Managing Work

In less than week, I will give a paper at the Newberry Library.  This paper in question is not ready.  I know it will be, but it is not now.  More tinkering to do.

The paper I will give Saturday looks at the Chicago Sisters of Mercy, their charism, and education ministry in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Basically from when they set up shop in Chicago in 1846 to the decade after Amalgamation (1929).  I enjoy this period in women’s history and American Catholic history.  The nineteenth century proper and the Progressive Era are my history touchstones.  Since I took on the Mercy history project, I have found myself in the twentieth century much more.  The fifties, sixties, and seventies in particular are exciting decades to study for Catholic women’s history right now, which throws the traditional American women’s history narrative a curve ball. (Did I just use a sports metaphor? I think my students’ writing is getting to me.)

I am teaching a US history survey this semester and over the last couple weeks we have explored the fifties and sixties, first in consumer culture, then Civil Rights Movement, and lately the Student Movement.  This week we will tackle second-wave feminism and the women’s liberation movement.  Should be interesting.  I fear I will spend more time correcting the historical narrative provided by the course textbook.  If you need any indication of what I am up against, here’s this little nugget from the textbook:

Betty Friedan, a forty-two-year-old mother of three from Peoria, Illinois, led the mainstream of the women’s movement.

There’s more, but that is enough. There is nothing “wrong” about that sentence, but it is hardly the whole story.  Yes, Friedan was from Peoria, but she wasn’t living there when she wrote The Feminine Mystique.  Yes, she was a mother of three, but that wasn’t the sum of who she was. Yes, was a leader of the mainstream women’s movement, but she wasn’t the only one.  I can see me now, droning on about what is missing from this passage and about the importance of understanding the full context of women’s lives – not just the little snippets we get in the textbook.  (I better not go on too much, we are already behind and we are supposed to get to the 1980s before we are all said and done.)

Why does the context and the nuances of history matter?  Everyday, there is a story about what we as a society don’t know about the past.  My students have holes the size of a Mac Truck in their understanding of American history and one semester won’t do nearly enough to make up for that.  (It will help, Gosh Darn it! It has to.) As I think about my presentation on Saturday, I hope that I relate the correct and full history, as I provide just a snippet of the larger whole Chicago Mercy history.

There is more I could say, but really, the tinkering on my paper won’t take care of itself.


It’s Time for a Wrinkle in Time

Image result for a wind in the doorI was beyond excited that A Wrinkle in Time was made into a movie.  I haven’t seen it yet. Probably won’t in the theaters. We just don’t get to the pictures anymore.  I read the book and pretty much everything else Madeleine L’Engle wrote for young adults when I was one.  When the movie came out, I found the audiobook read by Hope Davis.  As I listened, fifteen minutes at a time (distance from home to work to home again), I found my adult mind enjoyed it just as much.  After I finished A Wrinkle in Time, I searched for A Wind in the Door, which I am listening to right now. (The second book in the Time Quintet is read by Jennifer Ehle – she is very good. She does all the voices in a way that is not distracting.)*

At first, I was not nearly as compelled as I was by the first book.  All that mitochondria talk – so much science – but then I remembered the afterward of the audiobook read by L’Engle’s granddaughter, Charlotte Jones Voikles.  (The others in this recording are Ava Duverny and Madeleine L’Engle herself, which is awesome.) Voikles remarked that L’Engle read physics and other science books and found inspiration. She knit science and religion together.  And here I am being carried along into the mitocondria of Charles Wallace by a cherubim named Proginoskes.  Charles Wallace is very sick, possibly dying, because his ferandolae (fictional) are under attack.  It’s all connected to the bigger, universe problems that continue from the first book.  There are worlds that are dark, or shadowed like Earth, and evil has invaded.  There are Ecthroi.  There is a need for love, a sense of communion with others, and as a human being to be known, truly known, to be named, by others.

As I listen to this story, I am eager for Meg, Calvin, Progo, and Mr. Jenkins (that awful principal) to succeed at their challenges to save Charles Wallace, to save everything and everyone.  I also think about how much this message needs to be read, heard, digested, by so many.  And I am not just talking about those people we might label as obviously evil, but those of us safe in our convictions that we are good. That we are right.  We get the very uncomfortable message to love those we might think are unloveable. Of course this is the message we get from childhood, right? Love your enemies. Love your neighbor.  If we did learn it when we were young, we seem to miss the mark when we get older, don’t we?

Who do I know? Who do I name? Who do I love? I have my list; it isn’t very long. It should be longer.


* I am using my public library’s subscription to Overdrive to listen to audiobooks.  That and Hoopla.  Don’t get me wrong, I am sure Audible is lovely. I also like the public library.