Have you ever heard of a “Proverbs 31 Woman?” That term was new to me when I encountered it in A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master” by Rachel Held Evans. What do “biblical womanhood” and “Proverbs 31 woman” mean?
Proverbs 31:10-31, titled “Ode to a Capable Wife” in the NSRV, lists several Biblical expectations. The Capable Wife is virtuous, ambitious, hard-working and respectful of her spouse, for example. Ms. Evans, a twenty-first century liberated young woman, heard of workshops and books advocating “biblical womanhood.” To figure out what this means, she researches the Bible and talks with rabbis, polygamists, Amish leaders and others, and she spends a year trying to literally live Bible teachings about women.
As I reread Proverbs 31, I remembered all the activities attributed to Katie Luther in A Bold Life of Faith: Katharina von Bora Luther. Katie arose at four each morning, entertained, entered into theological discussions, boarded students, brewed beer and kept a former monastery functioning as a home and a source of income. She was a liberated Proverbs 31 Woman, it seems to me. (To the right, that’s a statue of Katie outside the Luther House in Wittenberg, Germany. Photo by Kathryn A. Kleinhans.)
In the 1960s and 1970s women’s roles changed as women’s liberation taught me and other young adults that we women could have it all: paying jobs, efficiently run homes, children taught to be self-sufficient citizens, and the respect of our husbands for our ability to think for ourselves. The Stepford Wives satirized women who passively followed the wishes of their husbands. Some Lutheran churches broke from tradition and first accepted women for ordination.
I found A Year of Biblical Womanhood to be a humorous, well-researched and thought-provoking easy read about women’s roles, both in the Bible and in today’s world. It left me asking, What does God expect of each of us? Can we meet those expectations?
Phyllis Rude, of Anchorage, Alaska, is serving a second term on the churchwide executive board.