20th Century Fox Photo
The movie "Hidden Figures" told the story of the unsung, barrier-breaking black women who helped America succeed in the space race.
In the south we have a way of identifying people. Not always by their name, but often by "their people." As a youngster you are often asked, "Who are your people?", meaning who are your mother and father. Your name is not important. As a woman, you further lose your identity when you become married and then it is absolutely and completely buried when you have children. For me, I will forever be known as "Nicholas and Eli's mama." Does that mean that I do not exist? Does that mean that my service is not valued? Does that mean that I am not a child known by God?
The writer of Matthew in tracing the genealogy of Jesus in Chapter 1 reminds us that "Who are your people?" is not a custom limited to the southern United States. The text clearly shows us that women lost their names to the classifications of "mother" and "wife" in ancient times, too, when they were mentioned at all. Lineage amazingly jumped from one generation of man to another. Yet the writer in peppering the names of women through the text establishes that the women's presence in these scriptures affirms that women were not and are not marginal in the family of Christ.
Earlier this year I sat in a theater in Chicago with two bishops (who happen to be women) and watched through tear-filled eyes the movie "Hidden Figures." The movie introduced us to women of color who performed invaluable service in the exploration of space and yet whose names had only been discovered because their story had been shared. These women had not been named or unnamed in history. Their names had been "hidden."
As we celebrate Women's History Month, consider how rich history would be if the women were named, if their stories were told, if stories were told from their viewpoint. Take a moment to think of the named and unnamed women in your life who have shaped your faith; the nursery worker, the Sunday School teacher, the doctor, the teacher, the pastor, the mother, the wife, the grandmother, the aunt. Take another moment to consider the women whose names were hidden or forgotten. Their names may not be in a book, but that does not negate their existence, their influence, their nurturing, and their guidance for making disciples and for transforming the world.
Dear God, we give you thanks for the women who are named, for the women who are unnamed, for Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan and for other women whose names are hidden. Thank you for their presence, their gifts, their service, and their example. We give thanks that You, dear God, have called us by name.
Dawn Wiggins Hare is the top executive of the United Methodist General Commission on Status and Role of Women. This article is republished with permission from the GCSRW newsletter.