Women Speak to Power
by C.K. Thomas
Thursday of this week, I sat in front of the television riveted by the testimony of both Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Today I watched as two women forced the democratic process into the spotlight by putting their feet into an elevator door to keep it from closing. Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona stood on the other side of that opening and listened as these two women poured out their stories of sexual abuse. They implored him to reconsider his vote to elevate Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States. They succeeded in influencing Flake’s call for a further FBI investigation of Kavanaugh.
All week long I had been madly trying to finish reading a book for my monthly book club that meets this coming Monday. The book, American Jezebel, reminded me just how long it has taken for women in this country to be recognized and believed. Anne Hutchinson was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 17th Century because she held meetings for women (and men) in her home. During these meetings she expressed her opinions about scripture and discussed the weekly sermon of the Puritan minister.
Anne bore 16 children, and on the occasion of her trial, she was pregnant and had walked several miles in cold weather over icy roads to the meeting house. To face her accusers, she was required to stand until she almost fainted and was allowed to sit on a bench. The minister naming her transgressions at the front of the room sat comfortably in a padded chair. I will not rewrite the book here, but point out some basic facts I discovered while reading.
In Puritan households, there was one chair and the only person allowed to sit in it was the man of the house. There were usually only four books in a modest home, one of which was the Bible. The local church held power over all who lived in the settlement, and any infraction of the laws set by the church could result in a trial like Hutchinson’s. When banished, Anne Hutchinson moved to Rhode Island, where religious freedom took root well before the framers thought to include it in the U.S. Constitution. This woman stood up to power and influenced the course of history. Yet, few today know her name.
The women who held an elevator door open and spoke to a United States Senator might also have changed the course of history. Their names are Maria Gallagher and Ana Maria Archila. Please remember them, because they represent what democracy is all about.
C.K. Thomas lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Before retiring, she worked for Phoenix Newspapers while raising three children and later as communications editor for a large United Methodist Church. The Storm Women is her fourth novel and the third in the Arrowstar series about adventurous women of the desert Southwest. Follow her blog: We-Tired and Writing Blog.