Daughter of the Patriarchy: Scooby Doo and the Angel

by Sierra By my eighth birthday, Anna’s church had become our own. My father attended sporadically, but my mother and I adopted a weekly ritual of driving forty minutes through the woods, to the highway, passing numerous small churches on our way to the secret annex of the YMCA. No one would have guessed there was a church there, unless they happened by as we all bustled in with our flowing skirts and dresses and exited under the mid-afternoon sun. My mother was enthralled, talking excitedly to Anna and her new friend Sheila every day. A frequent topic of conversation was her journal, in which she recorded her thoughts and prayers as well as verses from the Bible that seemed to answer … [Read more...]

Daughter of the Patriarchy: Old-Girl in Young-Girl Disguise

by Sierra “What did you think?” My mother asked, as our blue Chevrolet rolled smoothly out of the parking lot, mingling with more expensive cars on a fresh-paved freeway. “I liked it,” responded seven-year-old I. “I actually listened.” We were talking about our first visit to Anna and Sven’s church, an informal affair that gathered weekly in the upper annex of a suburban YMCA. The church had begun in the pastor’s living room, hosting only two or three families. Over the next few years it had grown to six or seven. The pastor and his wife had six children, the youngest still a newborn. They’d welcomed a new child every two years since their eldest. Church wasn’t a … [Read more...]

Anything you can do, I can do in a skirt!

by Sierra Young women following the patriarchal doctrine of William Branham’s “Message of the Hour” liked to refer to themselves as the “skirt girls.” Skirts and dresses were the only attire sufficiently modest and feminine for young ladies raised in the shadow of the prophet. Hemlines had to fall below the knees – and stay below them when the wearer was sitting down. Hair often besieged the knees from above, making them a kind of modesty battleground that should never, ever catch a gleam of daylight. Tanned knees were the mark of a harlot. As a little girl, I didn’t mind it much. I was convinced that my wrinkly knees were unsightly and ought to be hidden in the first place. … [Read more...]

Daughter of the Patriarchy: A Terrible Secret

by Sierra When we went to visit the house in Pennsylvania, it seemed remote, dark and expansive. At the inquisitive yet reticent age of seven, I hovered behind my mother’s leg as we looked around the basement of the long ranch house. It wasn’t quite a finished basement, but there was a bar installed with Heineken cans lining the ceiling. A child about my age was sitting on the floor playing with some ugly 1990s toys. We shared a mutual glance of childhood understanding: we were not agents in this business of buying, selling and leasing real estate (I couldn’t yet wrap my mind around what “real estate” meant in the first place). We were the dolls in our parents’ dollhouses, and … [Read more...]


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