Let's Talk Sisters and Sisterhood

Updated: Jan 30

Gusty Women (by Rosemary Roenfanz)


Hello my darlings. Today let's talk about sisters and "sisterhood." When I looked this up in different dictionaries, of course there were inconsistencies regarding "sisterhood/soul sister". I found these:


A.) A Black woman (chiefly used as a term of address among Black people).

B.) A woman whose thoughts, feelings, and attitudes closely match those of another; a kindred spirit.

C.) An association, society, or community of women linked by a common interest, religion, or trade.

And on and on they went.....But the one I favored the most said this:

D.) A female friend not related by blood who shares a bond that transcends time, space and distance. Traits include: listening and fully understanding without judgment or solution; knowing the right thing to say; sharing belongings or desserts; regularly reminding one another of their beauty. Yup--that's the one for me! And that's the kind of friend I am to others (I hope).


With this in mind, how many soul sisters/girlfriends do you have? I don't care if you're Black, White, Red, Brown, Yellow or in-between, we NEED soul sisters/girlfriends like the ones described in letter "D." When I think about it, (and yes, I did look at my FB page and phone to remind me) I counted five. There were over a dozen good friends that I could easily talk with, but only five that I could absolutely say ANYTHING to (yes I am a potty mouth--I will admit) or act STUPIDLY with, or share my DEEPEST, DARKEST thoughts and secrets with who STILL find me lovable. Now, listen up. It doesn't really matter how many soul sisters you have, the important thing is to have them. Even if it's only just one girlfriend you can spill your guts to, or swear to high heaven with, or laugh uncontrollably with, we as women need other women to talk to.


Have you ever heard this story?


There was a village where all the women washed clothes together down by the river. When they all got washing machines, there was a sudden outbreak of depression and no one could figure out why. It wasn't the washing machines in and of themselves. It was the absence of time spent doing things together. It was the absence of community. We might tell others we're "fine" when we're actually not. In reality, we're depressed, overwhelmed, or grieving (hurting) or lonely. We might use the excuse that we're too busy to be in touch with friends. Suddenly, days, weeks, months, and years go by without connecting. "I'm fine, I'm fine;" over and over again we lie and say "I'm fine." (I recognize myself in this paragraph.)

We all became isolated even before Covid hit (and that certainly hasn't helped, has it?). Now we find ourselves wanting to reconnect and we simply don't know how. Or perhaps we're afraid to, or embarrassed to do so. Our hearts need these relationships. It is intrinsic to us, organic for our bodies to want hugs and to be touched. In today's culture, it simply takes more effort to be a friend or to have friends.


In the 21st century, most of us have our own washing machines, or we have access to them. We don't rely on one another to do laundry, to cook, or raise babies like we used to. In fact, we don't depend on one another for much of anything. Which is sad.


Brene Brown, in her book, Braving the Wilderness, says that being lonely effects our life's expectancy in a similar way to smoking 15 cigarettes daily. Ugh. So please recognize the longing for friendship is a legitimate need. Have you treated friendship as a luxury, something you couldn't take the time for? Recognize that it is a NECESSITY for our good health. So go ahead and be independent. But be an independent woman who recognizes the importance of welcoming other women into her life. Open the door for them, welcome them with open arms. Yes, you can go it alone, but you don't have to. It's not good for you or me! There is fun and magic waiting when friends get together to laugh, to cry, to vent, to hug, to exchange ideas, to share chips and salsa. (A glass of wine can be added as well.) Watch the magic light up the skies when "sisters" share the good times and bad. You'll be glad you did. I'm always surprised at how my heart sings when I find common ground with a sister.

sources: Amy Weatherly, Brene Brown


GUTSY WOMAN: ELIZABETH JENNINGS GRAHAM



Seems incredible, but it's true. Elizabeth Jennings Graham was a civil rights figure and African American teacher 100 years before Rosa Parks! She defied an order to disembark given by a trolley conductor (horse-drawn carriage, actually). The conductor claimed the streetcar was full. When it emerged he was lying he claimed the whites did not like Jennings’ presence. The resolute Elizabeth was not having any of that racist attitude so the ‘conductor got her down on the platform, jammed her bonnet, soiled her dress and injured her person' before recruiting a policeman who succeeded in removing her.


Born free, Elizabeth Jennings (March 1827 – June 5, 1901)was the daughter of James and Elizabeth CartwrightJennings. Her father (a Freeman) was a successful tailor who purchased his wife's (and some sources say his family's) freedom with monies he earned from a patent for a new dry-cleaning method. Prominent citizens of New York's Black community, young Elizabeth gave a speech (at age ten) to the literary society promoting self-improvement through education, community activities, and discussion. She also led a discussion of how the neglect of Black minds led whites to believe Blacks were inferior. The speech, penned by her mother, was entitled "On the Improvement of the Mind."


On a Sunday morning in 1854, Elizabeth jumped on a streetcar in order to get to her church, The First Colored Congregational Church, where she was organist. When the driver failed to remove her, a police man was called. He promptly pushed Elizabeth off.


Her story received national attention getting a feature in Frederick Douglass’ newspaper. Elizabeth’s father filed a lawsuit (on behalf of his daughter) against the driver, the conductor, and the Third Avenue Railroad Company in Brooklyn, where the Third Avenue Company was headquartered.


She was represented by the law firm of Culver, Parker, and Arthur. In 1855, the court ruled in her favour. In his charge to the jury, Brooklyn Circuit Court Judge William Rockwell declared:

“Colored persons if sober, well behaved and free from disease, had the same rights as others and could neither be excluded by any rules of the company, nor by force or violence.”

Elizabeth was awarded $250 in damages with the ruling that African-Americans could not be excluded from New York (NY) trolleys. Her accomplishment is significant because the New York City companies were private and mostly operated segregated cars. When her case was decided in her favor in 1855, it led to the eventual desegregation of all New York City transit systems by 1865. Yay!


Elizabeth married Charles Graham in 1860. They had one son. She was preceded in death by both her husband and her baby son.


Elizabeth Jennings is also credited with starting the city’s first kindergarten for African-American children, operating it from her home on 247 West 41st Street until her death in 1901. In 2007, New York City co-named a block of Park Row “Elizabeth Jennings Place”. There is also talk New York City would build a statue honoring Graham near Grand Central Terminal. (Finally New York has begun to honor significant women with statues.)


Sources: History Hustle; Wikipedia


Book Recommendation(s): Sally Rooney's Beautiful World, Where Are You?)


Farrar, Straus & Giroux


AN INSTANT #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTELLER

Beautiful World, Where Are You is a new novel by Sally Rooney, the bestselling author of Normal People and Conversations with Friends.


What elevates Rooney's work is ... her uncanny ability to entrance us by capturing the emotional risks, power plays, miscommunications, ups and downs, hard work, and mixed feelings that accompany so much of our undertakings.


Beautiful World focuses on four characters — the two best friends and the two men with whom they test tentative new romantic relationships. Alice Kelleher is a wildly successful Irish novelist who, in the wake of a nervous breakdown, has rented an isolated, "chaotically huge" old rectory three hours from Dublin on the outskirts of a coastal town where she knows no one. Felix Brady, a local whom she meets on an inauspicious first date after they connect on Tinder, has made a mess of his life and has landed, unhappily, working at a large shipping warehouse.


Interwoven with their story is that of Eileen Lydon, a hyper-intellectual, ridiculously low-paid editorial assistant at a Dublin literary journal where she spends her days inserting missing periods between W. H. Auden's initials. Smarting from a painful breakup, she seeks solace in the company of her oldest friend, Simon Costigan, a parliamentary assistant who, over the years, has casually dated a series of much younger women. Simon has been a light in her often-unhappy life since early childhood — and she's loath to risk losing his devoted friendship for a serious relationship that might go wrong.


Rooney's characters are smart and deep but also flawed, frequently exasperating, and woefully insecure. Socially challenged and constantly tripped up in the minefields of intimacy, they yearn for connection — including sex — but all too often sabotage even promising relationships.


Lots of books deal with "sisterhood". Probably my all-time favorite is Rebecca Wells "The Divine Secrets of the YA-YA Sisterhood". If you've never read it, get your hands on a copy and ENJOY. Another great read is Kathryn Stockett's "The Help". I'm sure you all have read this one. You'll find both of these in my home's library. Lisa See's "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" is another great book. Explore "female friendships" at the library or online to find your own favorites. And remember to talk about your books with you new "soul-sisters"!!


Source: NPR, GoodReads


That's all for this November day, ladies. Love and light to you-all, and to your "soul sisters."

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