About This Blog

Friday, April 1, 2016

"Seven Women and the Secret of Their Greatness" (Eric Metaxas)

TITLE: Seven Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness
AUTHOR: Eric Metaxas
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Thomas-Nelson, 2015, (256 pages).

Biographies are often very inspirational. By reading the story of individual lives, how they succeed, how they pick themselves up after failures, their background, their sources of influence, and so on, we read about people who are more down to earth than the public perception suggests. If one is inspirational in itself, what about seven? What about the seven women whose lives have become a testament of faith and courage? Having written two bestselling biographies, of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and William Wilberforce, and another book of shorter biographies of seven other men, the author applies his gift of storytelling to a similar book of shorter biographies of seven women. One of the biggest challenges is not about finding which women to write about but the criteria of selection. As one who had written an earlier edition of seven men, it is tempting to write a similar one, only that it is about women. Noting this tendency, Metaxas opts for a story that defines them as women rather than some comparison against the males. Joan of Arc (1412-1431) was chosen for her youth, innocence, and purity. Rosa Parks (1913–2005) was chosen for her exemplary courage in the face of immense opposition. Susanna Wesley (1669–1742) was seen as a strong mother figure while Saint Maria of Paris (1891–1945) went beyond biological motherhood toward being a spiritual parent. Hannah More (1745–1833) exemplified a valued friend and Corrie Ten Boom (1892–1983) and Mother Teresa (1910–1997) manifested a warm human spirit that we can all learn from regardless of our gender.   While the stories between the seven women and seven men are not interchangeable, the principles of learning can be gleaned from all of them. The following are some of the criteria:

  • They were all women who stood heads and shoulders above many in their generation
  • They had big hearts and warm relationships
  • They had great rapport with people around them
  • Their lives were so compelling that they teach us humility.
  • They were people of deep faith.
  • All of them went through tough times and personal crises
Metaxas gives us a brief background and history of each individual. Readers learn about the tricky and challenging circumstances of their lives. Joan of Arc was known for her visions and her leadership in standing up for justice amid great opposition. She became a martyr, forgiving those who cursed and persecuted her. Five hundred years later, she was exonerated from her previous charges and beatified as a saint. When it comes to Susanna Wesley, the mother of two of her famous sons, Charles and John Wesley, readers learn about the complex family relationships, the political and religious turmoil, and the pressure of being not only a homemaker but an educator for her children. Hannah More was a poet, a reformer, and also an abolitionist, living in the same generation as William Wilberforce. While Joan of Arc was well-known for her political engagements, and Susanna Wesley for her homemaking prowess, More's strengths was in the literary arts. Her plays were published and helped establish her fame. She was a pioneer in integrating all of life, rather than to separate things into the sacred or the secular. Through her writings, she advocated for slave rights; fought for the poor, the needy, the underprivileged. Saint Maria of Paris, also known as Maria Skobtsova, was included as an example from the Eastern Orthodox tradition. Many heroes we know have been Protestant and Catholic backgrounds.  She lived during that time that Dietrich Bonhoeffer was martyred. She felt a call to ministry to the poor and the outcasts among the Russian population. Corrie Ten Boom and Mother Teresa are more well-known. Included in the mix is Rosa Parks, mother of the civil rights movement, whose fame skyrocketed after she stood bravely against racism.

This book is a 7-in-1 collection of biographies of significant women throughout history. All of these women drew their strength from deep faith. Parks in her most humiliating moment thought of Christ. Maria Skobtsova's compassion for the poor stemmed from the compassion of Jesus. Corrie Ten Boom's ability to forgive came from knowing that she too was a sinner being forgiven by God. Mother Teresa's venture to India and her missionary work among the poor came from a calling she heard from God. Hannah More's care for the poor came about through a reaction against the Church of England's apathy toward the needy. Joan of Arc's last words at the burning stake was wholeheartedly "Jesus!" Susanna Wesley's deep faith rubbed off her children and influenced many people.

Metaxas has a gift of storytelling and a penchant for details. He has that special talent for researching into the backgrounds of these fine women. I am impressed by the quantity of material he is able to fit into this book. Imagine writing seven biographies and compiling them into one book. Without sacrificing accuracy, he needed to present these stories as fair as possible and as respectful as possible. This is no easy task. Readers will have in their hands a fine collection of stories that can not only encourage those of us having faith crises or challenges, but be emboldened to tackle head on the serious deficiencies of today's society. In the strength and power of the Spirit, of course.

Eric Metaxas is a popular author and speaker. He has previously written bestselling books like Amazing GraceBonhoeffer, Miracles, and 7 Men. He resides in Manhattan, New York with his wife and daughter.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Thomas Nelson and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the post. For a beautiful painting of Susanna Wesley and her children by Richard. G. Douglas, please visit the website https://www.francisasburytriptych.com/francis-asbury-women-preachers/. The picture is a little ways into the lengthy article. Definitely worth the search. Again, thank you for the article.