I was at the final Why Christian conference last spring when Rachel Held Evans gave one of her last public talks, which was on the importance of women in the Christian faith. (I had recently started working with Rachel on her next book). One thing she said that has stayed with me is that Jesus chose women to be the first to see him resurrected. I had never heard these women—listed in Luke as Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women– given such top-billing treatment before. Usually they are relegated as a footnote in Easter sermons, or used to illustrate the point of the hard-headedness of the disciples who did not believe the account because it came from women.
But, as Rachel pointed out, that is not how Jesus saw them. Jesus saw these women’s intrinsic worth, loved them, and valued them enough to reveal himself to them. Who they were mattered. Their voice, their perspective, their souls, they mattered.
I am passionate about working to publish a wide variety of women’s voices and perspectives, especially on topics of faith and spirituality, and so Women’s History Month is the perfect moment to reflect on this mission. When I started working at HarperOne, I was introduced to an author who has become a guiding light for me: Barbara Brown Taylor (especially, An Altar in the World). I soon after became familiar with and eventually took over editing Diana Butler Bass’s books, whose incisive scholarship has deepened my own faith (Grounded). During a particularly challenging season of life, I stumbled upon backlist authors like Sue Monk Kidd (When the Heart Waits) and Lynn Hinton (Friendship Cake), letting their words seep like balm into my troubled soul.
These authors, and so many others, have used their intelligence, their life experience, and their skill with threading words together to transform lives, offer new perspectives, and bring comfort for myself and many others. These women believed what Jesus demonstrated: that they mattered, that what was stirring in their souls and what they had to teach others, mattered. I’m proud to point to the legacy of these authors when I am talking to new HarperOne authors, women like Christena Cleveland, Angela Braniff, Shannon Dingle, and Ainsley Arment who are leading the charge with their unique perspectives into the 2020s.
We celebrate women and women authors this month, but the legacy of these authors lives on beyond just this month as their books influence lives far and wide. Because, as both Jesus and Rachel have shown us, women matter.