The stories about you that we read today end up mostly being about a man, and how he raised you from the dead. But this letter is for you, Tabitha; I hope it won't be redirected. I'm writing about how you managed to gather together women during perilous times. I wonder what you would say about how that all worked out. Last week, after all, women around the world gathered on a scale that was unimaginable during your time. Children and men, too.
Ojibway elder Arthur Solomon famously said that "it is time for women to pick up their medicine to help to heal a troubled world." That's what you did. You gave widows and other vulnerable women a safe haven in your home 2,000 years ago. What medicine did you offer one another, I wonder? Was it the medicine used to raise you up?
Of course, your story has few details. You lived in Joppa (now the port city of Jaffa in Israel). You would have had good fish recipes then, seen sailors on the street, and known danger, beauty and exotic wares in your market. What’s more, you were "always doing good and caring for the poor." It's believed that you, yourself, were widowed but had enough money. You were beloved, and you were a seamstress.
One day, though, you dropped dead, and then you were raised. There's little more to your tale. We just know that your lovely name Dorcas — or Tabitha — means "deer." Were you quick and quiet also?
Because "women's work" never really changes, it’s not hard to imagine your life. We, too, know about sewing circles women chopping, stirring and baking, as well as children running underfoot. It's not hard to imagine you listening to stories of violence or joy over cups of hot tea.
This past week, American politics and a murder in a mosque have shocked and awakened us to the need for true healing and balance. At the Women's March on Washington D.C. on Jan. 21, Jungian analyst and author of Gather the Women, Jean Shinoda Bolen, addressed tens of thousands. She is 80, and like environmental activist Joanna Macy — who is 87 — has decided that retirement must wait. They want to continue being a part of this monumental narrative of change. Is that what raised you up, too, Tabitha? Do you have more to do and more stories yet to tell?
People around the world are still talking about the joy and enthusiasm of the women's gatherings. In our family, alone, there are many stories: Ottawa's Women's March was attended by my 84-year-old cousin — his first time protesting on the streets. And our daughter, Sarah, drove all the way from Toronto to Washington to be a part of this story.
In Calgary, 6,000 of us gathered at the statues of The Famous Five — the women who worked to have women declared "persons" in 1929. It reminded me that we must know our history and that gatherings of women have always been part of our global story from the beginning. "Gather the women" is a call to action, a prayer and a healing step. You knew that, of course, and I’m grateful that you did and that men included your story in Scriptures, which we consider to be sacred today.
Bolen said at the march: “I’m not speaking of the need for women to run the world; I'm saying that women need to speak up and speak the truth in order to bring balance into the world."
I thought of you, Tabitha, when she also declared that "we have seen the resurgence of women's strength and power." So thank you for your part in our women's story.
This is the third in Carolyn Pogue’s “Letter to a Spiritual Ancestor” series.
Get The Observer’s latest stories on justice, faith and ethics by signing up for our e-newsletter. It only takes a few seconds to join and we’ll deliver award-winning content to your in-box.