In late September, I received an email from a 19-year-old Epoch Times reader living in Missoula, Montana. Maddie asked whether she might write me with some ideas about life and her future plans, and I agreed to read whatever she sent.
A day or two later, up popped a 2,300-word email chock full of Maddie’s thoughts about male-female relationships, family, faith, technology, and half-a-dozen other topics. A list of 10 questions followed her missive, each of which deserved a lengthy answer. After suggesting a phone call rather than a written reply, which would have taken me hours, I found myself speaking to this delightful young woman. We covered a broad range of topics, and during that conversation, the idea for this article was born.
Many people today, fearful of being shunned or even losing their jobs, are reluctant to share their views with others on such matters as religious faith, political convictions, and hot-topic issues such as abortion, gender, or even the nuclear family. Most of us have heard of the “shy voter” phenomenon of President Donald Trump supporters, people who conceal their politics from strangers but speak loudly in the voting booth. We hear less about the silencing of young conservative women attending college or working a job, who feel constantly pressured to keep their opinions to themselves.
Wishing to give a voice to such women, I interviewed four young women, including Maddie, to discover what they were thinking. There was Maddie, of course, with whom I spoke in a second phone call; Jessica, 22, who lives here in Front Royal and works as a dental assistant; her sister Rebecca, 29, mother of two young daughters and coach of the local college’s cross-country team; and my own daughter Katharine, 37, a homeschooling mother of seven who now lives in Pennsylvania.
What, I wondered, were the priorities of these four women? What were their thoughts, as Maddie asked me, on the role of the female in society? What values did they share in common? What approach did they take to a culture that frequently denigrates stay-at-home moms, large families, and in some cases, the family itself?
Here are some of their observations.
Faith and Family
When asked what they valued most in life, all four women put their religious faith at the top of the list. That faith not only helps carry them through the daily skirmishes of life, but also guides them in larger ways. After interviewing Rebecca in November, for example, we talked briefly of the election mess, a conversation she ended with a reminder that “we just have to remember God is in charge.” In her email, Maddie wrote: “One constant prayer that I pray daily is the following—‘Lord, I am available. Do big things with this life you have given me.’”
Second on their list of values was the family. All four women grew up in intact families with a mother, father, and siblings. Jessica and Rebecca have four other brothers and sisters, Katharine has three brothers, and Maddie has an older sister and two younger sisters whom her parents adopted from China.
In her email, Maddie wrote at length about the importance of the family, not just to the individual, but also to the culture. Eventually, she hopes either to found an organization or work for one that promotes strong families. Here are just a few of her words on the matter:
“My passion for family grows stronger every day. I would love to be a part of something that takes action on this issue. Right now, I have obligations at home. I own a business, tutor kids, and will not be totally untied until the summer of 2021. However, I want to GO next year. I want to either join in on something, or start something of my own. Now, as a precursor, my thoughts are in complete disarray. However, as I said, thoughts and dreams are a start. The adventure that I would like to embark on, or be a part of, would promote first and foremost, the values of family and define the roles of a male and female. If I was to start something completely new, the name would be ‘All Great Change,’ derived from the great Ronald Reagan who once said, ‘All great change in America begins at the dinner table.’”
Feminism and Motherhood
Both Maddie and Jessica addressed feminism and what it means to them. “A lot of girls my age, at least in college, struggle with what feminism really means,” Jessica said. “A lot of them think you have to be like a man to be equal.”
Maddie wrote: “We are strong, capable, and needed. However, we are not to trample over the passions and strengths of a man. We are to complement them. Many women today are not asking for equality, they are asking for dominance.”
Katharine and Rebecca are stay-at-home moms who spend most of their time with their children. Katharine homeschools six of her seven children—the oldest goes to a private academy a two-minute walk from their house—and tries to instill in them the values of faith, discipline, and hard work. Rebecca tells me that when she’s out in public with her two little girls, someone may say, “Wow, you’ve got your hands full.” Her usual response “I’m really, really happy” sometimes brings a look of envy from women her age.
Education and Passions
Katharine and Rebecca are graduates of Christendom College here in Front Royal, and Jessica graduated this spring from Thomas Aquinas College in California. Maddie has earned an associate’s degree in general studies from her local community college and is now taking a gap year to mull over her future. Meanwhile, she is teaching middle school students various subjects, using the basement of her parents’ home as a classroom.
All four women believe strongly in the value of a good education untarnished by leftist propaganda.
As for their other interests, Rebecca enjoys running, holistic health, and cooking. Like her sister, Jessica is a runner and also a reader of historical novels and survival stories. Katharine also follows the holistic health path, frequently takes her children to daily Mass, and raises her flock of chickens. The last four years have roused in her a passionate interest in politics.
Maddie lives on a six-acre “mini-farm” with her parents and siblings, which her family tongue in cheek calls “The Spear Ranch.” She has hunted with her father since she was 9, mostly going after elk and deer, and loves hiking as well. When we spoke, she was about to depart for a week-long hunting trip with her dad.
When asked what advice she might give to female contemporaries such as herself, Maddie said: “Be confident in your convictions and principles and morals. When they signed the Declaration of Independence, our Founding Fathers were signing a death warrant. They believed in their convictions. Stand strong, and present your convictions in a loving way.”
Jessica said, “A woman should look at her feminine virtues rather than trying to be like a man.”
“Be courageous in your vocation,” Rebecca told me, “even though it can be looked down on by society, like motherhood. A lot of young women feel that call and that pull to marriage and motherhood, and it appeals to them, but because of social pressure they feel they have to get a job. In my life, the most alive I’ve ever felt is to be a mom.”
“Women, embrace your femininity,” Katharine advised. “Men, embrace your masculinity. We should let men be men and women be women. If we did that, we’d see some enormous changes in our society.”
Interviewing these four women was a delight less for what they shared with me than for the enthusiasm, joy, and strength I found in their voices. They know we’re in tough times, but they don’t allow these challenges to diminish them or lead them to despair. Here are women passionately in love with their families and with the world, who can still take pleasure in the laughter of a child, a hike in the mountains, a glass of wine, and a well-prepared meal.
Although this mess we call an election had darkened my thoughts, these shining lights—Maddie, Jessica, Rebecca, and Katharine—chased away that darkness, at least for the time being. Their example brought me to my feet and walking on the path again. These women inspired me, and I hope by sharing their stories and thoughts you will also find that same inspiration.
Jeff Minick has four children and a growing platoon of grandchildren. For 20 years, he taught history, literature, and Latin to seminars of homeschooling students in Asheville, N.C., Today, he lives and writes in Front Royal, Va. See JeffMinick.com to follow his blog.