Honorable mention — College essay contest: Hosanna Barrett
The biblical woman
By Hosanna Barrett
Every night my family would get together and Dad would read to us from a holy book. This book was supposed to tell us how a perfect life was lived. However, there were very few places in the perfect life for me. My destiny was to be passed from the leadership of my father to the dominion of my husband. I was to bear his children and support his calling, without thinking of my own desires. I would never be permitted to speak about religion in the company of men. It was my responsibility to cover my head and my body to preserve strangers from the sin that I carried. I was taught that the unrighteousness of my foremothers was the reason that I deserved this lesser place.
The bible opens with a woman. Eve, the mother of all, specially formed by God, the reason that a man would leave his family and be joined in a holy partnership. She was created like a child, destined to do nothing but follow the arbitrary commands of her father in heaven. But Eve knew that a life of servitude and slavery was not fitting to the dignity of the human race, so she dared to reach out and seize the fruit of knowledge.
The question I never dared to ask my parents is: Why? Why was Eve’s desire for dignity in her life a cause to make her daughters servants forever?
Another one of my spiritual foremothers is Leah. When Jacob came to her father Laben to find a bride, he saw her younger sister Rachel and desired her. Leah was cruelly tricked when her father forced her to impersonate Rachel and marry Jacob so that more money could be extracted for the more desirable sister. Leah was trapped in an unhappy slavery as an unwanted second wife. Her only opportunity for achievement was in bearing children, and by that measure she excelled, giving birth to six sons. Leah competed with her sister for her husband’s attention in order to conceive. I was taught that this made her greedy and unworthy.
My question: Why was Leah passed over by the promise that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob received?
Mary Magdalene followed Jesus faithfully through his ministry. When he died, she was part of the group of women that buried him, and she was among the first to return to his tomb after the sabbath. Mary saw Jesus alive and talked to him, but when she returned to tell the disciples about it, they did not believe her. The resurrection was not confirmed until days later, when Jesus appeared to the men and women together in the upper room.
Why was Mary’s testimony of so little value? Why is her account of Christ not included in the scripture?
I knew from an early age that I was not going to be made ashamed of my sex. I do not intend to accept a lesser place in life. Like my foremothers, I am going to seek the truth, revel in my achievements and make my voice heard. This has gradually led me away from that family table. Now, instead of obeying the arbitrary commands of my father, I am free to revel in the accomplishments of the great women and men whose shoulders I stand on.
Hosanna, 20, is from Keyser, W.V., and attends West Virginia University, where she is studying biology. She plans to go to grad school to pursue research or teaching. She enjoys reading, making art and the outdoors.