I have invited a wonderful guest blogger today, Amber, to share a little about a project she and several other women have created called Women of Faith. Anna and Amber came to present their project a little over a week ago to our ward (church congregation) and it was so lovely! I also got to spend some time with them the next day. I’ll let Amber explain it all.
|Anna Hargadon. Montse, and me in Montse’s living room Sept. 6, 2014.|
The closer the little pulsating blue dot on Anna’s smartphone screen traveled towards the spot on the map marked Winnemucca, the more I doubted that anyone could possibly live there. I was half-convinced that we were going to be screening our film to an audience of coyote and tumbleweed. I mean, I’d heard of Winnemucca to be sure, but the miles and miles of desolate orange dust that had been blowing by (and sometimes into) my car windows were doing nothing to help Winnemucca’s case.
There was no water.
And I may not be a scientist, but I do know a few basics about biology. Namely, that living things need water. Not just people, but plants and animals. These facts I knew about water were piling on top of the mystery of our destination, because one of the women we planned on meeting there, Montse Ventura Wadsworth, claimed that she lived on a farm in Winnemucca.
I know it won’t surprise any of you reading this blog, but moments before Anna’s smartphone informed us that we were arriving at our destination, we saw signs of life: gas stations, hotels, sidewalks, roads, and even trees (but still no water).
The people we had been corresponding with did in fact exist, even Ms. Montse. Her farm existed too. And apparently it thrived. I forgot to ask where the water came from on the farm because I was quickly caught up in the other miracles at work on this homestead in Winnemucca.
How does one woman bring ten children into being? How does she homeschool them, feed them, care for them while filling Church callings, responding to civic duties, writing and developing herself? Perhaps some of you believe in this possibility, but I think that what surprised me the most about seeing Montse in her element was that she was happy while doing all of these things.
Anna and I got to hear about many of Montse’s experiences and responsibilities right from the source because she quite graciously agreed to allow us to interview her for a video project that we are currently in pre-production for. Interestingly, it was another film project, our last one, that served as our introduction to Montse.
I knew when Montse commented on our Facebook page that I—to use Anne Shirley’s expression—had found a kindred spirit, because yep, I also laughed out loud when I first read that line written in one of Minerva Teichert’s letters to her sister. The Facebook page we posted that status on was created by way of spreading the word about our first film project, the one I mentioned earlier; a short film called Women of Faith. In 30 minutes, Women of Faith tells the stories of five under-sung and inspiring women (one of them being Minerva Teichert) from the LDS Church’s history. See the trailer below.
Montse found our film on our webpage, www.iamawomanoffaith.org. and then passed Women of Faith on to her Relief Society president, our new friend, Leslie Fry. Leslie contacted us, and a few months later we drove to Winnemucca to share our “Daughters” fireside. “Daughters” is a collection of thoughts, teachings, and testimonies about Mother Eve partnered with a screening of Women of Faith.
But why tell you all of this? Because I got to spend the first weekend in September doing one of the things I love most: talking womanhood with friends and sisters. The day after our fireside, Anna and I sat with Montse in her living room for a couple of hours and chatted about just that. Montse told us a lot about her ancestors, the women that she draws strength from.
She shared one very specific story with us that got my wheels turning. Her husband’s grandmother, Sylvia Bitner Hinckley, moved to the Nevadan desert as a young wife just like Montse did. Sylvia found the change a very difficult one to make, just like Montse did. And so, Montse has found comfort and support in Sylvia’s story.
I think this is something of what we’re missing.
There is a unique power and strength that comes from women ministering to other women. Even in this less tangible way, when it is simply the story or the experience of one woman that is doing the ministering. We know and largely accept that women and men have different experiences and different perspectives, and while we might be unsure of all of the factors that cause those differences, what we cannot afford to be unsure about is that both genders are special, and created in the image of God.
In the world, and even in the Church, there exists a surplus of stories of men. They make up our histories, our scriptures, our folktales. But, if you’ve paid attention, you’ll notice that slowly this trend has begun to shift. I believe that it is shifting because there is a special value in giving voice to the parts of women’s experiences and perspectives that are unique to the feminine class of humanity.
That’s what we’ve tried to do with Women of Faith. And while none of the cast or crew can claim direct-line descendancy from the great women you’ll see in the film, we all can claim a different kind of descendancy: direct-legacy descendancy. Which of us hasn’t been struck by Minerva Teichert’s art? Or grown because of Mary Frances Sturlaugson’s example? Or benefited from the modern Young Women program that Elaine Cannon largely spearheaded?
If not in a biological sense, these women (and many, many others) are our foremothers in a spiritual one. They’ve paved the way for us. They innovated and supported and created many of the opportunities we enjoy today. And here’s what’s more: they did it as imperfect, strong, overwhelmed, busy, faithful, challenged, devoted, confused, questioning, tired, happy women.
And isn’t it good to be reminded once in awhile that women have done it before? That they’ve always done it? That there are angels reflecting your countenances and faith who are cheering you on?
I think so. And then sometimes, you get to meet the angels whom God has appointed to cheer alongside you; the women that you get to work with on this side of the veil. And there’s something blessed about that too.
I had such a delightful visit with Anna and Amber. These two women are stellar! Please visit Women of Faith and watch their film, then read more about each of the women featured in the film. I am certain you will agree that we definitely have a direct-legacy descendancy from wonderful covenant women of faith!