When Generations of Silent Women Speak


By Cheryl McGrath | Twitter: @breadforbride


The voices moving around me are strong. They are loud, articulate, and powerful. Most of all they are young, charged with the unmistakable exuberance and vigour of youth. They are young with the outrageous brashness of those who have carefully examined the well-worn path grudgingly offered to them and firmly declined. Those who own these voices will define their own way through the forest—a way new and untrodden.

There is courage in these voices. And hope.

Ah, hope! Some of us had all but forgotten you.  

A renewed hope: forged of deep conviction and passionate commitment.

A tough hope: doggedly flourishing in the face of apathy and prejudice.

A fervent hope: refusing to quietly tolerate injustices already too long borne.

In these voices I sense a tenacious, faith-drenched determination that trumpets their intention to neither turn back or compromise.

I love these voices! They shout life and passion and liberty to me. They sing vitality over me and dare me to anticipate things I thought forsaken. They joyfully reawaken me, daring me to contemplate possibilities mislaid somewhere in the loneliness of a struggle that has been too lengthy and too wearying.

These voices belong to my sisters: bubbly, broody, bossy, beautiful, brave, believing sisters!

Women who BELIEVE—in my God and His consummate goodness; who BELIEVE He delights in their womanhood; and who unequivocally BELIEVE He has called them to express His loving heart in all its diversity and fullness.

Their contagious enthusiasm spills over me, washes away my weariness and causes me to lift my thirsty mouth to the same fountain they now call their home.

I see them clearly, immersing themselves in the cleansing waters, gleefully splashing the sparkling, invigorating flow onto one another’s faces. This fountain’s name is Freedom: a freedom long denied to far too many of us. They own this freedom now, and no-one will ever snatch it away again. And knowing this, I rejoice and eagerly submerge myself into the fountain—our fountain—alongside them.

And yet deep within me a familiar, voiceless grief tugs, refusing to be still. 

Something is missing—something unspeakably precious. I struggle to identify its source until, with an indescribable jolt of sadness, I know: it is the voices of so many silent generations. Generation after ageless generation of women whose worth was rejected and whose sound was cruelly silenced.

Looking back I can see them: gray shrouded figures marching through history like a never ending line of ghostly prisoners.

My heart weeps and I cry out to them: “Where are you, Grandma, Auntie, Mother, and Sister? I miss you! We craved your voice, yet they dressed you in grave clothes and forbade you to speak. We longed for your wisdom, yet they cast you out as deceived and defected. And now we shall never hear you, or learn from you, or share in the beauty you carried within your breasts!”

From the shadows a multitude of voices answer softly: “No, Daughter. Don’t look back at us in sorrow, for we are there with you, striding fearlessly into the freedom our young sisters now boldly claim as their own. Within their voices our voices reside. With their every step we too celebrate a new path. Dance for us, sing for us, embrace our emerging freedom! For womankind has waited long for this moment. Go now, Daughter. Go forward! For the tide is turning and shall not be held back. Know that it carries us also in its flow!”

I was so nearly one of them, those gray figures shrouded in silence and oppression. And while I joyfully join in the song of awakening freedom and celebrate unashamedly in the fountain with my beautiful, newfound sisters, there remains within me a grief for those of my own generation who still sit, worn and weary, imprisoned within their shrouds of silence.

A wordless prayer rises from the deep recesses of my soul, taking flight heavenward.

May our fountain of freedom overflow to encompass these ones also.  But more: may none of our daughters, or theirs, ever know what it is to bear the weight of those gray and brutal shrouds.


About Cheryl McGrath: 

CherylCheryl is a wife, mother, grandmother, and occasional ministry leader. She blogs at breadforthebride.com as well as the collaborative blogsite ishshahsstory.com. She doesn’t like labels except for the tag ‘Christ follower’ to which she will happily make an exception. She loves daffodils, chocolate and anything red. Cheryl lives near the beach on the eastern side of Australia with her husband of 40-something years,  and two crazy Springer Spaniels, Shiloh and Hunter.