The roads were icy, it was a cold and snowy night 30 years ago in the New England village of Salem, Massachusetts. I got out of my car with my recording equipment and set up in a crowded lecture hall. I was there, half a life time ago, to make make an iconic recording capturing one of the great thinkers and inspirational leaders in modern times, the Co-Founder of MS Magazine and Women’s Movement Pioneer, Gloria Steinem.
About two weeks before that I had gotten a call from Gloria Steinem’s office in New York City. We had just done one audiobook with her and it was very exciting to be working with such an icon. Turns out it was the 300th anniversary of the Salem witch trials. Ms. Steinem was speaking in Salem at a college there to add some wisdom, insight and inspiration on the exact day of the iconic 300th anniversary in history of the beginning of the trials. What resulted was an incredible historical and inspirational speech – chock full of wisdom. In
honor of International Women’s History Month and the WisdomFeed March Theme : Light In The Darkness,
we’re happy to make this entire audiobook available for free. Enjoy
This talk by Gloria Steinem — timely, timeless, and recommended for all genders — is a never before released recording that took place in 1993 in Salem, Massachusetts, in concurrence with the 300th anniversary of The Salem Witch Trials. In this incredibly enlightening and motivational audio program, Steinem puts into social and historical context the role of society in the treatment and mistreatment of women and other freedom fighters..
“As you can tell from the title I had given to my speech, “Scholars, Witches and Other Freedom Fighters,” … I couldn’t resist reflecting on the reasons that both are freedom fighters, even though scholars are serene, non-activist, honorable, and respectable and witches are emotional, activist and all-together dishonorable. In other words, the first are masculine in their imagery and the second are feminine in their imagery. But both have a role to play as revolutionaries and freedom fighters for us all.
What was true in my day is still far too true now, and so we need scholars who are revolutionaries and who dare to think what we might study if we looked at the world as if everyone mattered, and if we studied each continent in the reality of their existence instead of the political fact of their power, in our view of the world. In fact by not doing that we are missing a very great deal. Think about what we did not learn about the Native-American cultures. There are hundreds of sophisticated peoples, yet we are only just discovering how useful to us Native American cultures are that were already in this country before it was “discovered”. And think about the true source of much of our democratic tradition in this country.
I doubt very much the immigrants — the European immigrants who came here — knew a great deal about ancient Greece. And in any case, in ancient Greece, only about five people voted. It was a very limited privilege — very limited privilege — and in fact the source of our knowledge about democracy really came from the Native American cultures that were already here. We learned the structure of our government from the Iroquois confederacy. And those wise people advised us and were present in Philadelphia explaining that it was of course possible to allow a high degree of autonomy as they did to various nations. The Cherokees and others still cede overall umbrella powers in a confederacy. Benjamin Franklin admitted that this is a major source of our democracy in this country, but with condescension: “Well if those savages can do it so can we.”
But I certainly was much more likely to believe that everything was owed to ancient Greece, and very little was owed to the Native American cultures of this country. Because I suppose that if we admitted that, we would have had to also admit that genocide that was performed on those cultures, and the fact that 90% of the individuals were wiped out in just a couple of centuries, after the “discovery” of this country. Or that the teaching of the religion and culture languages of those who remained was forbidden — was actually illegal — well into the 60s. So we have penalized ourselves, in fact, by not having scholars who were not freedom fighters, and not enough scholars who were not willing to go back and look at the real history and uncover the richness of cultures who in many cases understood balance between human kind and nature. Understood the balance between the male and the female. And as we are only now discovering, many secrets and much wisdom that we have looked outward for, we haven’t known enough to look in our backyard — to look inward and to look at this country and see what we have missed.”