"I couldn't help but become enthusiastic about Helga and Clara's grand venture. How a daring Mother and Daughter take the bet to save the family farm! What courage they possessed striking out across country on foot with $5 each for traveling expenses. What faith in themselves. They experience the most amazing things and overcome harrowing setbacks and they kept on going. Will they succeed?
These were local women - from my area of Washington. What they did was staggeringly difficult and heroic. But their story was buried along with them, never to be told again, until Helga's granddaughter discovered a few scraps of an almost completely destroyed journal. Burned on purpose, so the women couldn't shame the family, their amazing achievement almost never became part of women's history.
In this her book Bold Spirit, Linda Lawrence Hunt uses a poem to illustrate Helga and Clara's nemesis - the “failure to notice” principle. She shows how their personal loss became our loss, the loss of real women's' history. Bold Spirit elucidates how we as individuals, and as a women en masse, are still subject to the “failure to notice” principle. Without the truth about living, told by one women to another women, we flounder through life. We look for anchors in the information flood of these times. We must have the knowledge of how other women survive emotionally, mentally and physically to survive and thrive.
The author shares this knowledge with us by pinning Helga and Clara's mighty adventure to the principle of “failure to notice” which is described beautifully in this poem, written by a Scottish psychologist R E Laing.
The range of what we think and do
is limited by what we fail to notice
And because we fail to notice
there is little we can do to change
until we notice
how failing to notice
shapes our thoughts and deeds
In Bold Spirit, Linda proposes that all women are still stifled by this silent deadly doctrine. This book exposes the unwritten, unspoken doctrine of “failure to notice”. It hands us the key to understanding this prevalent and virulent pandemic. In the last chapters Linda breaks the principle down into a logical recognizable outline: breaking the code, underestimating the worth, sealing the shame, keeping the peace, and avoiding the anger.
In Bold Spirit it is the "others" that fail them. Terribly. The unmentioned "others" who set up the wager that gave Helga such hope and which sent her on her desperate adventure. They reneged on their promise, they failed to keep their agreement. Helga and Clara completed their trip but end up penniless in New York at Christmastime in the middle of winter. Mother and Daughter achieve their goal on time and to the letter of the agreement; only to be jilted by the women and men who originally made the offer. They set up the conditions of compliance for this trip, they agreed it would prove the value and strength of women and sell culottes; but then they wouldn't pay the $10,000 they had promised.
The audacity of Helga and Clara, their pluck and spirit are not unusual characteristics in women. I see it in many women everyday. Unfortunately I also see the “failure to notice” principle applied to these women today, just as it was applied to Helga and Clara in the 1890's - with the same defeating result. Linda shows us how to recognize the “failure to notice” principle and avoid becoming affected and/or effected by it in this wonderful true story of two incredible women.
We can become a crippling part of our own defeat through “failure to notice”. There is a lot of peer pressure to “fail to notice” many things. Determining “what” those things are, is very important to those of us who want to survive intact, despite a lack of approval from others. Those of us who want to be true to ourselves as women, strong, capable, unbowed. We cannot afford to abandon ourselves. More importantly though, we cannot afford to abandon each other: like minded women cut from the same cloth, so to speak; soul sisters, sisters at heart.
Helga and Clara naïvely trusted their financial sponsors and they were abandoned by them. But they were truly betrayed by their family and friends. Ole, Helga's husband, was not adverse to Helga's idea to save the farm by earning the $10,000 wager. Perhaps he backed her initially because he valued her as a competent helpmate. He had seen her strength of character and intelligence applied to the family's benefit many times. Perhaps he loved her? Whatever; the reason he didn't restrain her and Clara from making the trip were completely buried under the weight of his own personally tragic experiences during their absence.
While Helga and Clara are desperately trying to save enough money to get home by hiring out to wash and clean, poor Ole has to nurse and bury their daughter Bertha, alone. The washing and cleaning doesn't pay enough to send Helga and Clara home. They are helpless to assist Ole and the children on the other side of the continent. It must have been heartbreaking. Desperate, they approached all the churches and charities only to be rejected. Their efforts to save themselves and their farm by walking across the country didn't move any of the religious organizations so dedicated to aiding the poor. A simple “failure to notice” on the part of these spiritually superior people, compounded their misery.
By the time they got home the damage was done. In the eyes of their family and friends Helga and Clara had failed. Worse still, in their eyes Helga had abandoned her post, her job, her allotted place in life. “She broke the central code of her culture”. Mothers belonged in the home; a mother never left her children. The Norwegian-American community, the church communities and the Victorian culture that prevailed at that time (which is not very long ago or far away) crushed them like bugs. And then they buried the "shame" of “what they had done” by destroying all record of it.
After she died Helga's daughters Ida and Lillian burned her manuscripts. Only a few newspaper articles were saved and these led Helga’s granddaughter into the research of Helga and Clara's magnanimous journey.
Based on the revelation of this “failure to notice principle, I propose that THE biggest “failure to notice” can be found in history - it is the failure by every culture in the world to acknowledge menses, our periods, the bleeding every month that every woman experiences - bar none. How is it that the very crux of our femininity has escaped being documented in any literature anywhere, in any language? Bold Spirit reveals how the principle “failure to notice” is responsible for this omission.
When we CM: consciously menstruate, we pay attention to ourselves, we turn inward to sift and glean; we acknowledge and regenerate ourselves. We bring new life into our intelligence and our hearts. We let go of the outgrown ideas and feelings that will hold us back and keep us down. Most women do not know how effective this renewal can be. Why?
Because of the principle of “failure to notice” that has been bequeathed to us by our mothers and grandmothers. There are many reasons why they passed the “failure to notice” practice on to us; but none of them really apply anymore - unless we apply them! Unless we “fail to notice” our own thinking and our own feelings.
We, the aware, the conscious women of this time in history are free to be ourselves fully. We are free to CM: consciously menstruate and to include this amazing opportunity into our our monthly routines. By consciously menstruating we gain assess the value of our experiences; learning from them - becoming automatically wiser. If we take the time to listen to ourselves during menses, we tap into the deepest well of wisdom in the world.
The front cover of Bold Spirit shows Helga looking out at the world with an inner consciousness, an inner confidence, an inner glow. Helga knows who Helga is; and Helga's okay with herself. I think that Helga listened to her heart and mind every month. Its shows.
Helga wrote the daily adventures of crossing the country in a journal. She wanted to leave a record of her journey with her daughter and in that record she would also have left a record of her wisdom, her inner strength and purpose. But we don't have that because her own daughters, her own family “failed to notice” what Helga and Clara had done. They failed to notice who Helga and Clara were. All they noticed was that Helga and Clara didn't conform to the norm. Helga broke a deep seated unspoken code and she was punished for doing so, by being minimized completely during her lifetime by her own family and friends.
The pain she must have felt I can only imagine. And yet she bore it with dignity. Look at the pictures of Helga in her sixties and in her eighties. Her eyes twinkle and she is unbroken. She is intact in spite of the tragic end to her adventures, the death of beloved children, and the subsequent silencing of her story. Helga withstood it all. She remained true to herself despite the complete lack of support by family and friends. Helga endured by the grace and dignity of her own value to herself. She knew what she had accomplished; she knew her worth to herself. She understood that her travels had broadened her perspective beyond the comprehension of her immediate circle of peers and she accepted it.
CM: Conscious Menstruation separates the women who do their monthly soul work from those who don't. Those of us who sift and glean the pearls of inner wisdom from the dross of everyday life once every month become great women. We become our own best friends, our strongest allies, our own lifelong spiritual guides. We have an unfailing inner compass. We gain a wealth that women who don't know about CM can never achieve.
Shouldn't we leave a few footprints for those women yet to come? This website are my footprints. Where are yours?