Cheryl Leutjen was kind enough to host a living room reading of The Holy Universe at her home in Los Angeles in June 2014. She calls herself, among other things, a “geologist, environmental law attorney, small biz owner, Modern Day Priestess, climate change leader.” She’s also a writer in her own right. Cheryl recently wrote this piece (which was first published on her blog, The Blissful Soul: Adventures in Awareness) about getting her daughter to watch Iron Jawed Angels, a film about the struggle for women’s suffrage:
Iron Jawed Angels Around the World
by Cheryl Leutjen
One of my perpetual goals as a mother is to get my kids to watch Movies with a Message, something with “redeeming value,” as my mother might have said. Recently, I succeeded in convincing Chloë to watch Iron Jawed Angels with me. It’s a film about two young activists, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, whose peaceful zeal and unwavering commitment energized the movement to gain women the right to vote in the U.S.
About 30 minutes into the movie, Chloë said she didn’t understand what all the arguing was about. I explained that the story took place in a a very different time, and that, a hundred years ago, many men were very fearful about giving women the right to vote. Women had never had the right to vote in this country (except in a few states), and men were worried about the changes that would take place if women were given the right to vote. “I just don’t get it, Mom. They should know that you can’t stop a woman. Women are too strong for that.”
The movie proceeded to depict the malevolence and violence waged against the suffragettes, from the taunts and threats to the beatings, the maggott-filled food, and force feedings in the workhouse where they were imprisoned. It was tough to watch, and even more tough to subject my baby girl to watching it. A part of this Mama Bear wanted to shield Chloë from the ugly reality of it all, even in its cleaned-up-for-Hollywood form.
And a bigger part of me wanted her to see it. To prove to her that she was right. The suffragettes never wavered in their commitment to their cause, despite the many setbacks and even their own personal fears and doubts. Chloë and I both cheered, tears streaming down my cheeks, when the film depicted the moment of glory when amendment giving women the right to vote in this country was passed. This right might have been one she, a child of the twenty-first century, would take for granted but for seeing this movie.
I recently read the book Half the Sky, so I know that women around the world continue to suffer injustices, from lack access to education and healthcare to human trafficking into the sex trade. Lest we think that’s just a problem “overseas,” an estimated 50,000 women and children are trafficked each year into the United States for sexual exploitation. Countless women and children in this country lack access to basic nutrition and health care.
Such problems seem so big and hopeless that it’s easy to check out and say, “there’s nothing I can do about it.” Half the Sky would be far too depressing for me to even read, in fact, but for this redeeming value: for every injustice it highlights, it also showcases an individual who is working to help the women and children who are impacted. These are not governments or corporations but ordinary people who are taking bold action to address problems that seem as daunting now as women fighting for the right to vote did a hundred years ago. Their courage and determination give me hope.
The book also offers ideas about how the rest of us can support them in these brave souls, most being available right from their comfort of our own homes. Anne Frank said, “how wonderful it is that no one need wait a single minute to improve the world.” As soon as I put down the book, I went to kiva.org to fund a micro-loan for a woman in South America wanting to purchase more chickens so she will have eggs to feed her family—and to sell, so she has an income.
It occurs to me that these small acts are just what is needed to bring about the kind of change we want to be in the world, as Gandhi suggested. It’s tempting to think we’ll do something about looming issues when the big project ends, when the kids are bigger or when there’s more money to donate. Putting off action, I have found, means putting off peace. When I’m feeling particularly bad about a situation, I ask myself, “what can I do about this right now?” The answer may be to share the video, to raise awareness, or it may be to say a prayer blessing those who are on the ground helping. Then I do that—and let go the guilt that I can’t do more or the stress of adding one more thing to my Do Someday list.
I honor and thank my suffragette sisters whose courage paved the way for my life today, and I bless all who are on the ground helping impoverished, disempowered and enslaved women around the world. I give an equally big shout out to all of us who are making our own small contributions right where we are, wedged among the PTA meetings, the late nights at the office and folding the laundry. Everything we do matters, and, collectively, we are proving Chloë right: women are far too strong to be held back by old paradigms and outdated customs. I hope that it takes less than a hundred years for all of our global sisters to know it, too. We need all of us holding up the sky to meet the many challenges we face on Earth today.
P.S. If you’re interested in creating change in a bigger way, I recommend the Game Changer Intensive course offered by the Pachamama Alliance. I just completed the course, and it opened my eyes (and heart) to the many opportunities for effecting positive change.
Cheryl Leutjen is a writer and small business owner. She is passionate about living more sustainably, honoring our bountiful and beneficent Earth, preserving the Rainforest, knowing the Truth of who we all are, taking personal responsibility for her own happiness—and raising children who appreciate the same. Cheryl creates and facilitates personally empowering, spiritually uplifting and consciously creative experiences that reconnect us with the Truth and Divinity of who we really are.
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For Your Delight:
Another Beautiful Video
“Free Your Voice”
Audrey and Leah Rozier live in Curtis Bay, a community with the worst air pollution in Maryland, where bad air shortens people’s lives. When they learned of a plan to build the nations’ largest incinerator within a mile of their high school, and that Baltimore City Public Schools had contracted to buy energy from the project, they had to act. They wrote this song to encourage their community to stand together for environmental justice:
It’ll all get better, we can change the world
And it starts with music, get your message heard
You’ve gotta free your voice, from all the boys to the girls
It’ll all get better, we can change the world
that anyone can stand up and make a choice!
After the Board members applauded their performance, “Commissioner Cheryl Casciani said she would take up the invitation to visit Curtis Bay and that she and other members of the board would examine the purchase contract more carefully” (read the full article on the BaltimoreBrew website). Whether or not they actually rescind the contracts is still up in the air, but it gives me hope that activists like the Roziers are putting together a powerful community presence.
I’d love to hear what you think; please visit the comments page and let me know your thoughts.