Mary Caroline Reed Hopkins, 1928-2019

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Mary Hopkins died last November. We were friends in the late 1970s and through the 1980s. Two organizations were important to us. One was the Women’s Traveling Meeting, a regional Quaker group. The other was the Friends Conference on Religion and Psychology, an independent Quaker group for those interested in Jungian psychology.

Both Quakerism and feminism were extensively discussed at Mary’s memorial service. Later, I remembered something about Mary that was NOT mentioned in her obituary or at the service.

For years, Mary sought to explore the nature of female identity by focusing exclusively on women.

  • She did not SPEAK TO men, other than from necessity.
  • She did not SPEAK ABOUT men. When they were the subject of conversation, she remained silent.
  • She read ONLY works by women, listened only to women’s music, studied women’s artwork.

I don’t know how long Mary immersed herself in womankind. I think I remember her saying she expected to focus on women for ten years. I never heard her reflect on it afterwards.

What an interesting and radical personal experiment!

I’ve known people who focused on a racial, ethnic or other identity group, often for the duration of a college course, or even to the extent of earning a related academic degree. What I don’t know is whether they took measures to reduce their exposure to and consumption of “mainstream” culture (which Mary regarded as wholly masculinized) while they concentrated on their chosen area of study. Some people chose to live in an identity enclave, like Little Italy or the Gayborhood. Mary lived exclusively among women for short periods, at conferences which she often spoke of as “peak experiences”. I shared in some of these wonderful events.

A social movement that arose towards the end of Mary’s life was intersectionalism. I first encountered it when African American feminists began to challenge their white feminist counterparts to examine their racial prejudices. Other populations now making their presence known include gender identity groups, handicapped advocacy groups and the elderly. I don’t know how (or if) Mary embraced these challenges.

Here is a quotation from Mary’s video Woman and Her Symbols.

“The male god of law and order, tempered by the unconditional love, nurture and creativity of the female goddess, may return us to a bountiful, beautiful and peaceful world, in which we may all fully realize that of the divine within ourselves and each other.”

Rest in Peace, Mary Hopkins. May we have the grace to listen to your advice.

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