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What Women Want

I have been contemplating the great strength, resilience and power of women lately. Think about this: every single soul that is brought into this world comes through the portal of a woman, from her flesh, her blood, and her struggle. Powerful thought. 

Sojourner Truth has long been a heroine of mine. I didn’t even learn about her until I was in my forties, but she held power and spoke the truth. In her speech, Ain’t I A Woman? Which she delivered in 1851 at the Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, she addressed some pretty significant truths. She was a Black woman, a former slave, and she experienced all of her rights stripped from her, yet she saw clearly, found her voice, and spoke her truth. 

“Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ‘cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

I remember back in my thirties when I was making my living as a storyteller, sharing bits and pieces from the Arthurian legend and Dame Ragnell. It is a fascinating story, but it is not until recently that the full impact of that legend really sunk in. The bottom line of the story is Dame Ragnell secures Gawain’s promise to marry her. But there is a bit of a hitch. There is a witch involved and a spell that threatened Arthur’s life and the question, “what does a woman really want?” The answer holds the key to Arthur’s survival. The with has to answer the question, and she does! “What Every Woman Wants is sovereignty, to be able to be in charge of her own life. The truth spoken, Arthur’s life spared, the spell broken, and everyone lived happily ever after. Chaucer also addresses that same issue in his work, “The Wife of Bath’s Tale.”  Sovereignty…the ability to be in charge of our own lives…Freedom of Choice.


Legends and ancient tales are instructive and fun, yet women continue to be manipulated and controlled in 2024. I will admit, things have improved. We just celebrated the 50 year anniversary of being able to obtain our own credit cards. 

Back in the sixties, after delivering my first son, I wanted birth control. My husband and I discussed it and we agreed it was wise as he was a medical student and we had quite a lot on our plate with our first child and his studies. I had to drag that husband out of class, into the gynecologist’s office, to give his permission to the doctor in order for me to get a prescription for birth control. Now, we could face that same issue of access to birth control and sovereignty over our own bodies once again. Folks, we are taking a few big steps backwards. R v W may be just the first of those big steps. Right now, in many states, women no longer have control over their own bodies. Be aware. Beware!

A week or so ago a “gentleman” (I use the term loosely) commented on Freedom of Choice piece of artwork being displayed publicly in my town…” you should be ashamed!” Well sir, I am. I am ashamed that we still have to bend to arrogant, privileged, white men who think they have the choice to rule over my body and the bodies of my sisters around the world. Sir, shame has been used as a tool for millennia to keep women in their place, and I am deeply ashamed that you think you can continue to use it against us. I say NO MORE!

During Women’t history month, our town honored and celebrated thirteen local women leaders. Many of them lead in quiet and humble ways, yet they have evoked substantial change in a variety of ways in her community - my community, that I am very proud to be a part of. For every woman honored that day, there are probably twenty more that could have filled each seat. Women are strong and women continue to lead and women have inalienable rights.

I feel rage when I think of that man telling us we should feel shame for wanting to claim our right to sovereignty in life and over our own bodies. Does he still see us a chattel? I am furious and don’t know what to do with the anger, so I write. Part of me can not believe that as I approach my eightieth decade, we are still having these conversations, waging these battles to control our own bodies, and find respect. Isn’t that what it really comes down to? Respect. Whether suffragists needing to claim their right to a voice, or a woman today needing to claim the right to make her own decisions about her precious body, aren’t we still viewed as “other” and without respect? Yes, I am ashamed…ashamed that we are still allowing men to use shame as a tool against us as they attempt to maintain control over us. But at the same time, I feel great pride that we are using our voices, that we rage, and that we are tenacious in the battle to gain respect, which will result in sovereignty over our lives. 

A very wise woman said to me last week, “I can not think of a phrase more American than FREEDOM OF CHOICE.”  

I will leave you with that. 


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