safe walking through their neighborhoods at night. Women who are unaware and deliberately left uneducated about their history.
So many reasons to empower women...
From Dr. Angelou, I first learned to accept my body and my experiences as a source of strength. That one experience might inform my life, but didn't determine my worth. I also learned, from watching her poem "Phenomenal Woman" being performed by a trio of women, that sisterhood is powerful. That together, our voices are stronger and louder.
When I struggle with being an older student, with being in a profession that too often marginalizes women and women's knowledge, I use Gerda Lerner as my inspiration to keep pushing forward.
Dr. Lerner didn't start graduate school until she was in her forties. Like me. And then she let nothing get in her way of building the first Women's History graduate program in the US. And building a body of scholarship that helped to define the discipline of Women's History, and changed History. While my goals aren't that lofty, my determination is that strong.
When I need to remind myself of the power of the feminine, I turn to Starhawk.
I met her years ago, as I tended a ritual fire at the Sekhmet Temple in Nevada. She was present to lead a large gathering, at a site not far from the Nevada Test Site. We bumped into each other, working around the fire, nodded, and moved on, two priestesses busy centering their intent. Throughout the ritual, I was struck by how she quietly directed the energy by honoring the best that each person present had to offer. Recognizing the power led everyone - women, men, children, into their own empowerment.
The writings of each of these women has transformed my life. I would not be who I am, where I am, without their wisdom.
Dr. Angelou's passing reminds me that life here on this physical plane is short and precious. That it's the connections made that last. That words have power. That sisterhood is infinite, but needs to be nurtured.
What's my path to empowerment? This is something I continue to work on. By connecting with sisters, by writing, by studying, by teaching, by speaking, by being an example. Mostly, by remaining aware that it's my responsibility to use my power.
Who are your heroes? How do they inspire you?