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When God Was A WomanMerlin Stone"Merlin Stone is dead. She died on the 23rd of February, 4:52 a.m., in Daytona beach. She was ill for three years with much pain. . Thanks for the books Merlin,”When God was a Woman” and “Ancient Mirrors of Womanhood.” You changed my life for the better." - Z Budapest.

Stone was a sculptor and professor of art history at the State University of New York at Buffalo.  Her 1976 book When God Was a Woman is often credited with being responsible for one of the major contributors to the rise in Goddess spirituality and feminist thought during the 1980s.

Mama Donna Henes writes, "I met Merlin in 1975 when we worked together on the Great Goddess issue of Heresies: A Feminist Publication on Art and Politics. Since then, she has been a friend, mentor, supporter and role model for me. She was especially helpful when The Queen of My Self was first released, generously sharing her experience, expertise and encouragement. She will be sorely missed... Merlin, dear, rest in in peace, embraced by the arms of the Goddess."

Zsuzsanna Budapest has asked UUW&R to pass along the details of her memorial service: It will be held on September 24, 2011 at the UU Church in Clearwater, FL. She adds, "We are still in the process of organizing for the event, but you can share the www.MerlinStone.net website with everyone so they can monitor the events and projects happening."

Rev. Shirley Ranck, author of Cakes for the Queen of Heaven comments, "For me, Merlin Stone's book When God Was a Woman was one of the first to alert me to the reality that there had been a massive shift in power in the myths and societies of the ancient world. The title alone was a shock to many people. I remember mentioning it to some sociologists of religion at a meeting and the whole idea was dismissed as nonsense.  It must have taken a lot of courage to write and publish that book at that time. We owe Merlin Stone a debt of gratitude for her work."

Helen Poenoe adds, "What a fountain of knowledge Merlin Stone’s work is!  Her Ancient Mirrors of Womanhood serves me well as a resource for moon circles, Wheel of the Year services and Cakes… circles besides simply my own inspiration. I like her phrase, 'the Oneness that lies beneath all dualities.'"

MistySheehan-TCRE-Jan2011jpgIslamic women are powerful ladies drawing on powerful mythological sources. My favorite is Shirin Neshat (1957-), from Iran.  I just watched a film directed by her, Women without Men, which is available through Netflix. The surrealistic film is based on a surrealistic novella by Shahrnush Parsipur (translation available from Syracuse University Press, 1998)

Neshat’s story is about four women living in 1953 when a coup ousted the President Mohammed Mosaddeq in favor of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. (In case you haven’t heard of Mosaddeq, and I had to look him up, he was an elected leader in Iran, who the CIA and the British intelligence deposed, putting in the Shah of Iran with his repressive reign. And that is only one of the reasons the people in the Middle East are angry at the U.S. and Britain.)

One woman is a communist; one is a prostitute; one an older women who had been a singer, but her husband didn’t allow her to sing; and the last is a woman who is concerned about the importance of virginity.

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No Silent Witness: The Eliot Parsonage Women and Their Unitarian World (Oxford University Press, 2010)

Dr. Cynthia Grant-Tucker's 2010 biography, "No Silent Witness," follows three generations of ministers’ daughters, mothers, and wives in one of America’s most influential Unitarian dynasties: the family of Abby Adams Cranch and William Greenleaf Eliot. Shifting the center of gravity from pulpits to parsonages, and from confident sermons to whispered doubts, it humanizes the Eliot saints, demystifies their liberal religion, and lifts up a largely unsung female vocation.

Spanning 150 years from the early 19th century forward, the narrative probes the women’s defining experiences: the deaths of numerous children, the anguish of infertility, persistent financial worries, and the juggling of the often competing demands that parishes make on first ladies.

Here, too, we see the matriarch’s granddaughters scripting larger lives as they skirt traditional marriage and women’s usual roles in the church. They follow their hearts into same-sex unions and blaze new trails as they carve out careers in public health service and preschool education.

These stories are linked by the women’s continuing battles to speak and make themselves heard over the thundering clerical wisdom that contradicts their reality.

I found the book to be a fascinating read, mostly because Dr. Tucker's narrative of these women's lives quickly pulled me in to "see" for myself what they had gone through. Especially in a world where our foremothers' stories remain largely untold, the female perspective on history really brings new light to the past. Unitarian-Univeraliststs have our revered historical figures of the 19th century, but No Silent Witness gives a rounded-out view of their lives and times.

Her research into each woman is thorough. Genealogical charts and a family roster are provided to give the reader more solid information to bring all the stories into a whole. She makes every effort to show the struggles of each woman in attempting to keep in her life some kind of balance between her own needs and those of others. Their varying level of success speaks to us in a very personal way, as Tucker delves into their personal qualities, hopes, dreams and emotions.

Author of the acclaimed Prophetic Sisterhood, Tucker also offers an online Discussion Kit for groups, www.nosilentwitness.org.

Florida NE Cluster 2011 retreat

“Great planning and presentation!  Wonderful inclusion of participants!  Collage activity was a delightful journey along the path of individual creativity and self-expression.”  What a wonderful experience.”  “Great weekend.”  “This has been an enriching experience.”  “Time to reflect,time to share, time to be joyous and time to be creative.  I loved the ritual, the meditation and the creative activity.”  Thank you, this has been a wonderful way to connect with other women.”  “By the time the date arrived for this retreat, I really had not wanted to come.  I must say I am leaving with energy and sorrow that it is over.  Thank you.”  “Loved the music, loved the collage, and unfortunately loved the food!” “Perfect weekend.”  “What a marvelous way to join with otherUU women in spirit, song and feast.”

Geri Kennedy reports, "We did have a wonderful retreat with 53 women.  Workshops ranging from Immigration issues to Tarot reading.  We had a lovely croning ceremony for 10 women too!"