I’ve been doing some genealogical research this month. It wasn’t my first choice of how to spend my free time, but my mother, the inimitable Frankie B., put me onto it because she’s been having scary dreams about the future of our country. She claims that her great-grandmother, my great-great-grandmother, is encouraging her to “stay away from that place” and “return home.” We wondered if this is some kind of prophecy.
We didn’t know exactly what her name was, but we were pretty sure about relationship: She came across the Atlantic from Pontypool, Wales, in 1870, before settling in the Texas Panhandle. Her fourth son got a homestead ranch in Hansford County and eventually grew to be a major cattle rancher in the area. His daughter, my mom’s grandmother, grew up to be the first woman postmaster in the panhandle, a single mom running a cattle ranch and a Pony Express route rest stop. Her granddaughter, my mother, grew up in the panhandle to become a highly educated speech pathologist who pioneered research into and the applications of the burgeoning cochlear implant technology for children with hearing deficiencies. Her work is still cited in scientific papers on the latest advances in the field. Her daughter, my sister, grew up in the panhandle to be an Ivy League-educated systems engineer with a security clearance, a job she couldn’t talk about, and the ability to leave that field to go to law school and become a high-powered intellectual property attorney in the most diverse city in America.
This is all fantastic, and I’m so very proud of the women in my family. I’m proud to carry on their legacy. Should I have a daughter of my own (their granddaughter and niece), I will make sure she knows she comes from a long line of women prophets who made their mark in the world by striving for excellence and breaking barriers that were put in place because of the belief that women shouldn’t exercise their public voice.
Our religious tradition was one of the first to ordain a woman to preach the truth. We are part of the progress that ran through the veins of my grandmothers, my mother and my sister. That tradition is part of our religious home. There may be times, in the future, when the suggestion arises that women’s voices don’t carry as much weight as other voices do. Our Universalist heritage and our American experiment speak otherwise. I’m proud to walk in their shadow into the sunlight of tomorrow, regardless of any criticism. I’m with her and her and her and her and you. Now and always. And if the critics demand that you “stay away from that place” and “return home,” know that the place where the critics stand is your home. Let’s walk there together.