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Stories of strong Liberian women

by Linda Bloom
October 6, 2011

I’ve been reminded this fall that strong Liberian women helped lead their nation on the path to peace.

Last month, I heard an energetic young woman, Lauren Selman Roberts, talk about “Rainbow Town,” her 2010 documentary about a woman, Ma Feeta, who assisted children during Liberia’s civil war and now oversees a large orphanage. Roberts, who received a Wilbur Award from the Religion Communicators Council, is totally committed to promoting Ma Feeta’s efforts to educate these children, who light up the film.

Shortly after that, I saw a television interview with Leymah Gbowee, who has written a memoir with Carol Mithers called “Mighty Be Our Powers,” about her life as a peace activist in Liberia. The sponsor of her U.S. book tour – which includes an Oct. 7 book party hosted by the Women’s Ministries of the National Council of Churches at the Interchurch Center in New York – is Leonard Riggio, the chairman of Barnes & Noble, paying the costs from his own pocket.

Leymah Gbowee is a central figure in “Pray the Devil Back to Hell,” a documentary about the women who fought to end Liberia’s civil war. Gbowee, a Lutheran, formed the Christian Women’s Initiative, which then joined in coalitions with Muslim women, eventually creating Liberian Mass Action for Peace.

“Pray the Devil Back to Hell” will be shown Oct. 18 on PBS as part of a five-part series, “Women, War & Peace,” exploring the “changing role of women” in global conflict.

Abigail Disney, executive producer for the series and producer of “Pray the Devil Back to Hell,” will take part in a discussion about “Women, War & Peace” at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 8 during the annual board meeting of United Methodist Women. The event will be streamed live online athttp://board-meeting.umwonline.net/main.

Then, of course, there is the most prominent strong Liberian woman — the president of that nation, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a United Methodist and the first female head of state in Africa. Johnson Sirleaf, now 72, whoaddressed the denomination’s top legislative body in 2008, is up for re-election on Oct. 11.

The key to success for these Liberian women lay in their mutual desire to claim a secure future for themselves and their children. As Gbowee writes, “…we had discovered a new source of power and strength: each other.”