I started my Women’s History Month celebration with an outing of a group of women and their granddaughters. The first activity was brunch.
It was a wonderful time watching their faces as we showed them photos of ourselves, our moms and grandmothers as girls and young women. There was much laughter when one of the younger ones proclaimed, “that looks like me, Grammy,” and her big squeal to learn the girl in the photo was Grammy! Establishing familial connections and time relationships was necessary for this conversation.
I was pumped when my turn came. As one of the elders in the group, I realized that we were sharing history through our stories. And, even more important was the history we were making.
With the oohs and aahs and questions about the dress my grandma was wearing (Why did it look like Harriet Tubman’s?), I had the opportunity not only to tell Harriet’s story, but to tell Grandma Bettye’s. Each photograph brought with it her-story and the history of her contemporaries.
I am well aware of how stories get distorted, including those of women, people of color, people who struggle financially. Women do not control the narrative.
What is history?
Dictionaries offer the definition of history as a tale, story, or a chronological record of significant events. Nothing more; nothing less. History is not a controlled story told by people of notoriety. It is our ongoing everyday life story told over and over again.
I love the African proverb, “Until the story of the hunt is told by the lion, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”
These wise words empower me to share more stories with my new young girlfriends about Harriet Tubman and Florence Nightingale and about women whose names will never appear in books or on the lips of the hunter. And, for sure, I must always include my story and help them to begin to live and tell their own.
As you celebrate the rest of this month, think about your story. Who has shaped it, and who’s telling it? Who are the women in the Bible, your family, church, and community that have shaped who you are? Celebrate them this month and include some four-year-olds. It will be quite the celebration!
Valora K Starr is director of discipleship for Women of the ELCA.