In February 2010, Marianne Williamson held a seminar called SISTER GIANT: Rousing the Sleeping Giant of American Womanhood. During that weekend, five hundred women gathered to watch three films, then learn from scholarly experts about the subjects they covered.
The first was The Burning Times, made by the Canadian Film Board as part of their Women and Spirituality series. The film is the story of the hundreds of thousands of women in the Middle Ages who were burned as witches during the Inquisition. The second film was the HBO 2004 special called Iron Jawed Angels, a powerful historical drama that chronicles the history of the early American suffragettes. The third was Abigail Disney’s documentary, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, about the extraordinary struggle of courageous Liberian women during the 1990s who ended a civil war that was raging in their country.
Our ultimate purpose was not just to understand women who lived long ago or even our contemporaries living far away – but to better understand ourselves as American women living today: specifically our history, our relative quietude about things that matter most, and our frequent lack of courage compared to that displayed by women who have only a fraction of the resources that we have.
We ended the weekend dedicated to action, as we learned about the RESULTS organization, America’s foremost citizen lobby working to end the worst ravages of hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world. Hundreds of women left the first SISTER GIANT weekend more informed about their history, more aware of their place in the world, and more committed to making a difference.
In November 2012, we gathered for a second SISTER GIANT weekend. This one, subtitled Women, Non-violence and Birthing a New American Politics, took the SISTER GIANT mission one step forward. Fifteen hundred women, and some men as well, gathered from all fifty states in the United States. We dealt with the intersection of spirituality and politics, reconciling the need for spiritual seekers to address the huge amount of unnecessary suffering in the world, and the need for a politics with a more holistic, spiritual dimension. It also emphasized the need for more women to run for political office in a country where we have nowhere near 50 percent representation in either Congress or our Statehouses. During the weekend, co-sponsored by the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University, we focused on these main topics: Child poverty, mass incarceration, Citizens United, and myriad issues involved in supporting women in running for office.
Last year, Marianne ran for Congress in California’s District 33. She did not win her primary, but as with everything else in life, she learned as much from losing as she might have from winning. The experience only confirmed her belief that people do want a more meaningful relationship with the public sphere, and a politics in which compassion and conscience take primacy over money and greed. While she herself has no further plans to run for office, she is as committed as ever to the issues she articulated on the campaign and to supporting others who run on the same kind of political values.
SISTER GIANT 3 was held in March 2015 in Los Angeles, and also livestreamed. That years’s theme was Awakening our Conscience, Restoring our Democracy. Senator Bernie Sanders, Lisa Bloom, former Congressman Dennis Kucinich, author and journalist Thom Hartmann and others all helped us explore political issues ranging from getting money out of politics, to race and criminal justice, to the corruption of our food supply.
The purpose of SISTER GIANT is to support a higher level of contribution among those who want to increase their efficacy as activist and/or candidate leading up to 2016 and beyond. The Conference is home to a higher level of political conversation — one that includes the heart as well as the head — and uplifts the tenor of citizen involvement. Together we can create a politics of conscience. You will find rich resources at SISTER GIANT, to support you in both your inner and outer journey to a more powerful, effective and meaningful citizenship.
Come. Watch. Spread the word.