The Past and Literary Heroines

Condervatives love the past, or an idealized version of it. “The Past” is an important but imprecise concept for Christians convinced a “return” to Biblical morality will solve all that ails us. They may mythologize certain archetypes of American ancestry: cowboys, tycoons, pilgrims. They tend to favor historical or classic fiction to history texts. 

While many raised in conservative Christian environments have low literacy, especially children homeschooled by under educated parents, I was blessed with books and a family who love to read. I read Shakespeare and Poe, C.S. Lewis and Jo March, Robert Lewis Stevenson and Lewis Carol, all before middle school. 

We also had an amazing video library. Before Netflix and TiVo, there was my Giggy. She’d comb through the TV Guide movie listings to decide what to record on VHS that week. Tapes were labeled using a color coded system by genre, and she’d tape the synopsis from the Guide on the side of the box. I always had something wonderful to watch.  

I realize now how many literary heroines helped me stick up for myself, rebel, and fight for what I believed. Because they were women of the mythic godly Past, I was allowed to read about them or watch movie adaptations and learn from them. So long as a feminist icon wears long dresses and can’t vote, she can be snuck past ideologically entrenched parents. 

Jo March with her tomboy streak, Anne of Green Gables breaking her slate over Gilbert’s head, Sarah Crewe finding hope in despair with the power of her imagination. Real life Hellen Keller and Anne Sullivan were celebrated for their “miracle”, so I was able to learn about their socialism.These girls and women were role models I was allowed to have. It shouldn’t surprise me how connected I feel to the eras they lived in.

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