Having been the beneficiary of women’s liberation movement, I wondered what it was like for the women who came before me; women who had placed their bets before the rules changed.
I set Visible Signs during the civil-rights-, women’s-rights and antiwar movements of the 1970s.
Both Sister Jude, a Catholic nun, and her childhood friend, Connie, a wife and mother, had chosen vocations that seemed inevitable given their histories. When the cultural revolutions of the 1960s began to shift societal norms, it afforded them perspectives and options that didn’t exist when first they made their vows.
After the monastery’s weekend retreats for laywomen Sister Jude had begun “to envy . . . Peace Corps volunteers back from El Salvador and Nicaragua, wives and mothers who marched in Selma and Washington, women starting their own businesses or daycare co-ops in the Bronx.” And, as the antiwar protests intensified along with the body count in Vietnam, she and Connie mourned “the boys they had crushes on, the ones who had crushes on them.”
When a starving migrant boy crosses Jude’s path, and a crumbling marriage threatens Connie’s children, both women are forced to choose how to make their way in that new world with its challenges to the institutions of marriage, church, and state.
Undeniably progress has been made in women’s and minority rights, but it saddens me that here we are 50 years later, still waging battles for equality, justice and peace.