My Frigates on the Sea
Posted on January 27, 2014

I can remember no time in my life when books were not my best friends and the source of adventures in worlds I would never see in reality. I loved the feel and heft of them when I could not yet interpret those black marks and turn them into words. No matter, there always seemed to be some family member willing to read to me, and the day I went off to school was pure joy.

I remember looking at a fellow first grader (I lived before universal kindergarten) across the aisle, drowned in tears, and I felt nothing but scorn. We were going to learn to read. Why would she be weeping?

I had not yet met Emily Dickinson, but I was already living her lines: "There is no frigate like a book / To take us lands away..." I met her the day an adult gave me my first set of bookplates with her lines inscribed.

My proudest possession was my library card which I acquired as soon as I could write my name. Since I lived within walking distance of the public library I never lacked for reading material.

Thank God I did not live before the printing press or in a part of the world where literacy for women is forbidden. Is it any wonder then that I found my path as an adult in a religious community established four centuries ago to assure education for women?

One of the most shocking things in our 21st century world is the zeal with which some proponents of Islam would thrust its women back into that dark place where no frigates sail and no books find their way into the hands of women.

What fears drive such a society? How do its male leaders sit at the United Nations and watch the women of literate societies deliberate?

It is mind-jarring, isn't it?


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