By Tracee Sioux
Sarah begat Viola, Viola begat Susie, Susie begat Tracee, Tracee begat Ainsley.
I’ve always wished at least one book in the Bible would have started with the feminine, maternal lineage. It is difficult for girls and women to relate to the Biblical heroes because it’s just so hard to find a sense of self there. The players are men. Women are mentioned in relation to men, usually. (I throw the usually in there because I’m not about to have endless semantic arguments about women’s place in the Bible.)
For girls, I believe, all of history is the same way. One must go searching for the heroines of history. They throw a few in there, like Joan of Arc, but in the end they are burned at the stake rather than lifted up as great changers of the world.
Without a clear sense of identity, including a historic identity, people tend to lose themselves by trying to fill every else’s expectations. Girls are especially prone to this as they sit through endless hours of Sunday school hearing about the great men of Biblical times, as well as through school learning about the great men of history. Not only is it unfair, but it is inaccurate in a lot of ways.
Women have effected the world in as many ways as men, it’s just not reported as loudly. For instance, I would call my family a definite matriarchy. The women have always ruled in my family. I use the term ruled in the sense that they have created the family dynamic and set the tone for the family’s priorities and values. They have trained the children and maintained any emotional connection between the members.
I can trace the matriarchy back to my own great-grandmother. I knew her until I was 12 and she made such an impression on me that I named my daughter Ainsley Sarah after her. My mother was also named for her.
Over the weekend I went to our very extended family reunion and there was a memorial service for this great-great-grandmother of my daughter’s. I took my daughter and her daughters (my grandmother and her sister) and sat listening to stories of what a service-oriented woman she was. There is something to be said in that the taste of her legendary rolls has been remembered on people’s death beds, and lingered on tongues of literally hundreds of friends and relatives for well over 20 years. There is also something significant knowing you are curling up in one of hundreds of quilts made by her needle and thread. There is power in knowing that she survived more hardship than myself or my children could ever imagine and always had a grateful heart and an unshakable faith in God.
Our goal, as conscientious parents trying to raise empowered daughters, is to help them find an unshakable sense of self. A firm sense of self will preserve girls through peer pressure, enormous temptations, love affairs and friendships, and difficult decisions.
Part of our sense of self is made up of our sense of belonging to various groups. For instance, my group identities include American, Mormon, Democrat, Military Brat, ect (which is not to say those groups claim me, but that I identify internally with them). More intimately though is knowing that I come from a long line of strong women or my maternal lineage. I can trace my maternal lineage through my mother, my grandmother and my great-grandmother.
By passing that knowledge down to my daughter, I know that it makes her sense of identity stronger. Detailed knowledge about who her great-great-grandmother was will help her sit through all the hours of church and school ahead of her, those long hours and chapters of history and religion where girls are mentioned only as afterthoughts or in relation to significant men.
I encourage all parents to pass on their own maternal lineage to instill in girls a sense of feminine history (duh, “herstory”), a sense of belonging to and coming from someone or something significant. Such information can only benefit a daughter’s sense of identity and self.