The First Suffragette

April 22, 2017
1 Comment

I’m on risky ground here, never having been near a real live huffing-and-puffing bull. I’ve never tried to herd some bellowing monster into a corral or up a gangplank into a truck. I’ve got no experience here whatsoever.

But my father-in-law does, and he used to say that nothing was quite so risky on the farm as hanging out with some hot-headed Holstein. Once upon a time he lost control of his horses and they took him through the ditch going like a banshee. He tells that story, and his eyes still flare.

But the worst, he’s says, the all-time worst, is getting chased by a fire-breathing ton of enraged bull.

So imagine how ridiculous that little bronze girl is, a statue, standing where she is, downtown NYC, Bowling Green Park, facing off against a raging bull who’s six feet at the shoulder and five across the horns. There she stands, hands on hips, cocky as a superhero. Maybe you’ve seen her, twelve maybe, probably a year or two less.

A sculptor named Kristen Visbal designed her, and an investment management company named State Street Global Investors put her there, facing off against that raging bull. The idea is written all over that young lady’s testiness: even though a mad bull is facing her down, she’s not breaking a sweat, a symbol of the strong women on Wall Street. “Know the power of women in the workplace,” saith a plaque at the young lady’s feet.  

My father would smile, but he wouldn’t buy it. Nor his wife, who used to testify that what scared her more than anything on the farm was that snarky bull and his quirky meanness.

The little girl and the bull is pretty much melodrama, as is the substance of almost every ad campaign ever created. She’s cute and the whole juxtaposition is rich. It got loads of well-earned attention last week, especially on Wednesday, International Women’s Day.

Seems to me that little girl could use a good shot of Psalm 16, where King David shows nothing of her temerity, begging God to hold on to him, to protect him from harm, to “not abandon me to the realm of the dead,” or “let your faithful one see decay.” The two of them are not at all alike.

Solomon’s song has little to do with that child’s bold bravery either, the whole book being, first and foremost, a love song.

But I can’t help thinking of that little girl in New York City when once more we run through the grand story of Mary in the Garden, early on the first day of the week, the first day of a new dawn brimming with light the world has never seen.

Mary walks in, Kleenex balled in both hands, still wiping away tears–and he’s gone. She has no idea where he is. All she knows is he’s gone.

Two angels are sitting there, far less a shock to her apparently than her savior’s incredible absence. The world is not the same. Jesus is gone. He’s no longer in the tomb. When she turns away, a man is standing there asking stupid questions. “Who are you looking for?” he says. She’s wiping her eyes because she certainly doesn’t see.

All she knows is someone’s in her way, so she lets him have it.

Now think of that little girl facing off against the bull. See the way she stands there, hands on hips, as if nothing’s going to stop her? Cocky, belligerent, head-strong, that bronze child is not one bit afraid.

“Sir, if you have carried him away,” she says, maybe showing a little deference, as she should have back then. But then she unloads, hammering her sentences into command form. She looks the gardener in the eye and rips him. “Tell me where you have put him,” she says, hands on hips, “and I will get him.”

She’s not asking, she’s telling.

That moment is all over that little bronze girl in Bowling Green Park, New York City. There isn’t a suffragette in history bolder than Mary right there at the tomb at that very moment.

But there’s more to the story—so much more.

“Mary,” Jesus said.

Imagine. She has to stop breathing. She must.

That moment brought the eternal light of a brand new dawn.

That’s the real story.



About the Author
  • James Calvin Schaap is a retired English prof who spent 37 years teaching literature and writing at Dordt. When he retired from Dordt, he pulled up stakes in Sioux Center and pitched his tent north of Alton, where he lives out in the country with a broad backyard of fine Sioux County land. We’re cat people, he says, but can’t help thinking there are dozens of dogs in any nearby shelter who’d love to call their country place home. Who knows?

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  1. Jim, I would like to think that that girl is representing people who are against the Stock Market and what goes on behind it. I am sure Charlie would like to see it this way. I know that is not the real story. I wish it were.