“These are dreams of little girls. And if you plant the dream early, and you nurture it, they can come true.” – EBA
I sat down with Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson once for a very long, and inspiring talk in her judge’s office at the Superior Court of Guam in Hagåtña more than a year ago. I was trying to define the beat I wanted to focus on at the Pacific Daily News and I was told I should to reach out to her for advice.
There were a lot of things I found appalling about society working at the paper. I sincerely and viscerally felt the trauma of so many female victims of violence that come to light through daily magistrates documents the paper publishes. I wanted to help put an end to such violence, if at all possible.
So my nina introduced me to Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson over the phone and the judge invited me to sit with her a while and talk with her about family violence. I learned a lot about law, about the difference between rehabilitation and punishment, and the effect each has on women’s lives. She pushed me to think more systemically and thoughtfully about the workings of the law, and if I’m going to go searching for a root cause, I’d need to search for something deeper than bullying men or too-dominant spouses.
It was around the time I met EBA that I was discovering feminism. I was striving to find a form feminism that was embracing of my values and allowed me to speak in a language I was comfortable with. Luckily, the rest of the world seemed to be finding that language and perspective as well thanks to people like Roxane Gay, Beyoncé and many others.
I don’t know if EBA remembers our conversation; whether she knows it or not she helped me to keep level-headed in my reporting. I tried to write not just about one facet of a story involving a social issue like domestic violence. I worked very hard to write from as many different angles as I could, from possible root causes, to stigmatization, to economic impacts, to health.
Women’s issues, particularly on Guam, have many different layers, that touch on a variety of aspects of civic life including public safety, public health, education, and labor. In my new work in the Guam Humanities Council, I find myself doing research about similar topics, now with a more meaningful, historical and academic perspective. Women are the heartbeat of Chamorro life, but that life has had to grow around and through and adapt to Western patriarchy in unique ways.
There’s a lot of work to be done at the Attorney General’s Office. I hope that EBA’s influence will have the kind of impact young feminists like me will be inspired by.
To read the story about Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson’s inauguration written by Cameron Miculka (my talented boyfriend), head over to the Pacific Daily News