Gathering the Fragments:
Writing a Life
Volume 2, Issue 3 (Spring/Summer 1999)




Letters to the Editor


Confronting Our Truths: Jewish Women Learn to Tell their Stories
Joyce Rappaport

Leaving Home: Finding a Voice
Mary T. Malone


Friendship in the Desert
Lisa M.Phipps


The Journalism Thing
Sadia Zaman


Digresssions of a Would-Be Apprentice Mystic
Felicia Klingenberg

Dreaming the New Sacred Place
Claire Paulette Turcotte


Hearts of Women
Fredelle Brief

The Face of St. Olga
Melinda Burns

In Search of Anonymous Women
Marilyn Fardig Whiteley

A Woman's World
Laura Wolfson

The Aroma of Life
Danette Adams

Breaking the Silence: When Writing Saves a Life
Sadako Jokura

Writing Women's Lives: Canadian Woman Studies/les cahiers de la femme
Luciana Ricciutelli


In Memory of Her
Shirley Jane Endicott


Revisions: A Spiritual Diary
Bob Chodos

Embodied Thinking: Carol Christ Finds Meaning in Feminist Spirituality
Pat Stortz

Book Notes



* * * * *


It was once suggested (I no longer remember by whom) that if one woman were to tell the truth about her life, the whole world would break apart.

Over the past three years, in the pages of Vox Feminarum, women have been speaking their truths -- loudly, clearly, beautifully. Regardless of the theme of individual issues, what have been published, in the end, are marvelous collections of women writing their lives, speaking their truths. So, when we began -- after what seemed like endless anticipation -- working on this issue, with the ambitious title of "Gathering the Fragments: Writing a Life," we knew that simply sharing more stories of women's lives wouldn't be enough.

We started out, as we often do, with a list of lofty question: Where and how do women's stories figure in different religious/spiritual traditions? How do women's stories figure in the study of religion? What resources are available for studying women's stories? What are the politics of telling women's stories? Will the world, indeed, break apart? What are the different ways in which women tell their stories? What are the values and limitations of these different ways? What are the issues surrounding spiritual life stories? And so on, and so on. In the end, though, as we worked with our many contributors, we recognized that there was really only one question -- ironically, the one with which we began: "How, why and at what cost do women tell the truth about their lives?"

In the pages which follow, you will find that question answered in many ways. You will encounter the work of historians, workshop facilitators, writers, poets, journalists, artists. You will find yourself witness to moments of horror and of wonder, to admissions of fear and declarations of triumph, to love, loss and truth. And you will have the opportunity to read some quite remarkable pieces of writing.

You will also find, to my great joy, a kind of internal "resonance," which can only be hoped for in any thematic issue. There is, for example, an intriguing interplay between the essential sense of isolation which comes with writing ("Writing is an act of courage, a daring to speak to deaf ears, to speak myself into existence, to insist that I am") and the life-giving sensibility which derives from sharing the writing process ("Writing together, we realize the wealth of stories we have lived and are creating, and come to know the vitality of our great women's hearts"). In the repeated surfacing of symbols, rituals or images (you will notice, for example, how often our writers touch upon the purifying waters of the mikveh) there is, I think, an overwhelming sense of continuity in women's experiences -- a sense which is beautifully illustrated in Shirley Jane Endicott's personal midrash, "In Memory of Her."

Certainly, for all our contributors, there is evidence of an element of risk. Joyce Rappaport journeys with women who risk the horrors of the Holocaust to recover their truths; Mary Malone risks recovering the stories of Christian women from her fundamentally new stance outside of that tradition; Sadako Jokura risks cultural isolation to share the truth about her breast cancer with other Japanese-Canadian women; Sadia Zaman risks the work she loves in her search for an environment in which that work can be done through the lends of her own experience. For these women, as I suspect for all women, telling the truth does not come easily nor does it come without repercussions.

In some instances, the consequences of truth-telling are wonderful. This issue is, if nothing else, testament to the extraordinary possibilities open to those who speak their truths. In other circumstances, though, the price which women pay for their honesty simply is too high, and we are left complicit in the toll which is exacted. Does that mean, then, that we should somehow subvert our truths? That we should opt for safety instead of risking censure, in any of its myriad forms?

When you've spent time with the women who've contributed to this issue (who, in the end, not only addressed our one animating question -- along with many of those more "lofty" initial inquiries -- but also shared the stories of their remarkable lives), I think you'll agree that the only possible answer is "NO, and NO, and NO!"

In the pages that follow, many women have told the truth about their lives, and the world certainly hasn't broken apart -- but perhaps, just perhaps, the cracks have gotten a little bit bigger.

Ginny Freeman MacOwan

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