Awesome Woman of the Day for Wednesday, October 17, 2012, is Elizabeth
George Speare (November 21, 1908 – November 15, 1994), U.S.A.,
award-winning author of children’s historical fiction.
still remember the first time I read The Witch of Blackbird Pond,
probably Speare’s best-known work. Kit Tyler was perhaps the most
dynamic female character I had ever encountered at the ripe old age of
9, unless you count the capitulation of Jo March from single career
woman to wife and mother (but that’s a different awesome woman for a
different day). Kit, to me, was unique in what I saw as a mix of good
and bad traits and bents and how her journey reflected on the good and
bad elements of her origins in Barbados and her home in puritanical
Connecticut. She was privileged beyond belief (and don’t even get me
started on the unwritten-about costs of that privilege), but her
privilege came with a freedom of thought and movement that was
completely incomprehensible to her pilgrim cousins.
accustoms herself to her new surroundings, she learns life skills –
ninja skills, really, both in terms of functioning authentically within a
restrictive environment and in finding inner peace even when the people
around you are completely insane. And she becomes an authentic
heroine. The book has its own ninja skills at work exploring both the
benefits of cooperative society and the risks and burdens of religious
oppression (especially sexism) without rocking the patriarchal boat so
hard that fifth grade teachers couldn’t assign the book in class.
Virtually all of the important characters are female, and all of the
book’s important themes are viewed from female perspectives. And my 11
year old son, whose class has been assigned the book, hasn’t complained
The book was written in 1958, so, of course, it ends
with Kit finding her happily ever after with the right man. But he at
least seems to appreciate her for who she is and to be okay with the
concept of being her equal.