Thursday, November 3, 2011

Peace Laureates and Other Women of Valor

It  always seems impossible, until it's done. Nelson Mandela

Beginning with the poem, Gynergy

Tribute Poem for Dr. Wangari Maathai

Celebration of Dr. Aung San Suu Kyi

Poem, Circle of Fire

Poems, The Black Madonna

and Pear Wood

with Images from Chartres Cathedral

Poem,  The Spirit of Sojourner Truth Tribute f

for Three African American Women Priests

of the Episcopal Church 



Oslo, Norway~ 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Conferred Upon 
           Tawakkol Karman of Yemen, Leymah Gbowee and 
                      President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia 

In 2014, Pakistani Malala Yousafzai became the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Prize in any category. At 17 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her activism for education in her country of Pakistan. At 11 and 12 she kept a blog describing the lives of girls in her country and declaring herself committed to demanding equal opportunity for girls to receive a complete education. She managed to send her blog to the BBC in England, which published it to alert the world to her cause. At 15, while getting on her school bus she was shot in the head by a man representing the Taliban. 

She nearly died, but was flown to England where she underwent surgery and rehabilitation. She survived to redouble her dedication to the cause.  
For Antonia Brico, pianist and conductor, who was the first woman
to conduct the New York Philharmonic in 1938.
I wrote this poem as a tribute to her on my thirtieth birthday,
four decades later, three years following my participation
in the group of eleven Episcopal women to break the male-only
barrier to the priesthood.
                          *   *   *
I have been asleep for ten years of my life,
but today am waking, waking~~

Aware of the seahorse
alone in his quiet lair,
the male mother who gives birth
laboriously in salt water, and
Aware of the male nanny grebe
who cares for the kids
while mother bird tests
her wings against the sun
for food to feed their young~~

Aware also of the countless gifts
of female energy that would surely
explode the world if they were known,
and go wasted, as if to spare the planet,
but instead, the plant dies with them~~

Aware of the beauty of old women’s
hands on young women’s shoulders 
who take to the fluid process of science,
clay, bronze, steel, paint or poetry, or pound out
their magic music on primitive drums, on strings,
through horns, sending their lusty wail—
To Life! To Life!

Aware of these forces I wake
out of my middle years
to look into the infinite
eyes of my sisters, daughters,
mothers, Grand-and-Godmothers,
caught in their endless circle of energy,
created anew in their nurture, begin to see
the vast deep roots of my woman-nature
reaching around Earth and held in their
circular fire with great white waters
running under~

And wonder, for wonder,
how I shall ever sleep again—

                             Alla Renée Bozarth

Love’s Prism, Sheed and Ward 1987; Womanpriest: 
A Personal Odyssey, revised edition 1988, Luramedia 
and Wisdom House; Water Women, audiocassette, 
Wisdom House 1990 and Stars in Your Bones
Bozarth, Barkley and Hawthorne, North St. Press of St. Cloud 1990

Below the video links following Wangari Maathai's tribute poem
you will find "Circle of Fire" for the nine million women killed
for their gifts in the past millennium, and a paean to the "Black
Madonna" archetype, the Divine Feminine buried alive, but 
ALIVE, underground, and still accessible on the surface as well,
emerging more and more. . . . .

Women Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, 1901-2014

“One woman can change anything.
Many women can change everything.”
Women for Women International

      The first woman to become a Nobel Peace Laureate was Baroness Bertha von Suttner, author of Lay Down Your Arms and honorary president of the Permanent International Peace Bureau in Bern, Switzerland. She was Alfred Nobel’s friend and as a great founding peace activist, his inspiration for establishing the Peace Prize as chief among the categories. He fully expected the terms of his will establishing the tradition to confer the first Nobel Peace Prize upon her, but masculine point of view among the committee members omitted the last phrase of Nobel’s appointment criteria, which stated that winners were not to be limited to Swedes but should be chosen from among all peoples, both men and women. “All peoples” was interpreted by point of view to mean all men, and the last clause was dropped from consciousness in the earliest choices and apparently thereafter until recent times. Bertha von Suttner, referred to as their commander-in-chief by other peace activists who nominated her numerous times, did not received the prize, first granted in 1901, until 1905. Marie Curie became the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize and the first person to become a double laureate, winning in Physics in 1903 and Chemistry in 1911. The highest prize, however,  was withheld for four years until Baroness von Suttner was at last acknowledged, fulfilling Albert Nobel’s implicit intention.
  The great founder of the settlement house movement, Jane Addams, was the second Peace Prize recipient in 1931 in recognition of her peace activism during World War I with the International Congress of Women, and for helping to found the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. She shared the Peace Prize with Nicholas Murray Butler.  

    Fifteen years later in 1946, Jane Addams’ friend and colleague, Emily Greene Balch, who had been fired by Wellesley College from her 20 year long position as professor of economics because of her World War I peace activism, was awarded the Peace Prize for her valiant efforts and steadfast integrity of conscience.  She was by no means an ideologue, for her pacifism did not prevent her from supporting World War II, which may have been a strong factor in her receiving the prize.  

   After a thirty year lapse on the part of the Nobel Committee in the appointment of women among the Peace Laureates, in 1976 Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan shared the Prize for founding the Northern Ireland Peace Movement, in which Roman Catholics and Protestants joined in the effort to bring social justice to all Irish people peacefully, by protesting violence on both sides and advocating for the power of peaceful witness.

   Following them in 1979 was Macedonian born Mother Teresa, minister of mercy and peace to the dying and suffering poor of India. 
 In 1982, Alva Myrdal, a Swedish economist and activist for human rights, ambassador to India and first woman to become a United Nations department head, shared the prize with another disarmament advocate and activist, Alfonso García Robles of Mexico, after the United Nations Disarmament Committee had failed in its own disarmament mission.

   In 1991 the Nobel Peace Prize was conferred upon Aung San Suu Kyi, the graceful and determined leader of democracy and human rights in Myanmar (Burma), while under house arrest for over two decades.

   In 1992 the Peace Laureate was Rigoberto Menchú Tum of Guatemala, for her  work of  cultural and ethnic reconciliation based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples.

   In 1997, Jody Williams became the 10th woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, in recognition of her work with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

   In 2003, Shirin Ebadi was the first person from Iran and the first Muslim woman to become a Nobel Peace Laureate in recognition of being Iran’s chief leader for human rights and a major voice for women and children in the Muslim world.

   In 2004, Kenyan Wangari Maathai, ecofeminist, teacher and founder of the world-wide Green Belt Party. [See tribute poem below.]

   In  2011, Tawakkol Karman, powerful activist for democracy and women’s rights in Yemen, accompanied by Leymah Gbowee and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, ardent and brilliant Liberian reform leaders for Rule of Law against all violations of human rights, particularly those of women and children.

   In 2014, Pakistani Malala Yousafzai became the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Prize in any category. At 17 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her activism for education in her country of Pakistan.
At 11 and 12 she kept a blog describing the lives of girls in her country and declaring herself committed to demanding equal opportunity for girls to receive a complete education. She managed to send her blog to the BBC in England, which published it to alert the world to her cause. At 15, while getting on her school bus she was shot in the head by a man representing the Taliban. 
She nearly died, but was flown to England where she underwent surgery and rehabilitation. 
She survived to redouble her dedication to the cause.  
Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, 2004

 “In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift
to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when
we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now.”
Wangari Maathai, 1940-2011

Wangari Maathai
Unbowed toward men
she bows only to Earth, our Mother.

She speaks truth to men with brutality in their brains
and they beat her and imprison her, but while her body heals
her mind grows stronger and her voice grows freer.
She continues to speak.
She speaks for our Mother in a clear mother’s voice:
Harm not the Earth nor Her children.

The men with brutality in their brains beat her again when she demands
that they abandon their insane plan to tear up a garden in the city
and replace it with another phallic skyscraper. She wins that one.
Victory after victory, Earth wins through her persistent labor.

She shows how poverty and the degradation
of Mother Earth and the oppression of women
and children are one crime against God the Creator.

She dreams of trees and plants them.
But it is not enough. She dreams of poor women
throughout the land receiving livelihood and planting trees.

She calls the women into alliance— The Green Belt Movement.
She gives them momentum and they do not stop moving.
Professor of veterinary science and champion of all living beings,
she pays a small stipend to poor women to plant trees.

One by one, the forests return to her homeland of Kenya.
She remembers the spirits of rivers and streams she loved as a child.
She remembers how Mother Earth used to be before the greedy
men with brutality in their brains assaulted Her.

When personal and professional attacks come, she runs for Parliament
as candidate for the National Rainbow Coalition and wins,
defeating the ruling party.

She is appointed Assistant Minister in the Ministry for Environment
and Natural Resources. She founds the Mazingira Green Party of Kenya
to allow candidates to run on a conservation platform as modeled by
the Green Belt Movement. It becomes a member of the Federation
of Green Parties of Africa and of the Global Greens.

When the people of France award her the Legion of Honor in thanks,
the men with brutality in their brains try to beat her.

When the world gives her the Nobel Peace Prize for her work
to make peace between humanity and Earth—
the foaming-mouth men with brutality in their brains
try to beat her with words and false accusations,
but her Truth wins out.

She has left us now, but her Earthmother’s voice rings loud and clear.
Her true-speaking voice rings loud and clear.
She can be beaten no more, and her spirit still speaks.

For all we who have heard and been blessed by the truth
are her voices now. Inspiring each other, we sisters and brothers
who hear and speak out for the future give strength and hope
to our children, who will also speak out.

All you who hear today,
make it so for tomorrow—

       Alla Renée Bozarth 
Diamonds in a Stony Field 
       Copyright 2011.

Short Wonderful Videos:
"I Will Be a Hummingbird" video from the Heart of Wangari Maathai:

"Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai" video of tree planting power:

"A Voice for Trees" and the Green Belt Movement:

"Planting the Future," September 29, 2011 and "Nature's Coded Wisdom"April 30, 2009 ~Krista Tippett's audio interviews with Wangari Maathai on National Public Radio, to hear or read~

"A Tribute to Wangari Maathai" 

The Pomegranate  Tree of Life
by Anne Shams

June 2012, Aung San Suu Kyi Travels to Geneva, Paris, Dublin and 
London during Her Trip to Norway to Receive the Nobel Peace Prize

Dr. Aung San Suu Kyi, the beloved leader of the movement for democracy in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), was freed at last on November 13, 2010. As General came a symbol of triumph over adversity when her house arrest for most of the past two decades ended and she was finally free to travel in her own country and abroad. She traveled her country preparing for orderly democratic elections in 2012, whereupon the people elected her to be a member of Parliament with expectations of making her their president within a few years. Her freedom made it possible for her to undertake an arduous journey to Geneva, Switzerland, then Oslo, Norway, where she could at last accept the Nobel Peace Prize she was awarded in 1991 on June 16, 2012 in person, followed by a return to England where she had completed her academic studies and earned her master's and doctoral degrees in the 70s and 80s, after a visit to Dublin where she received the Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award from the humanitarian singer, Bono.

 Photo by Peter Muhly~ AFP

The Irish Times - Monday, June 18, 2012 

A Mandela moment  

When Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi attends the “Electric Burma” concert today in Dublin to receive Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience award from U2 singer Bono, it will be a moment of celebration and a chance to reflect on the transformation of Burma from a brutal military dictatorship to a country facing into a democratic future.

When Suu Kyi last visited Europe in 1988, Charles Haughey was Taoiseach [Prime Minister, pronounced "teeshox" or "teeshaw"], the BerlinWall stood, and the Internet was science fiction. That same year, the military junta, which had seized power in the former British colony in 1962, ordered a crackdown on democracy activists and killed about 3,000 student protesters. In the intervening 24 years, Suu Kyi has spent 15 years under house arrest in Rangoon, and even during her periods of freedom, never dared leave as she knew the generals would not let her return. Her dignity and defiance made her a symbol of hope for democrats all over the world. It is right she should enjoy her moment of recognition in Europe and receive in person the Nobel Peace Prize awarded her in 1991.

The rate of change in Burma since November 2010 has been rapid. President Thein Sein, a former general, has transferred power from the army to civilian rule, freed political prisoners, relaxed censorship, and allowed Suu Kyi’s National League of Democracy to function. Where previously Suu Kyi suffered, now she triumphs. She received US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at her house in Rangoon, as a free woman. She became a member of parliament two months ago after a landslide by-election win for the NLD.

These achievements aside, Suu Kyi’s political struggle is only beginning. In the next few months she will have to ensure reform stays on track. In Burma, most commentators believe the changes are real but warn that Thein Sein has stuck his neck out very far. It is vitally important that international sanctions introduced over the past few decades in response to human rights abuses and broader oppression, such as the violent crackdown on democracy in 2007, begin to be removed.
If sanctions are not lifted and Burma does not see real economic development as a result, Thein Sein will come under huge pressure from military hardliners to stand aside and let the junta resume control. There are rumblings of unease from the generals over how to deal with regional conflicts in Burma’s multi-ethnic constellation. . . . Ethnic minorities want more autonomy within a federal structure, along the lines of a plan drafted by Suu Kyi’s father General Aung San, in 1947. The chances of the generals tolerating that are slim. . . . When the roars of the crowd from her first European tour recede, her task at home will be back to ensuring reform continues and Burma does not slide into

                               Photo by Jeremy Russell, Office of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama

In contrast with her 64th birthday which she spent in jail, sharing biryani rice and chocolate cake with her guards after being arrested and sentenced to prison and hard labor (later commuted to 18 more months of house arrest) because she had given shelter to an exhausted swimmer who came to her home by water to warn her that she was in danger~ on her 67th birthday, June 19, 2012, Suu Kyi met with the Dalai Lama in person in London. The spiritual leader of the people of Tibet in Exile since fleeing his country in 1959, he has great spiritual kinship with her. Decades ago while she was earning her advanced academic degrees in Oxford and London she met her husband Michael Aris, who along with his twin brother Anthony was a young scholar of Buddhist cultural studies. Michael and Anthony were born in Havana where their mother was the daughter of the Canadian ambassador to Cuba and their English father was an officer with the British Council.  They married in England in 1971 and had two sons. After a year in Bhutan, they returned to North Oxford to raise their sons there. Michael developed his academic career specializing in the cultures of Bhutan, Tibet and other Buddhist Himalayan countries. In 1988, Suu Kyi returned to Burma to be with her ailing mother, Khim Kyi, the former ambassador to India and Nepal. At that time, she became aware of the dire situation in her country and stayed on to work and witness for democracy. She was elected Chairperson and General Secretary for the National League for Democracy in 1988 and ran for Parliament still holding and representing that office when she was elected as full member in 2012.
She picked up the torch of freedom from her father, Aung San, who was assassinated shortly after this family portrait was taken when Suu Kyi was a toddler in 1947~ for his own efforts to create a democratic government. She is shown in white with her brothers Aung San Lin and Aung San Oo and their mother Khim Kyi, who was also politically involved and deeply committed to the cause.
Above, pictures of Suu Kyi and Michael in England before their wedding 
and on their wedding day in 1971. 

Aung San Suu Kyi's family, Alexander, Kim and Michael Aris, 
accept her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize

In 1991, Michael and their two sons Alexander and Kim accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in behalf of Suu Kyi. Her elder son Alexander Aris delivered the acceptance speech (photo above). Her husband was allowed to visit her only five times after she had been placed under house arrest. Their last visit was at Christmas, 1995. Two years later he was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. Though both UN Secretary General Kofi Anan and Pope John Paul II petitioned the Burmese government to allow Michael to come to be with his wife, he was denied. Michael Aris died of cancer on his 53rd birthday, March 27, 1999, while his wife grieved in internal exile, unable to be with him in his last hours.

On June 20, 2012, Dr. Suu Kyi, finally free and reunited with their sons, returned to the country where she and Michael were both young scholars, fell in love and married, to receive an honorary doctorate in civil law from Oxford University of London in addition to her earned doctorate in 1985 from the University of London School of Asian [Oriental] and African Studies. The honorary degree in acknowledgment of her heroic self-sacrifice for democracy in her country was conferred on her in 1993 when she was unable to accept it in person, though temporarily not under house arrest, for fear of not being allowed back into her country. In her acceptance speech she said that she was able to endure 15 years of house arrest because of what she had learned at the university.

On June 21, 2012, she became the first foreign woman to address both Houses of Parliament jointly in London. Queen Elizabeth II is the only other woman to have done so. The only other foreigners to have this privilege are United States of America President Barack Obama, former President of South Africa (after his own internal exile) Nelson Mandela, and Pope Benedict XVI. Suu Kyi appealed to Great Britain, the former foreign empirical power over Myanmar, to help the country achieve complete democracy. Even as she spoke, dozens of people had been killed during three weeks of fighting between Muslims and Buddhists in the far western region of Myanmar. She pointed out that the work had only just begun and Myanmar needed the continuing support of the Western World and Great Britain in particular to see it through.

                                            The Washington Post  June 22, 2012

Suu Kyi had been to 10 Downing Street to meet with Prime Minister Cameron, who had visited Myanmar, and later she was a guest of Prince Charles, heir to the throne, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall at their home in Clarence House, where she planted a tree in their garden. (And Dr. Wangari Maathai smiled from Heaven!)

Aung San Suu Kyi stands for gentle strength winning over bullying, reason winning over violence, faith winning over giving up~ and proves the power of perseverance to achieve a precious goal. 

After so many years in isolation in her modest home, deprived of the joys of family life with her beloved husband and sons, Suu Kyi said that she began to feel unreal, but when she received the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her sacrifice in devotion to the cause of democracy for her people, she felt again actively connected with the whole human family:
"Often during my days of house arrest, it felt as though I were no longer a part of the real world. There was the house which was my world. There was the world of others who also were not free but who were together in prison as a community. And there was the world of the free. Each one was a different planet pursuing its own separate course in an indifferent universe. What the Nobel Peace Prize did was to draw me once again into the world of other human beings, outside the isolated area in which I lived, to restore a sense of reality to me. . . . And what was more important, the Nobel Prize had drawn the attention of the world to the struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma. We were not going to be forgotten," she said during her 40-minute oration. CBS/AP Oslo

She said that finally being able to accept the acknowledgement in person opened up a door in her heart. 

The people of Myanmar often address Dr. Aung San Suu Kyi by the word, “Daw,” used as a term of profound affection, respect and reverence for a woman of wisdom. In 2017, however, she has drawn harsh criticism for not speaking out against government and Buddhist persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority group. This seems so contrary to her ethos that I can only believe that she is under constraints imposed on her by undisclosed facts which will eventually be revealed. 

I don't hold Aung San Suu Kyi responsible for this horror. She is not the president of Myanmar. She has no real political say in government. Any attempt on her part to interfere would be ineffective, as she knows from past experience. Those who want her to rescind her Peace Prize assume that she has the power to stop the atrocities and is willfully not using it. She does not have the power. And she does not publicly say what her feelings are about it. The world has taken her silence as its license to condemn her, which I believe is unjust, a failure to take into account the totalitarian nature of male dominated society in Asia, where people who want to stay alive are prudent in disclosing, and mostly not disclosing, their criticism of government. Aung San Suu Kyi spoke out and criticized the government that had killed her father, and for her cry for justice she was arrested and deprived of freedom for 15 years. I think that she is now being sensitive to her limits, relying on the condemnation of the world to cry for justice in Myanmar as being more effective than anything else would be.

Receiving the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize on June 12, 2012 from 
Thorbjoern Jagland, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

With Thorbjoern Jagland and Kaci Kullmann Five,
Deputy Chair of the Nobel Committee

To view and listen to Dr. Aung San Suu Kyi's Nobel Lecture delivered in her own voice, go here: To read the entire text of her Nobel Lecture: 

At the White House, Sept. 19, 2012

In Yangon, Myanmar

November 12, 2012

Welcoming President Obama to Her Homeland

Warmth between Colleagues and Friends
 *  *  *  *  *
Gentle power such as these great leaders practice encourages women and members of minority groups everywhere to persevere in achieving their own freedom and fulfillment, discovering and developing their abilities and interests and practicing ways in which they can contribute to the greater good of others. Sometimes it's hard not to go under, give up, be buried alive or destroy oneself because one is  overwhelmed with desperation and despair. But there is an alternative, and that alternative is to tell the truth about the lives of the oppressed, the needs of human beings and other beings who suffer because of human evil, and to overcome that evil by bearing witness and proving that creativity is stronger than the insatiable greed for power and possession that unconscious people practice in futile effort to ease their insecurities and self-contempt. Let us give thanks and bless all those who transcend their circumstances and leave the world their positivity and creativity, no matter what.

For All the Women Who Did Not Throw Themselves Under the Train 

With gratitude to Phiamma Elias, creator of the film, Homeskillet, and all the actors, composers, singers, cinematographers and volunteers who collaborated to make the film.
Too many books have been written by men about women who
killed themselves one way or another~ Tolstoy’s Anna, who took  a dive 
onto the train tracks as dirty steam and shrieking whistles 
sent up her message to the world.  

In the end, she’d given too much for too little wherever she’d tried
to make her life a gift and it was received with presumption or contempt,
as merely a disposable function. 

This prevented her from being alive with the one person who loved her
without masks or complications~ her young child. 

Then there was bored Madame Bovary, whom Flaubert poisoned 
with gruesomely slow hemorrhagic arsenic after years of bad choices 
for something, anything that would make her feel alive. 
Sylvia Plath lived out her death at the oven 
while her sick children slept like drugged angels. 

Kate Chopin wrote her own account of a woman’s desperation  
and blank, mute despair, and she wrote of strength along the bayou  
trails of survival. Tony Morrison channels haunted spirits from slavery,  
and her witness is a victory that is theirs and ours, as we increase our ability 
to hear and receive, and to say No More, not only with words, but tremendous
acts of faith in our own and each other’s risky actions.

Louise Erdich demands love in the midst of struggle, and shows how 
it’s done, loss, grief and all. Love Medicine begins with a woman named June 
freezing to death on her way to the reservation, then the story completes 
her intended journey and reveals reservation life, where people find strength 
drawn from love of the land, enduring through poverty, addiction, 
the full spectrum of human desperation, with hope and humor 
shimmering in the dark. 

The Beet Queen moves out into the heart of a German plains white town 
where loss, abandonment and familial dissolution backdropped by a coming  
second world war affect people across ethnic borders, revealing the power 
of forgiveness to heal, to restore lost dignity and mend the broken.

Anneliese Frank, Edith Stein (Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) 
and Etty (Esther) Hellisum went down among the six million Jews 
in the Holocaust, leaving their gifts to history, our gifts now, the wisdom,  
courage and power of testimony. Whether a gifted ordinary girl of 15,
dreaming of love or helping her mother with Shabbat celebrations 
as quietly as possible in their secret attic hiding place~ or a Jewish   
philosopher/contemplative Carmelite nun whose doctoral dissertation 
was called, “The Problem of Empathy,” and who was once denied  
a professorship because of being Jewish~ or a young woman on the move 
and writing her heart out to keep revising the story as war events worsened~
they did not go down willingly. All of them were murdered in Auschwitz.

They understood the monumental impact of each small, individual life 
in the midst of colossal shared tragedy. Their gifts are among our tools 
of transformation as we relentlessly strive to overcome human evil. 

Enough. Enough waste. Enough abuse. Enough neglect. Enough cruelty. 
Enough militant ignorance or merely blind unknowing.  
Enough already. 

We women have to let ourselves be vulnerable to inspiration,  
to get busy, organize ourselves, exert more leadership to address  
the anguish of the world, by example to encourage all the women  
of the world with their three billion pairs of hands to use them 
compassionately and efficiently, to believe in their own intelligence  
and competence and put their minds to use, many of them writing 
and sending emblems of hope out to the angry, the wretched, 
the hungry and homeless, the rich and cultured, the uneducated, 
the illiterate, the poor, the anguished billions. 

Truth is the antidote to war, and to hunger and homelessness. 
More women need to speak it, write it, drench the fabric  
of human experience with it so people can know they are worthwhile,  
even in confusion, loss, devastating illness or injury to body, mind,  
soul or lifestyle.

For everyone who goes under, hundreds, then thousands must live 
to tell the stories and suggest a solution. I know women doing so right now.  
Their efforts are generously, massively, cooperatively brought to realization—   
their art, their voices, their minds are unstoppable in telling the truth about 
the hidden lives of despair and unsurmounted courage all around us—
under bridges, in doorways and alleys, in churches and synagogues
and mosques, in schools and union meetings, in kitchens and
bedrooms and tents, and under the open sky of sun and stars.

One is an actor, writer and filmmaker, one an investor,  
one a photographer, several are painters, several are teachers,  
many are rabbis, priests and ministers, several are lawyers, judges and scholars 
one is a singer and one is a dancer, many are poets, one is a shuttle bus driver
one a community organizer, one a transportation manager, one a travel agent 
for social justice and medical aid, one a physician, one a nurse, one a therapist 
of mind-body medicine who helps restore hope and teaches reconciliation 
and stress management in countries of conflict or those hit hard 
by natural disaster. Many serve others in shelters

Most are mothers, some are nuns, 
many have never known a day of hunger, 
some have been half-starved. 

What they’re doing is too diverse and too dynamic to describe
on a single page. But I am telling you, they are alive. 
They need our solidarity, our help, our presence and participation.
They need whatever we have to give, beginning with our attention. 

They are giving themselves to good work. 
Day by day, one act of faith and courage after another,
they are saving the world.

        Alla Renée Bozarth        
Diamonds in a Stony Field 
Copyright 2013
And for those women who remained not only unrecognized, but tortured 
and killed for daring to serve humanity, women who gave their all for the
well-being of others, let us now honor them as they continue to inspire us 
from their great communion of healers and liberators in the invisible realms:
Circle of Fire

Alla Renée Bozarth
 For the nine million women killed
for having too small feet, marks on their bodies,
natural religion, desire toward their God,
love of each other, ancient wisdom; for disobeying
husbands, for thinking for themselves, for mystical
flight; for not cooking/speaking/sewing pleasingly;
for keeping silence; for not keeping silence; for
refusing the use and abuse of their bodies and souls;
for healing with herbs by natural laws; for ecstasy
as witches
for six hundred years in the Modern Era

And the more they killed
the more

When the mother goes out                     When the grandmother goes out
to her fields of wheat                               to her colors of amber
to her fields of maize                               to her colors of gold
to her fields of buckwheat                      to her colors of black
to her fields of rice                                   to her colors of crimson
to her fields of flowers                            to her beautiful rainbow colors
when the mother goes out                     when the grandmother goes out    
will she return                                          will she return

And the more they killed                        And the more they killed
            us                                                                      us
       the more                                                          the more

When the daughter goes out                  When the sister goes out
to her paths of honey                               to her wide roads
to her paths of brick                                 to her yellow roads
to her paths of labor                                 to her roads of diamond
to her paths of play                                   to her roads of coal
to her wonderful path of work                to her roads of cement
when the daughter goes out                    when the sister goes out
will she return                                            will she return

And the more they killed                         And the more they killed
             us                                                                      us
        the more                                                          the more

When the friend goes out
to her mines of emerald
to her mines of tin
to her mines of copper
to her mines of amethyst
to her mines of bodies
when the friend goes out
will she return

             And the more they killed
              the more  

The priests and prophets: We honor
The healers and heroes: We honor
The farmers and gardeners: We honor
The midwives and miners: We honor
The judges and geniuses: We honor
The astronomers and physicists: We honor
The teachers and poets: We honor
Their holy lives: We honor
Their courage to deviate
from the subhuman norms
   expected of them:
We honor
                                                 Their unjust deaths: We honor
The women accused: We remember
The women burned: We remember
The women shot: We remember
The women torn: We remember
The women pierced: We remember
The women beaten: We remember
The women flayed: We remember
The women left unburied: We remember
The women buried and forgotten~
We remember

Until They Live Again
Nothing Will Grow…

Through every devastation
We endure
Through every desecration
We endure
Through every destruction
We endure
Through every desolation
We endure
Through every dishonor
We endure
Through every despicable
We endure
Through every horror
We endure
Through every harrowing
We endure
Through every blood-letting
We endure
Through every soul-spilling
We endure
Through every utter holocaust
We endure
Through every hidden history
We endure
Through every outrage of thunder
We endure
Through every circle of fire
We endure

Unto ages of ages
We endure

Our blood endures
Our body endures
Our soul which is One endures
Our spirit and will endure
Our minds endure


When the living blood goes out
When the blood of holy women goes out
When the blood of happy women goes out
When the blood of nurturing women goes out
When the blood of needed women goes out
When the blood of beloved women goes out
When the blood of brave women goes out
When the blood of harried women goes out
When the blood of horrible women goes out
When the blood of wise old women goes out
When the blood of fierce young women goes out
When all the light in the world goes out
When the blood goes out of Us


From Stars in Your Bones: Emerging Signposts on Our Spiritual Journeys by Alla Bozarth, Julia Barkley and Terri Hawthorne, North Star Press of St. Cloud 1990 and Accidental Wisdom by Alla Renée Bozarth, iUniverse 2003. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint write "Reprint permission" in the subject line and and contact Alla: or call 503-668-3119 evenings Pacific Time.

This piece was put to music in cantata form by Minneapolis/St. Paul composer Paul Boesing and performed for the first time with the poet and Calliope Chorus, directed by Nancy Cox at the Women's Art Registry (WARM Gallery) of Minnesota in Minneapolis in 1979. 

"Circle of Fire" is in the anti-war section of the book Stars in Your Bones by Alla Bozarth, Julia Barkley and Terri Hawthorne, near the poem, "Transfiguration" which is part of the permanent collection of the Peace Memorial Garden in Hiroshima along with Julia Barkley's paintings, "Circle of Fire" and "Dragons of Compassion for the Grief of the Soul."


                                                  Black Madonna – Notre Dame de Sous-Terre
                                                             In 1793 the French Revolutionaries burned
                                                    the ancient 11th century Black Madonna in the crypt 
                                                                         of the Cathedral at  Chartres
                                                                    and made her cathedral a temple
                                                                           to the goddess of reason.                                                                                                                                                   
                                                               Up in smoke.
What were they thinking?
Those men dedicated to reason,
replacing my body with hers —
defiling my body’s temple
that had endured five fires
and was rebuilt by angels.

So much for enlightenment.
The light my body gave them
when they put me in fire —
No illumination there.

Pear wood smells sweet
when it burns.

After three thousand years
I became incense,
the incinerated Goddess.
I was Auschwitz, Birkenau,
Cambodia, Hiroshima.

I was every evil conflagration
invented by man.
I was woman at the stake,
child in the ovens,
mother killed in childbirth,
grandmother gassed or shot down.

They could not sufficiently invade
my sanctuary of color and stone
until they burned my dark body
of earth. I was fruitful,
even in fire.

The hissing, crackling charred
cinders soared and so I ascended
into heaven, in the form by which
this church still honors and holds
me dear, not assumed, but ascending
on my own.
Yet I rain down sparks of myself
into human memory. I go deep.
Earth holds and hides me.

A hundred years later the tree
yielded me a new body.
Daughter of that same pear tree
gave me back to my people,
Our Lady of the Pillar.

Notre Dame Sous La Terre
is my real name.

One day she came,
the one who knows me
from my roots.

She waited, then
the doors down below
were opened and she made
her own divine descent.

Down into Earth she spiraled
after me, knowing instinctively
where I waited, my pilgrim daughter
followed the labyrinth flower
down and down and all ways around.

She found me, stood where I live
underground. I felt her eyes,
her loving breath and gave back
breath and love.

At my Holy Well of the Strong
she stood in my strength and bent
down to receive my cool breath’s kiss,
to listen to the voice of my living
water coursing through Earth’s veins
like blood through the womb, like love
through the chambers of the heart.

There in my luminous darkness she prayed
by the fire of one candle where
water meets fire and both live.

Daughter, bring me back to the air.
Take me up with you into light.

Help me ascend to topsoil
and heal the world.
Heal the world with me.

                                                                Alla Renée Bozarth
                                                  The Book of Bliss, iUniverse 2000 and  
                                                  This Mortal Marriage, iUniverse 2003.

                                                    Pear Wood

Every August, late,
or early September,
I walk, basket in hand,
down into my orchard
to gather pears.
The smallest of trees
is always most generous,
always bounty, abundance,
no matter what — drought,
blight, or barren neighbors.
She gives and gives forth fruit,
imperfect and blemished outside
but exquisite and fine within.
She is Empress in the garden,
providing both food and
sweet pleasure.
When the juice of pears
bathes my hands, seeps into my skin,
the smell of pears fills the house,
I thank her.
Peeling and cooking her juicy gifts
I understand why the ancient
Black Madonna at Chartres
is made of pear wood.
Its fruit is the shape of
woman-giving-birth, with its body and soul
it creates miracles of generosity.
It is often overlooked,
its gifts fallen back
into the ground.
It is faithful absolutely
unto death.
It is Earth at her best.
To taste it is joy.

              Alla Renée Bozarth
              The Book of Bliss
               iUniverse 2000
Above is Our Lady of the Pillar commissioned in 1508 as a copy
of the 13th century silver Madonna that once stood on the high altar.
It is in a shrine to the left between the nave and transept. Below is
the Black Madonna of the crypt, a fairly accurate copy of the one
that was burned, resurrected in 1976 with New Pear Wood.
We all have our own personal heroes. Among mine in my own field as a woman ordained to the priesthood of the Episcopal Church are three great women of African American descent:

The Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray,
The Rev. Alcena Boozer, and
The Right Rev. Barbara Harris. 


Pauli Murray was a founder, with 
Betty Friedan, of the National 
Organization for Women in 1966. 


My husband, the Rev. Phil Bozarth-Campbell,  was proud to be a member of NOW by virtue, he pointed out, of its being for women, which allowed supportive men to join. 

Born in Baltimore in 1910, Pauli lost her mother to illness and her father was murdered when she was four and thirteen years old respectively. After her mother's death Pauli was sent to Durham, North Carolina and was raised there by her aunt Pauline and her maternal grandparents. She graduated top of her high school class, taught remedial reading in New York City as a young woman, and wrote and published a novel, Angel of the Desert, and a poetry collection, Dark Testament and Other Poems

She joined the Civil Rights Movement in 1938, worked with the WPA and the NAACP in the thirties, and developed a lifelong friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt. 

My husband, the Rev. Phil Bozarth-Campbell,  was proud to be a member of NOW by virtue, he pointed out, of its being for women, which allowed supportive men to join. 

Born in Baltimore in 1910, Pauli lost her mother to illness and her father was murdered when she was four and thirteen years old respectively. After her mother's death Pauli was sent to Durham, North Carolina and was raised there by her aunt Pauline and her maternal grandparents. She graduated top of her high school class, taught remedial reading in New York City as a young woman, and wrote and published a novel, Angel of the Desert, and a poetry collection, Dark Testament and Other Poems

She joined the Civil Rights Movement in 1938, worked with the WPA and the NAACP in the thirties, and developed a lifelong friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt. 

Pauli Murray was turned down for admission by the Columbia University undergraduate program and by Harvard University School of Law because she was a woman, and she was turned down by the University of North Carolina School of Law because she was black, and shame on them. Every black woman has this double bull's eye on her chest. Pauli's response was to double her counter-assault by persevering until she finally achieved her goal. She earned her bachelor's degree from Hunter College in 1933 and her master's degree in law from Howard University in 1944, with several different kinds of projects in between.  According to Wikipedia, she went to California soon after graduating from Howard, and there she "did post-graduate work at Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley. Her thesis for her master's degree was entitled 'The Right to Equal Opportunity in Employment,' which argued that 'the right to work is an inalienable right.' It was published in The California Law Review produced by the school." Pauli passed the California State Bar Exam in 1945.

Because of her high level of competence and brilliant mind, she soon went on to become a Deputy Attorney General of the State of California in 1946, a position she had to resign from after two months because of health problems. I recently happened to see her in a television film short, busy, purposeful and vivacious at her desk as a young woman in a "March of Times" film documentary, featuring the contributions of African Americans in leadership in the 1940s and 50s.  After her term as Deputy Attorney General of California, Pauli went into private practice and then in the 60s enrolled in Yale University for her doctoral degree in law. She was the first African American to receive that degree at Yale University in 1965.  She became a professor of law as well as continuing her work as a social activist. She taught at the University of Ghana for a time, and held administrative offices at Benedict College and Brandeis University in the 1960s. 

In 1965, the year that Yale conferred the doctor of law degree on Pauli Murray, Barbara Harris participated with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. After the Philadelphia Ordinations, both Barbara and Pauli realized in themselves a call from God to serve as priests. Pauli earned a Master of Divinity degree from Yale University Divinity School in 1976, and then she was ordained a deacon and became the first African American woman priest in 1977. Barbara was ordained deacon in 1979 and priest in 1980, and went on to become the first woman (who happened also to be African American) bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion in 1989.

I urge you to read Pauli Murray's remarkable books, for she was also a great writer and poet. Among her many writings, she is probably best known for her 1956 autobiography, Proud Shoes, which explores the struggle for racial and gender equality. Her posthumous autobiography is called Song in a Weary Throat, a line taken from one of the poems in her book, Dark Testament. Throughout her career her interests and areas of expertise were diverse and deep. She wrote many works on the fine points of law as well as those related to vocation, justice and the soul. She died in 1985, the year after her retirement and the same year that my beloved husband Phil died. 

Phil had been my priest presenter and body-and-soul guard at the Philadelphia Ordinations on July 29, 1974 at the integrated mostly black inner city Church of the Advocate. Barbara Harris was the Senior Warden at the Advocate then, and a prominent businesswoman as executive in charge of public relations at Sun Oil, as well as a leading member of the Urban League. She interrupted her participant-presenter responsibilities at an Urban League Conference in San Francisco to fly back to Philadelphia in order to carry the cross at the head of the liturgical procession and lead us safely into the church to create a fait accompli precedent by becoming the first eleven women priests in the Episcopal Church. Our contribution to American culture in general was incidentally to provide one day of Watergate relief that summer as news and a large picture of the ordinations made the top of the front pages nationally and received a lesser but visible position globally through the Associated Press, offering courage to all women struggling in oppressive institutions. 

Bishop Barbara Clementine Harris retired as suffragan bishop of Massachusetts at the mandatory age of 72 in 2003, and worked as assisting bishop in the Diocese of Washington D.C. until 2007. She is still active in ministry at 80, going in to her office at the Diocese of Massachusetts headquarters several days a week even after a stroke in the summer of 2010, from which she is expected to make a full recovery. I am writing this on September 9, 2010. (In November 2011 I called Barbara. She answered the phone breathless, having just gotten off the train from a whirlwind trip to preach in one or two cities and then attend the consecration of Bishop Mariann Budde at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. ~        

Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon 2012 Annual Community Awards go to the Rev. Mark Knutson, senior pastor of Augustana Lutheran Church; Rabbi Benjamin Barnett of Beit Am Jewish Community; Emir Mohamed Siala of Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center; and the Rev. Alcena Boozer, educator, Episcopal priest and rector emerita of St. Philip the Deacon Episcopal Church.

Alcena Boozer is my local hero, whether as a high school principle working to reform conditions in a mostly black school besieged by demoralization and violence, a priest serving souls as (now retired) rector of the Portland parish Church of St. Philip the Deacon, or helping to carry a large lead banner for equity in a downtown parade for social justice in businesses and the professions. She also holds a position of ecumenical outreach as president of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, and she sometimes can be heard on public radio invoking the Holy Spirit to bless human endeavor. I last heard her strong gentle voice introducing Archbishop Tutu live from the University of Portland and offering the invocation to bless his lecture there and all present. I felt blessed to hear both luminaries over the air waves. Alcena made a tiring nine hour plane trip from Portland to Boston via St. Louis on our way to Barbara Harris' consecration as suffragan bishop of Massachusetts in 1989 not only bearable, but a joy. She is always a lovely companion and a stirring leader.
I've had the privilege of meeting and personally admiring all three of these women. The tenth anniversary of the Philadelphia Ordinations was the last occasion of my seeing Pauli Murray in person before her going back into God in 1985~ a dynamic and radiant light. Each of these inspiring women is a radiant being and a gentle soul as well as a sharp, witty, to the point, down to earth activist and born leader who is close to God and filled with the power of Holy Spirit. Following portions of Sojourner Truth's famous speech below, I wrote for them.

When Sojourner Truth stood up to speak to the sisters, she stretched out her
muscular arm and said~

Ain't I a Woman?                               

 . . . That man over there says that women need to be helped
into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere.
Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place!
And ain't I a woman?    

Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted,
and gathered into barns, and no man could head me!
And ain't I a woman?

I could work as much and eat as much as a man— when I could get it—
and bear the lash as well!
And ain't I a woman?

I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery,
and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me!           
And ain't I a woman? . . .

Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men,
'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from?                           
Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman!                                     
Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough
to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together
ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again!       
And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.

              End of speech by Sojourner Truth delivered at the 1851
              Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio.

In the poem below, "Dark Testament" and "song in a weary throat" refer to the titles of two books by Pauli Murray.


       Bishops Katherine Jefferts Schori, Barbara Harris,  
          Gayle Harris, Chilton Knudsen and Catherine Roskam

The Spirit of Sojourner Truth as a Preacher Today

For Pauli Murray and Barbara Harris, with references
to Sojourner Truth’s famous speech delivered in 1851
at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio, and also
references to Pauli Murray’s poetry collection and autobiography,
Dark Testament and Song in a Weary Throat.

Among Sojourner Truth’s successors in our times—
Pauli Murray and Barbara Harris . . . black female Episcopal priests
who know how to flex their brain muscle in the face of white male
domination, and produce their Dark Testament of suffering and
transformation against oppression, singing their song in a weary throat, 
saying “And Ain’t I a Woman?”
to the white world, in hopes of giving it a little healthy color
sense, and bringing back the commandment of Honor Thy Mother~
to rescue wayward sons from self-made hells.

Do the right thing is what they mean.

The doors that were slammed in their faces
became the work-out equipment for their souls.

They pushed hard against them, and relentlessly,
and down came those doors for their daughters
like Joshua’s walls of Jericho came down
at the clear trumpet’s voice.

Mighty is the voice of a bright woman’s mind,
great are the words of a Spirited woman’s soul.
Heed them. Heed them all, for these our sisters
are as we, flesh of woman’s flesh, human child
of love gone wild in demand of freedom
for those born of her labor—
flesh of woman’s flesh, soul of woman’s soul—
and they shall not be bound.
They shall not be bound again on this Earth.

Let their sons dream dreams and their daughters have visions,
and let them work effectively and sing harmoniously together,
in strength and respect, to restore conscience, truth and hope,
to transform all the bound and broken world.

And as their sister, I accept my proud place behind and beside them.
Gratefully, I follow them into the future, flexing my soul
and lifting my voice with theirs to sing out freedom,
for Ain’t I a Woman?

Alla Renėe Bozarth
From Diamonds in a Stony Field © 2014

To read Bishop Harris' sermon for global justice for women preached at the 25th anniversary of the Philadelphia Ordinations, and to read about more women heroes, including Li Tim-Oi, an ordained deacon who was ordained to the priesthood in war-torn China in 1944 during a crisis when all the male priests were forbidden to cross borders to serve their congregations, and who after the war surrendered her license to officiate as a priest so that her bishop would stop being persecuted by his brother bishops in England; and space scientist and priest Jeannette Piccard, identified by history as the first woman in space when she piloted her husband Jean's hot air balloon invention into the stratosphere; and most recently, Presiding Bishop/marine scientist and pilot Katherine Jefferts Schori, follow the link after "Pearls" at the end of this page.


You are pearls.
You began
as irritants.
The ocean pushed
your small, nearly
rough body
through an undetected
crack in the shell.  
You got inside.
Happy to have a home
at last
you grew close
to the host,
nuzzling up
to the larger body.
You became
a subject
for diagnosis:
invader, tumor.
Perhaps your parents
were the true invaders
and you were born
in the shell—
no difference—
called an outsider
You were a representative
of the whole
outside world,
a grain of sand,
particle of the Universe,
part of Earth.
You were a growth.
And you did not go away.

In time
you grew
so large,
an internal
that the shell
could contain
neither you nor itself,
and because of you
the shell Opened itself
to the world. 
Then your beauty
was seen
and prized,
your variety valued:
precious, precious,
a hard bubble of light:
silver, white, ivory,
or baroque.
If you are a specially
irregular and rough
pearl, named baroque
(for broke),
then you reveal
in your own
body of light
all the colors
of the Universe. 

   Alla Renée Bozarth

Womanpriest: A Personal Odyssey, Paulist Press 1978; revised edition Luramedia and Wisdom House 1988; Water Women, audiocassette, Wisdom House 1990; Stars in Your Bones: Emerging Signposts on Our Spiritual Journeys, Alla Renée Bozarth Bozarth, Julia Barkley and Terri Hawthorne, North Star Press of St. Cloud 1990 and Accidental Wisdom, iUniverse 2003. All rights reserved. For more information or permission to reprint, write to Alla at


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