7 Women And The Secret Of Their Greatness, by Eric Metaxas
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest book review.]
By the time one has read about the first five women of the seven women of this excellent book, one realizes that one has read exactly zero stories about happily married women. Finally, after this comes Rosa Parks, a woman who married happily, but a man just as interested in social justice as she was, surely an oddity among men, I know. As someone who has read at least some of the works of Metaxas before , and someone who has read books about  and by  some of these excellent women, this is a book that is easy to appreciate and also a worthy introductory set of short biographies on women from a variety of different backgrounds, but with some similar qualities that are worth reflecting on at some length, as they present a shared context that is often greater than the sum of its parts. Just as the 7 Men of the companion volume to this book are joined by shared moral courage, so too the women are joined by a common dissatisfaction with the status quo, and often a deep tension between a desire to be nurturing and a life that does not encourage that nurturing within the home. If behind every successful man is a supportive woman, behind every famous woman appears to be a lot of unhappiness with the men in her life, except maybe a generous and kind-hearted father.
As for this book, its format ought to be familiar to those who read and appreciated 7 Men. The author chose seven notable women, none of whom ever served as a head of state or in formal political leadership, nor were part of illustrious dynasties, but all of whom made their mark through cultural leadership. The seven women are: Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley (mother of John and Charles, founder of the Methodists), Hannah More, noted writer and moralist , unorthodox Orthodox saint Mary of Paris, Corrie Ten Boom, Rosa Parks, and Mother Teresa. Of the seven women, only one (Rosa Parks) married happily and four did not marry at all. The vast majority of the women in this book faced the threat of martyrdom and demonstrated their greatness not through trying to imitate men or belittle men, but through their use of the dignity given to women to put others to shame for their wickedness, whether we are talking about rapine Englishmen during the 100 Years War or Nazi Germans or racist Southerners, for that matter. Over and over again this book demonstrates women as cultural leaders through moral suasion, through the way in which they encourage and inspire others, and in the willingness to do what is difficult, even forgiving the wicked and showing nurturing care and compassion for those who are hated and despised. Greatness comes in many forms, after all.
A book this nuanced, and this focused on the need to stand up to the evils of our time, like abortion and the larger culture of death and decadence, is likely to require careful reading by its audience. To be sure, Metaxas is honorable to the women he writes about, showing a great deal of appreciation in expanding our view of heroic women outside of those who are playing trousers roles, to those who understand that being a forceful example of the worth of women does not require imitation or competition with a man, but rather means taking from ones own perspective and background and experiences and nature and finding in that the fertile soil for greatness based on the experiences of life. Often, this greatness means standing up to wickedness in high places, showing concern for the lowly, which is a point that is brought out over and over again, and even showing a willingness to risk life, health and freedom for the cause of justice. This is a book that reminds its readers, whether women looking for good examples to follow or men seeking to show respect to noteworthy women, that greatness often comes in times of great difficulty, a lesson that is worth repeating. It is also worth repeating that this book is written with a lot of attention to practical faith born out through loving and compassionate works. Let us go and do likewise.
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