During my time in Studium (2002 to
2003), a residential scholars’ program of the Sisters of Saint Benedict, I
discovered I was living in a laugh laboratory. Where else could I find a better
reflection of women’s humor than in a women’s monastery? My experience at
monastery meals confirms the research; amusing stories of daily living are
shared and everyone participates. Sometimes two or three people tell an
anecdote together. You often hear words of encouragement: “Sister, tell the one
about . . .” Here are two of my favorites:
When the sister known for her
social justice work was speeding across Montana, a patrolman pulled her over.
He asked, “Didn’t you see me on the side of the road?” She said, “Yes.” The
officer asked why she didn’t slow down. She innocently and honestly replied, “I
thought it would be hypocritical.”
Reprinted with permission
While assigning research topics, a
sister theology professor announced, “Sexual intercourse hasn’t been chosen;
anyone interested in this topic, please see me in my office.” Reprinted with permission
Finally, although women are seldom
included in standard anthologies of American humor, there are numerous
anthologies of women’s humor available. We have a richer written heritage than
we may realize. Besides the books mentioned above, other favorites include: They Used to Call Me Snow White But I
Drifted, In Stitches, Pulling Our Strings, Women’s Comic Visions, Women’s Comic
Fiction, and Redressing the Balance.
How many have heard of best-selling
writer, Marietta Holley? Holley wrote more than twenty books from 1873 to 1914.
She was enormously popular and entertained as many people as Mark Twain.
Through the wit and gentle satire of her main character, Samantha, wife of
Josiah Allen, she challenged the status quo of social and political realities,
especially concerning women’s rights. For example, “Samantha cannot understand
why men are trying so hard to protect women from the effort it takes to walk to
the polling booth and slip a piece of paper in a box. She has noticed that
these same protective instincts do not apply to churning butter, baking bread,
and washing clothes, which she observes take considerably more effort.”