While it’s fun to be someone else for a day, this Halloween, I hope you’ll join me in thinking about some women whose traits I wouldn’t mind wearing as a permanent costume.
Dress me up with …
Rosa Parks’ Fearlessness and Dedication
Cliché, right? But Rosa Parks had a life as an activist long before the bus. I learned in the book, At the Dark End of the Street, that Mrs. Parks and her husband organized black activists out of their home in the 1930s and 40s. By the age of 10, Rosa Parks (then Rosa McCauley) had been proud and militant since she was 10 years old, answering boys with bricks when they threatened her with violence.
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s Ovaries
Bet you didn’t see that one coming. Known as the “First Feminist of America” (just a reminder, ‘America’ doesn’t always mean the United States of America), Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz was a 17th century Mexican nun who was reprimanded by the bishop of Puebla for being an intellectual. It was bad enough she wrote love poems and plays, but when Bishop Manuel Fernández deSanta Cruz got a hold of her theological essay, “Letter Worthy of Athena,” it was over. He sent her a mean-spirited little note to stay in her place and signed it with the psuedonym, “Sor Filotea.” Some of the bishop’s choice words: “All this study is not fitting, for holy ignorance is your duty…”
Sor Juana replied with La Respuesta a (The Answer to) Sor Filotea de la Cruz, a letter that takes up 65 pages in the book of the same name. I read the book my senior year in college for a class on Latin American women authors. When I read more than a decade ago, this line stuck out:
“For me, it has not been knowledge (for I still know nothing) but the desire to know that has cost me so dear …”
Today I see that quote and think of Malala Yousufzai, nearly executed by the Taliban for fighting for girls’ education in Pakistan.
Nichelle Nichols’ Grace
I met Nichelle Nichols at the 2010 Idea Festival’s opening reception. I was impressed with the grace she showed while being mistreated. To repeat what I said from my summary of Thrivals 3.0 during IF10, she remained professional and respectful in response to a security guard on the Warner Brothers lot who decided she didn’t have a right to be there—at her job as Lt. Uhura on the set of Star Trek. The guard apologized 10 years later.