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Sunday, February 05, 2006

Women of courage


How does a woman juggle housework and babies while her husband spends more time in jail than in helping to raise the kids? And in addition to performing her role as wife and mother still finds time to take part in protest rallies, speak to scores of people and protect her children from a bomb or two. This week we mourn the passing of one such woman, Coretta Scott King.

In writing this blog I was prompted by two things: one, it’s Black History month and two, a film of Gandhi which I viewed recently. Coretta King, wife of civil rights leader Martin Luther King and Kasturba “Ba” Gandhi were married to men who achieved world wide acclaim because of their extraordinary dedication to fighting injustice in their societies. However, I believe these men would not have achieved such greatness had they not been blessed with such exceptional mates.

Coretta King gave up the bright lights of a singing career to become the wife of a Baptist minister in 1953. Like Kasturba, Coretta also gave birth to four children. Early in the marriage she worked alongside her husband, or it was more like walked in marches beside him, traveled abroad with him and spoke on her husband’s behalf when he was unable to do so. However, while Mrs. Gandhi passed away before her husband, Coretta survived Martin Luther King by four decades. Determined that the work her husband began would live on, Coretta gave herself no time to mourn. Just four days after his death she led a march through the streets of Memphis, and attended the Poor People’s March in Washington later that year.

Over the years, Coretta King continued to work tirelessly in her husband’s memory, establishing the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia and achieving the goal of having her husband’s birthday honored as a public holiday in Jan. 1986. She continued to travel the globe preaching the gospel of equality and became a goodwill ambassador and advisor to world leaders including Nelson Mandela.

Like most wives of men in the limelight, Coretta and Kasturba had to put up with the scores of women who admired and followed their husbands. Despite rumors of infidelity on Martin Luther’s part, Coretta “stood by her man” as did Kasturba when women took her place in attending to Gandhi’s needs, and the world speculated on their non-sexual relationship. Whether we are married to a leader or a subordinate, we can learn from Coretta and Kasturba. Two women, two different worlds, many eras apart, but their message is the same: loyalty, devotion and courage. God calls us to no less.

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