Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which translated in Greek is called Dorcas); this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did. And it happened at that time that she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her body, they laid it in an upper room. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, having heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him, imploring him, “Do not delay in coming to us.” So Peter arose and went with them. When he arrived, they brought him into the upper room; and all the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing all the tunics and garments that Dorcas used to make while she was with them. - Acts 9:36-39
Nine old men. Nine old men. Nine old men.
(chant of striking unionists in reaction to a 1935 Supreme Court decision declaring the National Industrial Recovery Act unconstitutional)
My wife, Mrs. Hale (she’s cheerfully taken my pseudonym), recently sent me a link to an article in The Guardian on the travails of women professionals, especially lawyers. She said I just had to read it, suggesting a blog post might be in order.
The article quotes Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s declaration that she won’t be satisfied until there are nine women on the U.S. Supreme Court. (Three currently serve.) The author of The Guardian piece, who used to work for a law firm, heartily agrees. She says, “It's not unreasonable to think that, at some point, nine of the finest legal minds in the country would belong to women.”
To which my not-so-fine legal mind responds, “Well, duh.” Buried in this non-newsflash is the assumption that the crème de la crème of legal minds would even want to go to law school, or slog their way to a partnership in a swanky law firm, or maneuver their way into a position to be nominated for a seat on the SCOTUS bench.
Speaking for myself, I could come up with nine of the finest legal minds in America faster than you can say the words “It Takes a Village.” And many of them would be widows, mothers, daughters, and sisters of Clearnote Church. Some of them don’t have a college degree, much less—are you ready for this—a JURIS DOCTOR.
Think of the countless adjudications that take place daily in our homes while husbands are in what the world calls “The Workplace.” Little Billy and Sally are squabbling over the pet rock. Mother must judge: (a) whether to intervene or let the children work it out; (b) whether to give it to Billy because he had it first; (c) whether to give it to Sally because it doesn’t matter whether Billy had it first; (d) whether to put it in the pantry for the day because they shouldn’t be squabbling in the first place; (e) to give the pet rock to Goodwill; (f) which Scriptures apply; (g) whether to cry out to God to work in her children’s hearts; (h) to remind them that many children in Africa don’t have pet rocks; (i) whether one or both children should be spanked; (j) to do some combination of the above; or (k) to do none of the above.
Then think of both the temporal and eternal blessings these maternal adjudications have had for the good of immortal souls, the joy of the home, the sweet, fragrant love of the church, and the peace of the community.
A successful contemporary of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg tried the legal profession and after success gave it up to care for the home, her husband, and children. Carolyn Graglia graduated from Columbia law school, was on law review, landed a job at a major Wall Street law firm, and at one point worked on “cutting edge” First Amendment law.
Mrs. Graglia writes in her book Domestic Tranquility: A Brief Against Feminism of the differences between the work of a woman constructing utopia and the work of a woman making a home:
Contemporary feminism would have women devote themselves to reinventing the universe—as Hillary Rodham Clinton urges them to ‘remold society.’ But devotion to grandiose schemes within the public arena necessarily requires relinquishing to others the cultivation of one’s own garden. The essence of the traditional woman is her preference for attending to the welfare of her own small universe, hoping to create therein a simple canvas of quotidian beauty.
Here’s Mrs. Graglia’s description of her own experiences in the law firm factory vis-à-vis the home:
It was clear to me then and remains so today that neither I, nor my husband (even though he has largely been the sole supporter of our family), nor our children would have fared nearly as well as we have if I had followed Friedan's script and turned my children over to a nanny so that I could slave away in a law practice. Legal work sometimes provides an intellectual challenge akin to a good crossword puzzle, with the advantage that doing the puzzles well can bring handsome financial rewards. But at worst—and worst probably occurs with some frequency in most professions—it resembles alphabetizing the Manhattan phone book. To have convinced myself that market production was more gratifying than caring for my children, attending to the needs of my husband, and managing my home would have required me either to deceive myself about what I really did in the workplace or to value a job for its monetary rewards.
Mrs. Graglia continues with the sad account of a woman lawyer who relishes her professional drudgery:
That not all women flourish in the marketplace is evidenced by a female attorney’s description of her life, which appears in an article about a group commuting in a van to Washington, D.C. It is an eighty mile round trip; in winter they leave home in the dark and return in the dark; they see each other more than they see their spouses. What sounds to me like a trip from hell, however, is the highlight of the day for this woman. Her companions are ‘an alternate family’; her ‘hectic job leaves scant time for socializing at work’; she is ‘so weary’ at night that she often will just ‘collapse in front of the TV set.’ Watching the morning traffic grind to a halt, she observed, ‘This is the most exciting part of my day.’ ‘After this we all go sit in our little offices and wait patiently to get back in the van.’ Ah, what joyful liberation from domesticity! In all my years as a mother at home, not one day was so uninteresting that I would have looked forward to that van ride.
We can imagine how grateful Mr. Graglia and the Graglia children are that she did forsake those Beltway commutes to paint at home a “simple canvas of quotidian beauty.” It’s easy to imagine because Mrs. Hale and I are so grateful for our mothers and sisters in Christ who have given up the World’s van ride to care for their homes and for the Household of God. What blessings to have their counsel, compassion, meals, rebukes, babysitting of our children for doctors visits and date nights, used children’s clothes, teaching and care and discipline of our children, and on, and on, and on. We give thanks to God for you!
You wonder if the reason Dorcas “fell sick” was from catching a cold one night while taking garments to clothe the naked. Whatever the cause, she was given a foretaste of the glorious resurrection of the saints. So, too, the women who washed her body for burial. So, too, the men who ran to get the Apostle Peter.
How much poorer the world would have been with a Justice Dorcas.