The writing of Marian Wright Edleman


Marian Wright Edelman (1939- ) The Quiet Face of Influence

  • First African-American woman attorney admitted to the Mississippi state bar.
  • Founder of the Childrenís Defense Fund
  • recipient of the MacArthur Foundation "Genius Award."

Women Hold Up Half the Sky
(A Chinese proverb)

Some women accomplish beyond expectation. They challenge personal bias, cultural prejudice and glass ceilings; they find ways to turn limitations into opportunities. Their motivation, personality and sheer talent, within the context of their backgrounds and cultural influences, propel these women to achieve unusual success in their fields. Women may hold up half the sky, but men tend to hold up the public half. And women are often unaware of the power within their grasp, and of the "big sky" awaiting their input and talents.

Marian was one of five children, born in segregated South Carolina. Her father, a Baptist minister, died when Marian was only fourteen. His last words to her were "Donít let anything get in the way of your education." She didnít, and eventually earned a Yale law degree. Following her parentsí legacy, her life has been dedicated to being an advocate for social justice and children in need. Her family and tight-knit community, who took responsibility for all the children and for each other, molded her vision of what the world could become.

To quote Marian, "We learned that service ... is the purpose of life and not something you did in your spare time." "He (her father) was able to convey to me ... that I, a young Black girl, could be and do anything; that race and gender are shadows; and that character, selfdiscipline, determination, attitude, and service are the substance of life."

Marianís intellectuality, idealism, pride and tenacity are conveyed by her linear, progressive handwriting, small middle zone, tall capitals "S" and "M," pronounced capital "I," and the moderate uphill pull in the alignment. The wide spacing between and within words, and between lines, is prominent. There is a detached, introverted quality in the distancing of these elements; it is both reflective and reclusive. But this distancing also allows for objective reasoning, clear strategy, and an open receptivity to ideas. The stroke quality is thick and pastose, with a warm, earthy tone. The spare thready movement shows her adapta ility and her focus on essentials. It reflects the quiet force of her influence. She avoids conflict and contact. She relies on reasoning but her inner sensitivity is evident in her stroke quality. Marian is guided by her independence, individuality, and ingrained principles, which are not easily influenced. She knows her own mind and is not deterred from her mission.


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