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Trinity Western instructors look at how women have shaped history

Often, women who make a difference are overlooked
Authors and Trinity Western University instructors (from left) Jan Lermitte, Monika Hilder, Robynne Healey and Holly Nelson said history has often overlooked women who made significant contributions (Special to Langley Advance Times)

“It is easy to get caught up in the idea of doing something ‘big’ to make change,” said Robynne Rogers Healey, a history professor at Trinity Western University and specialist in Quaker history.

“I am working to uncover the history of women who are not as well-known.”

In honour of Women’s History Month in March, four authors who teach at Langley’s TWU reflected on women who shape the world in small and great ways.

“The daily actions of faithful women have shaped—and will shape—the world in significant ways,” said Dr. Healey.

Holly Nelson, professor of English, also works to bring attention to lesser-known histories. She said that in history, there is a “tendency to focus on the heroic male experience,” with women in the background “routinely presented as emotionally unstable or a burden.”

Her recent book on British siege warfare, co-authored with her sister, focuses on written records in which “men, women, and children of the town or city are more often shown heroically working together for the common good and taking on military roles.”

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As the first Canadian-born member of her family, Monika Hilder is a Cloverdale-based author and English professor who specializes in fantasy and children’s literature, with a particular focus on the writings of C.S. Lewis and other Inklings-related writers.

READ ALSO: Diversity and Anti-Racism Council established at Langley’s Trinity Western University

Dr. Hilder said that the women who inspire her are many. “My mother, who lived bravely through many of life’s hardships and encouraged me with loving faith (and) an incredible love of story, is my shining star. And my daughters ever so deeply cheer me with their faithfulness, resilience, compassion, chutzpah, and plain brilliant zest for life—with their love.”

Jan Lermitte, who teaches English, creative writing, and leadership, says that the pandemic has presented uneven challenges in society.

“Data shows that during the recent pandemic lockdowns, women more often left their jobs or worked at home to care for children and elders than did men,” she said.

One woman in history who inspires Professor Lermitte is the writer Dorothy L. Sayers. “In spite of her own personal struggles, which included having a child before marriage, living in poverty, marriage to a man with mental illness and alcoholism owing to war trauma, and pressure to provide financially for her family, Sayers tackled her work with enthusiasm and good humour,” Professor Lermitte said.

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