I joined the Women Unbound Challenge because it fit in with something I’ve been wanting to do – look back at how women are viewed and treated over my lifetime. Sixty plus years is a long time and I know many things have changed.
In this my first post, I decided to go back to my childhood and look at what I thought it means to be a woman. I was inspired by an article on the Women Unbound website written by Eva Etzioni-Halevy. She wrote a post (and several books) about the strength of Biblical Women. Since I spent so many hours during my youth in Bible study, I wondered how that study influenced my early opinion of women. I decided to take a look at one of my feminine heroines – Esther.
First I went back to the Old Testament and read the book of Esther again. And then I read Charles Swindoll’s Esther: A Woman of Strength and Dignity. In case you are unfamiliar with Esther’s story, here are the highlights:
- There was a powerful king (Xerxes) who gave a week-long party. After seven days of wine, King Xerxes decides to show off his beautiful queen. He ordered her to appear with her crown.
- [Scholars believe the king meant with only her crown or maybe her crown without a veil.] Queen Vashti was outraged and she refused to go.
- King Xerxes is also outraged and banishes her as his queen. A new queen will be found.
- All the beautiful young virgins are recruited and a beauty pageant of sorts is arranged.
- Esther is the one chosen. After a year of intense beauty treatments, she is finally taken to the king and becomes his queen. No one knows she is Jewish.
- The king has a right-hand man, Haman, who is the bad guy in the story. In addition to all his evil characteristics, he also hates Jews.
- There is also a good guy, Mordecai, who raised Esther although Mordecai tells Esther not to tell anyone about their relationship. Mordecai has done some very good deeds. One of them was to foil a plot to kill the king.
- But Haman hates Mordecai and he issues an edict to have all the Jews killed.
- Mordecai warns Esther.
- Now Esther could stay in her own cushy position as the queen but instead she plans a way to tell the king and stop Haman.
- At great risk to herself, Esther tells the king of Haman’s plan and exposes her own heritage.
- The king honored Esther’s courage and stopped Haman. He also promoted Mordecai.
What did this story tell me about being a female?
- Be careful when you refuse to do something your husband demands you to do.
- On the other hand, take a stand if you are being ordered to do something that is against your principles. Hooray for Queen Vashti!
- Being physically beautiful is the most important thing. You must keep up with the beauty treatments.
- Every woman has to think for herself and act according to what she believes is right.
- It takes a lot of courage to do the right thing, even if you are the queen.
I loved this story as a girl. It seemed so romantic and, to me, Esther was a real hero. But it did tell me that a woman can gain her identity in only one way: become a wife. I recall a conversation with two of my aunts about this subject. They told me that today (early 1950’s) things are different. Now girls can become nurses and teachers – until they got married, that is.
That’s it for step one in my look back at the roles of women during my lifetime. What were your impression of women when you were a child?