|Art by Andrea Redmond
It is difficult for me to imagine how different my life would have been had I been taught any sort of HERstory growing up. It was not until I started Women's Studies in 1994 that I began to see all that had been hidden from me—and finally got a glimpse of all the power I had yet to reclaim.
As a Christian teenager, the legend of Boudicca would have given me an entirely opposite view of what was possible for women than what I had been led to believe through reading the Bible and attending church.
Mona Eltahawy captured my approach to raising my daughter in Headscarves and Hymens.
“What if instead of breaking their wildness like a rancher tames a bronco, we taught girls the importance and power of being dangerous?
I want to bottle-feed rage to every baby girl so that it fortifies her bones and muscles. I want her to flex, and feel the power growing inside her as she herself grows from a child into a young woman.”1
In addition to physical strength and emotional intelligence, our daughters also must learn HERstory.
I realized early on that my daughter was not going to learn much about this at school (despite my requests!), so I took it upon myself to seek out books and learning opportunities to teach her.
Some of my favorite memories with Helani were reading the entire female section of the Who Was series2 for children. She brought some of her favorites with her to Norway, even though we only had 4 suitcases between us when we moved here.
Unfortunately, they do not offer a book on Boudicca—which is not surprising. Even the limited HERstory children are taught is usually the same handful of (mostly relatively tame) women. In her biography of Boudicca, Vanessa Collingridge wrote:
“There are not many female heroes in our history books and even fewer were known for having the same untamed thatch of red hair that cursed my childhood. I was too much of a tomboy to be drawn to stories of damsels in distress or cloistered princesses yet here was a queen who fought for her people on muddy and bloody battlefields; a perfect role-model for an ungainly ginger child. Boudica – or Boadicea as she was to us then – became my personal mascot, someone who I could look up to with a quiet sense of communion. The girls could have their blonde-haired Barbies; I would have my kick-ass carrot-top Queen.”3
I believe all girls should grow up knowing about this kick ass Queen. For those of us who did not, this anthology will serve as a starting point. Joey Morris has also written a children's book about her that we will publish shortly.4
Mainstreaming women's history is long-overdue. Gerda Lerner wrote, “Women’s history is the primary tool for women’s emancipation.”5 When women learn their rich HERstory, there is a significant shift that ripples through their entire way of be-ing.
Every woman I know who took Women’s Studies in college talks about how their whole world sort of opened up with their first class. Why do we deprive our girls of this experience throughout most of their education? Is it possible more children would love going to school if it related back to them directly?
How can they have heroes that don’t reflect who they are?
Our heroes are important: They guide us to where we can go (if we dare) and save us from our own limiting beliefs about ourselves. How do we guide our children to find role models who will empower them?
The importance of giving our daughters and granddaughters a woman-affirming education cannot be overstated. I have a lot of grief centered around having to spend most of my life working to re-program and heal myself. It has been a devotion of mine for far too long. I wanted to give my daughter a different foundation—and I have, to the extent I can. That said, even in so-called 'progressive' Norway, my daughter has only had one-day of women's history.
Yesterday, my daughter lamented that she could never share anything I taught her at school if she wanted to get good grades. She said that the teachers only wanted her to parrot back what they taught—which of course, is all male-centric.
How can it be, that in 2022, my daughter has no chance academically to learn the exact things that have been foundational in my healing? Why are we still depriving girls and young women of this wisdom?
Children need to learn about people that they can identify with for guidance and strength. Abby Wambach wrote that, “Women have had to find themselves within content presented from the male perspective forever. It's essential to flip this and allow men the opportunity to find themselves within content presented from a woman's perspective.”6
If you have boys in your life, they need to learn from this perspective as well.
Given the fact that most of us are not taught anything other than white male history in school, it is important that we take up the task of educating ourselves—and our daughters, sons, and grandchildren. As Assata Shakur wrote, “No one is going to give you the education you need to overthrow them. Nobody is going to teach you your true history, teach you your true heroes, if they know that that knowledge will help set you free.”7
Girls and boys must begin to learn HERstory.
It is time to teach our children about Boudicca!
An excerpt from In Defiance of Oppression -The Lecacy of Boudicca.
Trista Hendren founded Girl God Books in 2011 to support a necessary unraveling of the patriarchal world view of divinity. Her first book—The Girl God, a children's picture book—was a response to her own daughter's inability to see herself reflected in God. Since then, she has published more than 40 books by a dozen women from across the globe with help from her husband, Anders; mother, Pat; and son, Joey.
1 Eltahawy, Mona. Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution. HarperCollins Publishers, 2015.
2 When we worked through these around 2012-2013, there were significantly more men than women represented. I wrote to the publisher about this at the time and never received a response. As of 9/1/21, by my count, fewer than one-quarter of the books are about women (47 of the 204 titles). https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/series/DWY/who-was
3 Collingridge, Vanessa. Boudica: A Groundbreaking Biography of the True Warrior Queen, Ebury, 2006.
4 Morris, Joey. My Name is Boudica. Girl God Books, 2022.
5 Lerner, Gerda. The Creation of Patriarchy. Oxford University Press; Reprint edition, 1987.
6 Wambach, Abby. Wolfpack: How to Come Together, Unleash Our Power, and Change the Game. Celadon Books, 2019.
7 Shakur, Assata. Assata: An Autobiography. Lawrence Hill Books; 1st edition, 2001.