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For our first themed column, in deference to the 9/11 disaster, we have selected the topic of healing. While the first several quotations pertain specifically to that horrific event, most of the quotes are broader-based.

My own view of healing is that, despite a male dominated medical industry, it is a particularly female art. Women have stroked the fevered brow of the ill for millenia; they have bound up wounds and winding clothes; they have mended clothes and fences; they have sown and reaped and cooked to feed their families; they have suffered degradation, deprivation, rape and oppression, only to become strong at the broken places and to move on. Healing is part and parcel of the female nature.
- In sisterhood, Elaine Bernstein Partnow, Editor


To her daughter's request to hang out an American flag: "Definitely not. The flag stands for jingoism and vengeance and war." Her daughter replied: "The flag means standing together and honoring the dead and saying no to terrorism."
Katha Pollitt (1949- ), American journalist, poet, The Nation, September 2001

It can't go unspoken that most Americans didn't much notice the plight of Afghan women and girls until bin Laden delivered his diabolical philosophy to our shores. Which suggests that the United States no longer can afford to ignore human rights violations anywhere they exist.
Kathleen Parker, American columnist, Orlando Sentinel, 4 October 2001

As we recommit ourselves to patriotism -- to a richly deserved love for this wonderful, wounded country -- we mustn't forget that, while our military and economic strength keep us flourishing, the nation's heart and soul are its love of liberty and justice and freedom.
Geneva Overholser, American columnist, The Washington Post, 18 September 2001

In the name of progress, pluralism, tolerance and liberty, you leave no choice for those of us who are not fortunate enough to share this sensation of liberty and the benefits of the civilization you wish to defend for your people, we who never had sympathy for terrorism since we were its victims. We, who are proud expressions of other civilizations; who live day to day with the hope of turning discrimination and plunder into recognition and respect; who carry in our souls the pain of the genocide perpetrated against our peoples; finally, we who are fed up with providing the dead for wars that are that are not ours…
Rigoberta Menchú Tum (1959- ), Guatemalan Indian rights activist; Nobel Peace Prize, 1992; Goodwill Ambassador for the Culture of Peace; from "An Open Letter to George W. Bush," 23 September 2001

There are people in each religion who hold their beliefs in a tightfisted way as if it were the only thing that could be true. There are also people in each religious tradition who hold their beliefs in an openhanded way, an invitational way, making their faith part of a complex and multireligious world.
Diana Eck, American author of A New Religious America, 2001

Turning off the TV news meant not only the shock of sudden silence, but the fact of having to move through that silence. It was a burial, a plowing under of visceral and sensible attachment to what had been lost, and this meant that the tragedy, which had existed outside of myself as national broadcast, had to live inside my skin from that moment on.
Allyson Goldin, American writer, from an e-mail essay (September 2001)

Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed
At the starlight's last gleaming
And with G-d's holy love
Shining down from above
Gave proof to us all
That our strength is still here
Eryn Kalish, American citizen; spontaneous rephrasing of "The Star Spangled Banner" at Marin County vigil (September 2001)

It is desperately painful to see people die without having done anything to deserve it, and yet this is how lives end nearly always. We get old or we don't, we get cancer, we starve, we are battered, we get on a plane thinking we're going home but never make it. There are blessings and wonders and horrific bad luck and no guarantees. We like to pretend life is different from that, more like a game we can actually win with the right strategy, but it isn't.
Barbara Kingsolver (1955- ), American writer, "A Pure, High Note of Anguish," Los Angeles Times (23 September 2001)

Try tropic for your balm,
Try storm,
And after storm, calm.
Try snow of heaven, heavy, soft and slow,
Brilliant and warm.
Nothing will help, and nothing do much harm.
"Of the Properties of Nature for Healing an Illness" by Genevieve Taggard (1894-1948), American poet & educator

Healing depends on listening with the inner ear -- stopping the incessant blather, and listening [ital.]. Fear keeps us chattering -- fear that wells up from the past, fear of blurting out what we really fear, fear of future repercussions. It is our very fear of the future that distorts the now [ital.] that could lead to a different future if we dared to be whole in the present.
The Pregnant Virgin (1998) by Marion Woodman (1928- ), Canadian Jungian analyst and author

To heal ourselves we also have to heal society.
Sacred Pleasure (1995) by Riane Eisler (1931- ), Austrian/Cuban/American macrohistorian and author; founder of Center for Partnership Studies and the International Partnership Network

I would mend and with vengeance.
The Love Object (1963) by Edna O'Brien (1932 - ), Irish/English writer and pacifist

Too often we associate healing only with medical treatment . . . [but] healing is more than just physiological . . . the patient can take part in his own recovery. The family can offer a vital supportive environment in this effort.
The Healing Family (1984) by Stephanie Matthews-Simonton 1940 - , American psychotherapist; pioneer in cancer psychotherapy

Nothing cures like time and love. . . .
"Time and Love" (1970), song by Laura Nyro (1946-1997), American singer and songwriter

The work of healing is in peeling away the barriers of fear and past conditioning that keep us unaware of our true nature of wholeness and love.
Minding the Body, Mending the Mind (1987) by Joan Borysenko (1950?- ), American educator, psychotherapist, yoga instructor and biologist

Sofia (the character portrayed by Winfrey in the film The Color Purple) teaches us that there is a great will and power inside us all, and that you can overcome anything. You can be down, you can even be broken, but there's always a way to mend.
Oprah! (1987) by Robert Waldon, quoting Oprah Winfrey (1953- ), American TV and film producer, actor and host

What a shame that
I'm not a fortune teller.
I would tell fortunes
only with flowers
and I would heal
the earth's wounds
with a rainbow.
"Telling Fortunes," from First Draft (1987) by Nika Turbina (1974- ), Russian poet

Twentieth-century medicine, which has worked so many miracles, has been chemically not structurally oriented. Hence, the lay mind thinks of chemistry as the only outstanding healing medium -- a drug for this, a shot for that. But any mirror photograph would reveal that a great many problems are matters of structure, of physics . . .
Rolfing (1977) by Ida P. Rolf (1896-1979), American biochemist and physical therapist; developer of Rolfing

Since "cure" and "heal" can be used interchangeably, I didn't reflect before making my choice…. The one occurrence is not necessarily more miraculous than the other, but the drama of it -- the paralytic rising to his feet and trudging with his pallet past the outraged scribes, Lazarus staggering from the cave's mouth in his stinking graveclothes -- distracts and delights as healing's tedium cannot do.
Ordinary Time (1993) by Nancy Mairs (1939- ), American essayist

. . . the inner voice; the human compulsion when deeply distressed to seek healing counsel within ourselves, and the capacity within ourselves both to create this counsel and to receive it.
You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down (1981) by Alice Walker(1944- ), American writer, poet, teacher civil rights activist

Creative visualization is magic in the truest and highest meaning of the word. It involves understanding and aligning yourself with the natural principles that govern the workings of our universe, and learning to use these principles in the most conscious and creative way.
Creative Visualization (1978) by Shakti Gawain (1948- ), American therapist, dance teacher, workshop leader, writer

How could one live, while such things were going on? How could one endure consciousness, except by giving oneself up wholly and forever to helping, and comforting, and at last, at last, perhaps healing?
Mr. Skeffington (1940) by Mary Elizabeth Arnim (1866-1941), Australian/English writer

Showing up for life. Being blessed with the rebirth that recovery brings.
One day at a time.
Glad Awakening (1987), with Chris Chase, by Betty Ford (1918- ), American civic leader and First Lady

The night has been long,
The wound has been deep,
The pit has been dark,
And the walls have been steep.
Refrain from "A poem from the Million Man March" (1995) by Maya Angelou (1928- ), American writer, poet, actor, activist

Recovery is so difficult to navigate because one is required to travel simultaneously in two directions: to walk again through the familiar landscapes of the past and to journey at the same time into unknown territory, to live as one has never before lived.
"Landmarks" (c. 1998), essay by Terry Wolverton, American literary editor, writer, poet

We see nothing, we walk gropingly, and…ordinary things do not come about as they have been foreseen and advised. One falls and, just when one thinks oneself at the bottom of an abyss, one finds oneself on one's feet.
Letter to her son (1652) by Marie de L'Incarnation (1599-1672), French nun; founder and mother superior of the first Ursuline Mission in Canada; quoted in Word from New France (1967) by Joyce Marshall

There are moments when one cannot weep, nor speak, nor pray, -- only be quiet before God.
The Slaveholder's Daughter (1900) by Belle Kearney (1863-1939), American writer, educator, lecturer

"Why must you always try to be omnipotent, and shove things about? Tragic things happen sometimes that we just have to submit to."
The Salt of the Earth (1935) by Rebecca West (1892-1983), Irish/English writer, literary critic, suffragist

I think my biggest achievement is that after going through a rather difficult time, I consider myself comparatively sane. I'm proud of that.
Remark (1979), Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (1929-1994), American editor, photographer, First Lady

That's what I like about you; you're like me. We're both going to make it because we're both too tough and crazy not to!" And we held each other and laughed and cried about what we had paid for that toughness, and how hard it was to explain to anyone who didn't already know it that soft and tough had to be one and the same for either to work at all, like our joy and the tears mingling on the one pillow beneath our heads.
Zami (1983) by Audre Lorde (1934-1992), American poet, writer, feminist

…come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.
"Song at Midnight" from The Book of Light (1993) by Lucille Clifton (1936- ), American writer, poet, educator

Surviving meant being born over and over.
Fear of Flying (1973) by Erica Jong (1942- ), American poet, writer

We have survived and in that survival is our life, our strength, our spirituality. And we are telling about it…
Preface by Linda Hogan (1947- ), American writer, poet, playwright, Indian rights activist, educator; in The Stories We Hold Secret (1986)

FUMIKO. Ha. First our women put on dresses, then cut their hair, and smoke like men….
KIHEIDA. You see what your Yankee freedom has done? You live in Kobe, a beautiful city ravaged by Yankee fire bombs, your own parents victims of them. How can you strut about in American clothes as Yankees walk in their ashes?
FUMIKO. (somberly). I do not look back, Obisan.
Asa Ga Kimashita (Morning Has Broken; 1981), play by Velina Hasu Houston (1957- ), American writer, playwright; co-founder, Amerasian League

Man's unique reward, however, is that while animals survive by adjusting themselves to their background, man survives by adjusting his background to himself.
For the New Intellectual (1961) by Ayn Rand (1905-1982), Russian/American novelist, screenwriter, philosopher

The human community is evolving. . . . We can survive anything you care to mention. We are supremely equipped to survive, to adapt and even in the long run to start thinking.
Quoted in article about Doris Lessing (1919- ), English novelist, playwright; in The New York Times Magazine (25 July 1982),

We allow our ignorance to prevail upon us and make us think we can survive alone, alone in patches, alone in groups, alone in races, even alone in genders.
Address to Centenary College of Louisiana (March 1990) by Maya Angelou (1928- ), American writer, poet, actor, activist

a woman can't survive
by her own breath
she must know
the voices of mountains
"Fire" by Joy Harjo (1951- ), American poet, writer, musician, filmmaker, educator

Mere human beings can't afford to be fanatical about anything. . . . Not even about justice or loyalty. The fanatic for justice ends by murdering a million helpless people to clear a space for his law-courts. If we are to survive on this planet, there must be compromises.
A Cup of Tea for Mr. Thorgill (1957) by Storm Jameson (1891-1986), English editor, writer

I have wept to see thee weep.
"Stanzas, written between Dover & Calais," from Poems (1775) by Mary Robinson (1758-1800), English/French poet, playwright, novelist, actor, teacher

The most practical thing in the world is common sense and common humanity.
My Two Countries (1923) by Nancy Astor (1879-1964), American/English politician, civil rights activist; first woman to sit in British House of Commons

You can't give people pride, but you can provide the kind of understanding that makes people look to their inner strengths and find their own sense of pride.
Article in Reader's Digest (October 1972), "Mother" Charleszetta Waddles (1912- ), American nun, writer; founder of Perpetual Mission for Saving Souls of All Nations, Inc.

If I had known what trouble you were bearing;
What griefs were in the silence of your face;
I would have been more gentle, and more caring,
And tried to give you gladness for a space.
"If I Had Known" by Mary Carolyn Davies (fl. 1920s-30s), American poet, playwright, songwriter, editor

I have come to know for certain that our first identity is not nationalist or unionist, but our humanity. I have come to know for certain that love and compassion are the greatest and strongest forces operating in our world today.
"A New Vision -- An Open Letter to the IRA" (2000) by Maireád Corrigan (1944- ), Irish peace activist; recipient of Nobel Peace Prize, 1976

Return to "Women of Wisdom" Main Page

Elaine Bernstein Partnow is the editor of "Women of Wisdom," and she is a perfect fit for this task. Compiler of the noted work The Quotable Woman, The First 5,000 Years, Elaine started working on the first edition, way back in 1974, she was making the transition from actor to writer. Now in its 5th edition. The Quotable Woman has become the standard book of quotations for women's studies programs and organizations all over the English-speaking world. She also wrote The Female Dramatist a few years back, and has just came out with a new collection, The Quotable Jewish Woman, Wisdom, Inspiration and Humor from the Mind and Heart. Elaine has marveled at how her work in women's history has changed who she is and how she is. Ever eager to share that experience with others, she merged her two passions - acting and women's studies - and began, in 1984, to present living history portraits of notable women to civic and educational institutions. To date she has given more than 400 such presentations to upwards of 50,000 people, not only across the U.S.A., but in Mexico and even China! You can find out more about Elaine by visiting her web site: www.TheQuotableWoman.com.


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