Honouring those who paved the way for others: TWU authors on women who shaped the world
“The daily actions of faithful women have shaped—and will shape—the world in significant ways."
— Dr. Robynne Rogers Healey, Professor of History
“It is easy to get caught up in the idea of doing something ‘big’ to make change,” said Robynne Rogers Healey, a history professor at TWU and specialist in Quaker history.
“I am working to uncover the history of women who are not as well-known.”
In honour of Women’s History Month in March, four TWU authors reflected on women who shape the world in small and great ways.
“The daily actions of faithful women have shaped—and will shape—the world in significant ways,” said Dr. Healey.
Holly Nelson, professor of English, also works to bring attention to lesser-known histories. She said that in history, there is a “tendency to focus on the heroic male experience,” with women in the background “routinely presented as emotionally unstable or a burden.”
Her recent book on British siege warfare, co-authored with her sister, focusses on written records in which “men, women, and children of the town or city are more often shown heroically working together for the common good and taking on military roles.”
"It is always important to hear a wide range of voices in history if we hope to access the truth about the past and apply historical lessons to the future in pursuit of the best possible world for all," she said.
As the first Canadian-born member of her family, Monika Hilder is a Cloverdale-based author and English professor who specializes in fantasy and children’s literature, with a particular focus on the writings of C.S. Lewis and other Inklings-related writers.
Dr. Hilder said that the women who inspire her are many. “My mother, who lived bravely through many of life’s hardships and encouraged me with loving faith (and) an incredible love of story, is my shining star. And my daughters ever so deeply cheer me with their faithfulness, resilience, compassion, chutzpah, and plain brilliant zest for life—with their love.”
After a year of working and teaching remotely, Dr. Hilder admits that it has been a strange and challenging time. However, she finds inspiration in her own students.
“I have been so blessed – again! – to be teaching my wonderful students. It’s amazing to me how we’ve been able to have community through Zoom classes,” she said.
“My students’ courage, creativity, deep interest in learning, and passionate love for our Lord gives me such happiness and great hope. I applaud these blessed souls!”
Jan Lermitte, who teaches English, creative writing, and leadership, says that the pandemic has presented uneven challenges in society. “Data shows that during the recent pandemic lockdowns, women more often left their jobs or worked at home to care for children and elders than did men,” she said.
One woman in history who inspires Professor Lermitte is the writer Dorothy L. Sayers.
“In spite of her own personal struggles, which included having a child before marriage, living in poverty, marriage to a man with mental illness and alcoholism owing to war trauma, and pressure to provide financially for her family, Sayers tackled her work with enthusiasm and good humour,” Professor Lermitte said.
As a writer herself, Professor Lermitte says, “I celebrate the women scholars and writers who are drawing on historical texts to tell broader, more inclusive stories about the role of women in Canada’s history.”
She added, “I believe that women’s contributions to the arts are critical to the emotional and cultural health of our society; women artists have an important role to play as voices for peace, justice, and love. “
Robynne Healey has authored several publications, including her latest title, Quakerism in the Atlantic World, 1690–1830 (May 2021). Holly Nelson, together with her sister Sharon Alker, a professor of English at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, published their book, Besieged: Early Modern British Siege Literature, 1642-1722, in January 2021. Monika Hilder, author of a three-volume study of C.S. Lewis and gender, is the co-editor of The Inklings and Culture: A Harvest of Scholarship from the Inklings Institute of Canada, published in December 2020, a volume in which Jan Lermitte contributed a chapter.
See also: this story in Langley Advance Times.
About Trinity Western University
Founded in 1962, Trinity Western University is Canada’s premier Christian liberal arts university dedicated to equipping students to establish meaningful connections between career, life, and the needs of the world. It is a fully accredited research institution offering liberal arts and sciences, as well as professional schools in business, nursing, education, human kinetics, graduate studies, and arts, media, and culture. It has five campuses and locations: Langley, Richmond-Lansdowne, Richmond-Minoru, Ottawa, and Bellingham, WA. TWU emphasizes academic excellence, research, and student engagement in a vital faith community committed to forming leaders to have a transformational impact on culture. Learn more at www.twu.ca or follow us on Twitter @TrinityWestern, on Facebook and LinkedIn.
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