Written by Nancer Ballard; ed. assistance by Savannah Jackson.
Until women can visualize the sacred female, they cannot be whole and society cannot be whole.
– Elinor Gadon
In late November in the United States, Thanksgiving is a holiday to celebrate the harvest and gratitude. Many of us also share food with people from other cultures and circumstances. The first “American” Thanksgiving was celebrated by 53 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans in 1621. Thanksgiving was officially declared a federal holiday by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 during the American Civil War to express hope for an end in civil strife, and as a day of gratitude. Some Americans also observe American Thanksgiving as a day of mourning to commemorate genocide against Native Americans by United States settlers.
Not surprisingly, the United States was not the first to celebrate harvest feast days. The Canadians held October harvest feast celebrations years before the Pilgrims arrived, and the French and Spanish have been celebrating harvest feast days since at least the 16th century. Wisdom practices such as honoring female deities connected to nature, expressing gratitude, sharing, and giving, are integral to many indigenous cultures and communities.
Regardless of your geographical location or cultural identity, the season of harvest seems appropriate time for The Heroine’s Journey Project to review some of the year’s gifts.
We appreciate the thousands of site visitors from around the world who read our blog posts, send comments and suggestions, and ask us questions. We are grateful for the essays, plays, books, and stories sent to us by our readers. In particular we’d like to give a shout out to Jean Marie Bishop who sent us her plays about Jeanette Rankin, the first woman to hold federal office in the United States when she was elected to the House of Representatives in 1916, and Mary Dyer, an American Puritan turned Quaker who was hanged in The Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1660 for defying Puritan law banning Quakers in the colony. We would like to give a shout out to Jody Gentian Bower, author of Jane Eyre’s Sisters; How Women Live and Write the Heroine’s Story who sent us an essay on the Heroine’s Journey; to Duda Dorea, who is translating The Heroine’s Journey Project site into Portuguese so that it can be more widely shared in Brazil, and Judah Quinn, a filmmaker in Australia who is making a documentary on five women’s experiences with the Heroine’s Journey in their lives. We are hoping to feature some of this work in the coming months.
This year we are sorry for the passing of Elinor Gadon, cultural historian, Indologist, art historian, Resident Scholar at Brandeis University’s Women’s Studies Research Center. She is the author of The Once and Future Goddess; a visual chronicle of the sacred female and her reemergence in cultural mythology and was an exuberant student of the heroine’s journey throughout her long life. Filmmaker Megan McFeeley put together an excerpt from her two-hour interview with Elinor in 2000 for Elinor’s Celebration of Life at Brandeis. We hope to introduce you to Elinor Gadon’s and Megan McFeeley’s work in the near future.
Your most-requested items are the names of books, films, and stories that include a Heroine’s Journey. This fall we have begun to compile lists which we plan to add as permanent page to the site this spring.
Some of the books with heroine journeys that we’ve reviewed in the past year include:
Department of Speculation by Jenny Offill (fiction);
Fun Home by Allison Bechdel (graphic novel, later made into a musical);
Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon (non-fiction with many heroine journeys depicted in the descriptions of the lives of non-conventional families);
Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverni (historical fiction);
Lila by Marilyn Robinson (fiction);
Once and Future King by T. H. White (the first portion of the book known to many as the story of The Sword in the Stone is a Hero’s Journey, but the book as a whole is a Heroine’s Journey);
Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (nonfiction); and
Chalice and the Blade; Our History, Our Future by Riane Eisler is not a heroine’s journey story but traces the origins of the descent of goddess worship and the psychological impacts of the denigration of female deities on men, women, and cultural values through archaeology, anthropology, history and religion.
Movies we have recently reviewed and plan to blog about in the future include:
Boys on the Side directed by Herbert Ross and starring Whoopi Goldberg, Mary-Louise Parker, and Drew Barrymore;
RBG, a 2018 American documentary directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen, on the life and career of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg which includes both elements of the Hero’s Journey and Heroine’s Journey. RBG was chosen by the National Board of Review as the Best Documentary of 2018; and
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson, the story of a Native American’s health worker’s search for the truth about the death of prominent transgender activist Marsha Johnson.
In the next few weeks look for an upcoming post on “Kicking the Stone,” a wonderful short story by Barbara Leckie in Salamander, one of the literary journals that’s one of the offerings from the Journal of the Month Club.
Later in the winter and spring we will be exploring work by Jean Marie Bishop, Elinor Gadin, and suffragist scholar, memoirist, and playwright, Pam Swing and her student playwright co-author, Elizabeth Dabanka. We are also seeking to interview several others working with the Heroine’s Journey in a variety of disciplines.
We will also be focusing on how the Heroine’s Journey can be applied to social activism and, hopefully, collaborating with others working on similar projects.
We would love additional suggestions from our site visitors. Send the name of a book, story or film with a sentence or two on why you think it follows the Heroine’s Journey and we will review it as we work to expand our lists. Meanwhile, may your lives be full and your burdens light.