“Woman is the best creation of God.”
What does that mean? Women who openly display their power, knowledge, and skill, receiving public recognition and honor. But also females who manage to wield power in societies that try to limit it or decree female submission; where their leadership is stigmatized and their creativity disdained. And women who resist and overthrow oppressive traditions and regimes. Who break The Rules in defiance of unjust legal and religious “authorities.” Who pursue their vision in spite of the personal cost.
Women have determined the course of events and the forms of human culture. We originated, founded, governed, prophesied, created great art, fought for our rights, and for our peoples. These are the women edited out of history, their stories omitted, distorted, and replaced with an endless litany of men (and the occasional queen or meddling concubine). Both racism and sexism are implicated in these silences and gaps.
So we need a remedial history that reconstructs the female dimensions of human experience and achievement, and recovers the distorted and obliterated past of Africa, the Americas, and all other regions neglected by the standard textbooks and mass media.
Women have often been relegated to the footnotes of history, and even those are highly selective. As Sandra Cisneros wrote of her search for Latina sheroes, “We are the footnotes of the footnotes.” Yet the heritages of women of color, especially the indigenous cultures, supply the most dramatic examples in recent history of open embrace of female power. But even Europe looks different when we look at the common women and encompass places like Bulgaria, Estonia, Corsica, or Iberian Galicia.
There’s a striking interplay between women’s spiritual and political leadership, especially in many indigenous societies. I’m thinking of of the Evenki shaman Olga who was both chieftain and religious leader of her Siberian village about a century ago, and the machis of Chile, shamans who are deeply involved in the Mapuche sovereignty effort. But this overlap occurs even in imperial contexts, as when the aged mikogami Pimiko was chosen as ruler to save Japan from a chaotic struggle for power in its early history.
Priestesses or diviners have often led liberation movements: Nehanda Nyakasikana in the Shona revolt against English colonization of Zimbabwe; María Candelaria in the Maya uprising against the Spanish; and Toypurina in the Gabrieleño revolt in southern California. In 1791, the old priestess Cécile Fatiman inaugurated the Haitian revolution against slavery in a Vodun ceremony in the Bois Caiman. Female boldness has in many societies been required simply to defend personal liberty and self-determination, carving out space to act in spite of patriarchal constraints, to become what the English called “a woman at her own commandment.”
Agodice practiced medicine in classical Athens disguised as a man, risking the death penalty then in force against female physicians. About two thousand years later, Miranda Stuart used the same strategy to get her M.D. As Dr. James Barry, she became Chief Surgeon for the British Navy. Her subterfuge was not discovered until her death, although She came close after being wounded in a duel.
The most courageous women challenged oppression. The famous Swahili singer Siti Binti Saad rose from the oppressed classes to make taarabu music her vehicle calling for social justice in what is now Tanzania. She protested class oppression and men’s abuse of women; her song “The police have stopped” sharply criticized a judge who let a rich wife-murderer go free. She seemed unafraid even of the sultan. The battle leadership of a Pawnee elder saved a village from atttackers, and so she was named “Old Lady Grieves the Enemy.” Afterward, she taunted wife-beaters, telling them to go after the Poncas who came to burn up the village, and leave the women, who do no harm, alone.
The Lisu people of Yunnan (southwest China) once had a tradition that fighting had to stop if a woman of either side waved her skirt to call for an armistice. Often this would be a highly-regarded elder. The skirt, imbued with the woman’s mana, symbolized the life-giver’s power. A woman taking off her outer skirt was also the signal for war or peace in the Pacific island Vanatinai, where women were also the traditional protectors of prisoners of war.
Women have energy that amazes men. They meet difficulties and manage serious problems, while remaining cheerful, loving and joyous.
They smile when they want to cry out, sing when they want to shed tears, cry when they are happy, and laugh when they are nervous.
They battle for what they believe in. They rebel against injustice. They do not accept “no” for an answer when they think there is a better solution.
They deny themselves to keep the family sustained. They go to the doctor with an anxious friend. They love unconditionally.
They cry when their children achieve success and they rejoice at the good fortune of their friends. Their hearts are bruised when a friend dies or when they suffer from the loss of a dear friend.
They are strong when they think they have no more energy. They know that a hug or a kiss can heal a wonderful heart.
There is no doubt that women have a defect…..
‘It is that she forgets what she is worth.’