Popular illustrator Mary Engelbreit’s work began to inspire and give me hope in the 1990s. Her images along with her words of wisdom brought needed encouragement to my life. In those years, I especially struggled with how best to live out my calling and vocation as a minister. Her book, Don’t Look Back, provided almost 45 pages of heartwarming messages that fed by soul. Her words encouraged me to move forward with the new decisions in my life and not look back. I bravely set forth as a community minister working in nonprofits for over 20 years. This took the form of prison work, political advocacy for women and girls, and interfaith services to ex-offenders returning to society.
Engelbreit’s messages also encouraged my dreams of becoming a scholar. I entered my
doctoral program in summer 1995. I studied Religion and Social Change in the University of Denver/Iliff School of Theology’s Joint PhD Program. One of my early courses introduced me to the phenomenal Lydia Maria Child (1802-1880), one of the most well-known U.S. authors and activists of her century. I could not believe the power of her literary voice within popular culture as well as in her reformist actions. Her nineteenth-century example inspires me deeply in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries to move forward with the power of my own literary voice.
I recently became aware of some significant commonalities between Engelbreit and Child. Both developed powerful fan bases with their popular writing. For each of them, when they felt called, their words and images expanded to the fight against racism and injustices in the United States. I commend them for their courage to speak up and out despite resistance from a “fickle public,” as Child put it. Each of them faced losses of income and popular support once they went public with their antiracist work. Those deprivations, though, did not stop them. They moved beyond popular support to do the right thing.
FOR THE FULL ARTICLE, PLEASE SEE DR. ANDERS’ March 31, 2-17 blog in Honor of Women’s History Month.
One of Englebreit’s Art Pieces
Permission: Mary Englebreit