I asked my 3-year-old daughter if she knows what it means to be brave. She didn’t. I told her that it means “doing something you are afraid of, or doing something that is hard.” Then I read Seven Brave Women with her. We discussed several different ways that everyday women in the past were brave.
Seven Brave Women by Betsy Hearne is a story about the brave deeds of the author’s ancestresses. Each of them did something hard or courageous. For example, her grandmother, who was a harpist-architectural-historian, went to a men only college. There was a sign there that read, “no dogs, children or women.” She took tests by herself in an empty room.
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It’s the perfect book for Women’s History Month. This year’s theme is “Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business.”
The introduction to Seven Brave Women says that history books often mark time by the wars that men fought. Then each spread tells about an ancestor in the author’s family who made history by not fighting in the war that occurred during her life, but doing other difficult things. We read about a hardworking homemaker, a horse-riding painter, a missionary doctor, a single working mother, and a storyteller. The storyteller is the author’s mother, who also told stories about the brave women in their family, keeping alive a rich tradition of women to look up to.
After each page, my daughter and I reviewed what the woman featured on the page did that was brave.
Later that day, the neighborhood kids came over to play at our house and I asked them if they know any brave women. They couldn’t think of any, so I showed them the picture of each page in the book and briefly shared what each woman did that was brave. They were really fascinated by one of the woman who sewed up her own finger when it was cut. After reading the book, I asked again if they knew any brave women. They said yes. One of the girls said she knew a single mom.
The last page is from the perspective of a little girl who is the youngest in the line of brave women. She says, “I am not a woman yet, but I can do great things…I will make history the way my mother and grandmothers and great-grandmothers and great-great grandmothers and great-great-great grandmothers did. There are a million ways to be brave.”
Brave actions the female ancestors of the author took:
-left Switzerland and crossed the sea in a wooden sailboat while pregnant with her husband and two small children
-migrated in a covered wagon
-married someone outside of her culture
-did hard work on a farm all her life
-made candles, soap, bread, butter, jam, medicine
-helped neighbors when they were having their babies
-when a sharp knife slipped and cut her finger open, she stitched it up with her other hand
-rode a horse with a real saddle, not sidesaddle
-rode all day to the nearest town each Friday to tak eart lessons
-went to medical school when it was hard for women to become doctors
-went to India as a missionary
-started a hospital just for women and delivered many babies, while having four of her own
-treated diseases of women at the hospital
-played basketball on the first girls’ team in her state
-went to France to take harp lessons from a famous harpist
-went to school to become an architect even though the men put up a sign that said “no dogs, children, or women allowed.”
-designed a built a house for her family
-taught college students about the history of buildings
-wrote two books
Making our own Brave Women book
When I was 12, my mother guided me to create a book about seven women in my family tree that did incredible things. It was and still is a treasured booklet.
I wanted my daughter to learn about her own family tree of brave women. Since she is young, I thought it would be best to stick with ancestors she knows: mom, her two grandmas, and her four great-grandmas.
Starting with myself, I chose an anecdote from my life that illustrated courage that I thought she would be able to relate to and understand. Then I selected a photo of myself and made a coloring page of it.
I did the same for my mother and mother-in-law, seeking a little help along the way. Both of my grandmothers have written their personal histories and it was delightful to re-read them for this little project. I gathered some more anecdotes for my husband’s grandmothers from memories added by cousins to FamilySearch, and more coloring pages for each woman. When done I showed the pages to my daughter and got out the crayons. She switched to water colors halfway through the day and worked on it off and on as she bopped about the house playing and hanging out with me.