This post is written in honor of National Arts and Humanities Month. We are highlighting different humanities topics that we are passionate about and hope you’ll share your passions with us too!
Our recent blog “assignment” was to write about a work of art or literature that made a significant impression on us at a young age. I put off this “assignment” because my childhood favorites seem juvenile for the scholarly AHF blog. But here are the works that I read and reread, looked at again and again.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett was my favorite childhood book. The orphaned Mary Lennox is sent from India to England to live with her rich uncle at Misselthwaite Manor where she finds a walled garden and friendship. I dream of finding a secret garden like the one pictured in the book and believe in the healing power of nature. I have given this book to every girl in my family at age eight since I won the award for reading the most books (or for being the nerd) in the third grade when I read it.
The first book that I loved was The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by DuBose Heyward. The little country girl bunny dreamed of growing up and becoming one of the five Easter bunnies. The big, white, male rabbits laughed at the little Cottontail and told her to go back to the country. Cottontail grows up to be a mother of 21 bunnies and is chosen to be the special Easter bunny because she is wise, kind and swift from teaching her bunnies to take care of themselves. As a working mother, Cottontail has inspired me to teach my children to be independent and to pursue their dreams.
With an art teacher and English professor as parents, I was exposed to great works of art and literature at a young age. At the National Gallery of Art, my favorite artwork was Whistler’s “Symphony in White No. 1: The White Girl.” The innocent young woman stands on the skin of a bear. The girl’s red hair is a statement of empowerment in the “symphony in white.” As a kindergartner flipping through art books, my favorite picture was the young Infanta Margarita in Velázquez’s “The Maids of Honor.” I see my own daughter as Velázquez’s princess around whom the family revolves.
In reflection on my childhood favorites, I realize that each work focused on a female character. These female images have empowered me as a woman.