Women’s Storytelling: My Balm in Gilead


We are at the end of the celebration of Women’s History Month. The National Women’s History Alliance (NWHA), which spearheaded the movement for March being declared National Women’s History Month, has offered the theme for 2023, “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.”(NWHA) Earlier this month I shared an essay. I love to write essays,Tankas and Haikus. This poem that I share, “Women’s Stories: My Balm in Gilead”, echoes the month’s theme and represents some of my recollections and feelings about girlhood, womanhood, and women. The expression, “Balm in Gilead” comes from the Book of Jeremiah (8:22) in the Christian bible: “Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there?” Used in a contemporary way, one could express that, “I find that the act of writing has always been a balm in Gilead for me. No matter what burden weighs on my mind, writing helps me cope with it.” It is a cure or solace (Farlex, 2023).

I have been blessed to have had, and continue to have, so many wonderful women in my life that have helped me navigate this earthly world in every situation possible. Wonderful women that I call sisters, aunties, cousins, friends, and colleagues; women from every walk of life, every race, numerous countries, and different religions. Women that are educators, doctors and lawyers, and those that are housekeepers and hospital food service workers. Academic education can’t replace wisdom, empathy, compassion, forgiveness, and kindness. Those characteristics are what I respect most. Women have guided me through the most joyous times in my life when I felt I was on top of the world and through the most painful and shameful times when I literally did not think that I had the strength to continue to exist. Women and the stories they share, and the ones I write are my balm in Gilead.

If you attended the Montessori Experience: Refresher Course 2023 in Baltimore, you may have attended the presentation “Storytellers of Truth” by Marina Sáenz that was a part of the “Grounding and Growing” track. She discussed how “Indigenous People around the globe have long told stories as a central grounding practice for teaching and learning.” We all have similar stories that have been impacted by our cultures and living. If we live, we have stories!

My hope is that you continue throughout the year to reflect on your personal experiences and reverence that you have for women…that you will seek opportunities each day of the year to embed stories about women in your life and work, and most of all share them with the children. For the sake of our students, we must follow the practice of Maria Montessori. Mario Montessori described her as the “Narrator of the Truth”.

Celebrate the women in history, the women today, and the girls today that will be the amazing women of tomorrow. I love being a woman. I love being a Black woman. I love the miracle of womanhood. I am celebrating!

Women’s Storytelling: My Balm in Gilead

Sheri Bishop, M.Ed.

AMI/USA Human Rights and Social Justice Advisor

Stories about our own birth

Stories about giving birth

Stories of our childhood

Stories about living in the hood

Stories about the beloved sisters that covered us when we were ashamed

Stories about the beloved aunties and big mamas that said, “hold your head high”

Stories of “being the first to…”

Stories of “being the last to…”

Stories about “it” never happening

Stories mothers told to keep us safe

Stories we dread telling our mothers because, unfortunately, we are not ever truly safe 

Stories of how we simply vanish from the face of the earth. Sorry! Crickets. Inaction.

Stories of how we simply vanish from the face of the earth. I’m so sorry. Loud Cry! Action.

Stories about justice 

Stories too often about injustice

Stories that ooze power 

Stories that inspire empowerment 

Stories that denounce powerlessness

Stories of the Queen of the Land 

Stories about the Welfare Queen

Stories of rights denied

Stories of starting good trouble to gain inalienable rights

Stories of living with a foot in each world

Stories of only knowing a small, limited, never-left-my-hometown world

Stories as Folktales. Poems. Music. Manifestos. Manuscripts. Parables. Portraits. Paintings. Plays and Broadway. Stories as Podcasts. Movies. Blogs. Vlogs. Radio. Journalism. The Six O’clock News.  Stories of Women in American History. Indigenous. European. African American. Immigrants. Stories of TOO MANY “ISMS”.

Most of all… the stories told in amazing books!

Non-fiction. Very Political. Non-political. Social Commentary. Social Justice. Education. Montessori. 

Grounded in truth. Grounded in faith. Grounded in the WORK. Grounded in desperation. Grounded in humanity. Grounded in the need for liberation. Grounded in womanhood and efforts to become the women we want to be. Grounded in gender expression and sexual orientation. 

Love vs Hate. Respect vs Disrespect. Dignity vs Shame. Triumph vs Loss. 

Fruitless Gradualism vs Productive Change. Education vs Miseducation. 

Activism vs Complacency. Courage vs Fear. Standing Alone vs Standing in for Her People.

Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child vs Wanting to be the Mother of a Movement.

Independence in Thought and Lifestyle vs Social Norms and Differences.

#Herstory #WomensHistoryMonth #EmpowerHer #CelebratingWomen #AmplifyFemaleVoices 

#WomensHistory #WomenInHistory #GoForItGirl 


Resources to Explore

Callister, LC. Making Meaning: Women’s Birth Narratives. July-August, 2004.

Retrieved From: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0884217515341873#preview-section-abstract March 15, 2023.

Demby, G. The Truth Behind the Lies of the Original “Welfare Queen”. December 20, 2013.

Retrieved From:

https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2013/12/20/255819681/the-truth-behind-the-lies-of-the-original-welfare-queen March 15, 2023.

Farlex. The Free Dictionary. Retrieved From:

https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/balm+in+Gilead March 15, 2023.

McClean, L. and Page, C. (editor). (1986). A Foot in Each World. Evanston, IL.  Northwestern University Press

National Women’s History Alliance (WNHA). Press Conference: Announcing the 2023 Women’s History Theme. August 18, 2022. Retrieved from:  https://nationalwomenshistoryalliance.org/special-event-announcing-the-2023-womens-history-theme/  March 24, 2023.

Nawaz, A. New documentary highlights the plight of missing Black women and why their cases go ignored. November 23, 2021

Retrieved From: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/new-documentary-highlights-plight-of-missing-black-women-and-why-their-cases-go-ignored March 15, 2023

The Pond. Maria Montessori: “The Great Narrator of Truth”. Ocarina pays homage to her 150 years after her birth. August 24, 2020

Retrieved from: https://www.ocarinaplayer.com/en/blog/maria-montessori-the-great-narrator-of-truth-ocarina-pay-homaget-o-her-150-years-after-her-birth/ March 28, 2023

Rakshit, D. How Shaming Women for Their Choices Breeds Lifelong Self‑Doubt. October 23, 2022.

Retrieved From: https://theswaddle.com/how-shaming-women-for-their-choices-breeds-lifelong-self-doubt/ 

March 15, 2023

Sicangu Lakota Oyate. #MMIW: MISSING AND MURDERED INDIGENOUS WOMEN. November 12, 2020. Retrieved From: https://sicangucdc.org/blog/f/mmiw-missing-and-murdered-indigenous-women?gclid=Cj0KCQjw2cWgBhDYARIsALggUhpAffiuJqDTU78B9BUztrZIqmawxnn5-JmX369d6gbaHitZ4RjzD-AaAv4sEALw_wcB  March 15, 2023

Yuko, E. Famous Female Firsts: 79 Trailblazing Women Who Made History. 

March 8, 2023. Retrieved From: https://www.rd.com/list/female-firsts/ March 15, 2023.