“No Purely Feminine Woman”

Margaret Fuller

“While women sometimes wished to be men in order to partake of their freedoms and opportunities, ‘men never.’”   This statement appears in Megan Marshall’s new biography of  Margaret Fuller (1810-1850).   The quotation continues: men never “in any extreme of despair, wished to be women,” Marshall summarizes, since there was nothing enviable in women’s lot, [Read More...]

Discovering Saints and Sisters

In 2005 some visitors to a German museum accidentally found themselves in an exhibit called “Crown and Veil,” a dazzling collection of art and artifacts from women’s monastic houses.  Perhaps guessing the title would hold out to them something glamorous and familiar—princesses? wedding dresses?—the guests expressed their dismay upon discovering what it held: “Oh dear, [Read More...]


That children should do chores might seem so obvious as to be unworthy of mention.  I considered the question in a recent Boston Globe article.  No suspense: I do think children should do chores.  But revisiting an important book about the Reformation, of all things, strengthened that conviction. Considering “The Religious Beliefs of Teenagers” in [Read More...]

Redefining Parenthood?

This week The New York Times noted a new landmark in the transformation of parenthood.  Julie Cohn’s article follows the experience of women in a Vietnamese village who, because war in the 1970s reduced their chances of becoming brides, decided to have children anyway. One by one they asked men — whom they would never [Read More...]

Are you a None? NPR on Losing our Religion

This past week NPR ran a five-day series on the “Nones,” the increasing number of religiously unaffiliated Americans.  The title comes from a Pew study released last fall noting an uptick in those who described their religious affiliation as “none.”  About a fifth of American adults, and a third of Americans under 30, classify themselves [Read More...]

Ready for Christmas?

Santa Claus

As this posting falls on December 24 it seems virtually impossible to make it a workaday one rather than a seasonal theme.  The relationship between work days and Christmas was handled memorably in the early years of colonial America by the governor of Plymouth, William Bradford.  His band of Pilgrims being low church and high [Read More...]

Beechers in the Backyard

We are still in the thick of Civil War commemorations— perhaps Americans never are far from  them–and entering a fresh phase with the release of Lincoln on the big screen.  For Georgetown, Massachusetts, where my family lives, Civil War memory has two primary foci: the Massachusetts 50th Volunteer regiment, Company K, a fellowship of town [Read More...]


How should we interpret Hurricane Sandy, blowing near Salem, Massachusetts, in the days before Halloween? Might it be read providentially, as it could have been read by the colonists who made the place famous by their treatment of witches? Or is it really an enhancement of Halloween, tempestuous winds to make the party spookier and [Read More...]

Poverty, Chastity, and Delivery

A mother expecting her twenty-fifth baby is just one of the shocks that greet young midwife Jenny, main character of the new PBS series Call The Midwife.  Imported from the BBC, the show is adapted from a book of the same title by Jennifer Worth, midwife, nurse, and musician, who died in 2011. This is [Read More...]

Where Was California at the First Thanksgiving?

This summer our family traveled to southern California, a first trip to San Diego.  Our children clambered through tide pools on Point Loma peninsula at the Cabrillo monument.  This National Park honors Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the first European to alight in 1542 on the west coast of what is now the United States of America. [Read More...]