We have all heard much talk lately about strong women. Recent marches, speeches, and demonstrations have focused on inspiring women to be strong and courageous. Social media is lit up with blog posts, articles, and quotes. Just google “strong women” and you will get millions of hits. Characteristics of strong women, tips for men on how to date a strong woman, quotes from and about strong women….So, who is this strong woman everyone is talking about?

After reading several blog posts and browsing a few websites, this list of characteristics emerged: A strong woman is a problem solver, secure in who she is, worldly, passionate, educated, interested in things that really matter, decisive, bold, confident, knows what she wants, ambitious, honest, loyal, passionate, trustworthy, lives life with purpose, goals, and vision for the future. This one popped up a few times—she is “not a cupcake.”

Certainly, these qualities are good and we want our daughters and granddaughters to have them. If you haven’t done so lately, read through Proverbs 31:10-31. You will see every one of these character traits and more. You will read about how women are to be praised and honored for their character and noble works. These verses are not meant to be a “to do” list for women but to point out, bring to the forefront, the gifts God gave to woman when He created her.

One of the strong women in my family was Sara Whitehead Purkeypile. She was definitely “not a cupcake.” Born in 1888, she grew to be just a touch over five feet tall. Sara was one of the strongest women I have ever known, and at the same time, one of the most gracious and gentle. Educated at the University of Toronto, she became a midwife and Methodist deaconess. Along with her husband, she ministered to 300 Eskimos in a remote village in the Territory of Alaska during the 1920s and 30s.

Sara taught 40 primary Eskimo students while raising her own five children. She served as postmistress for the village. At any time of day or night, Sara delivered babies in huts, often hiking through snow with temperatures as cold as fifty below zero. Her communications with the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of the Interior resulted in increased services for the native people. She developed and managed a weekly education program for adult women to promote health and cleanliness and lessen the risk of disease. Intelligent, bold, courageous, virtuous, living life with purpose…

In addition to being a model of womanly strength, my grandmother was full of grace and tenderness. And she loved the Lord. She understood the strengths and character qualities she possessed were given to her by God’s design. Sara thought and acted biblically. As challenging as her life was, she lived each day with joy and hope. Thankfully, she raised my mother to be the same kind of strong woman she was.

Christian parents want their daughters to understand the gifts God has given them and exercise those for good. What better way to appreciate these gifts than in the context of God’s truth?

As he so often does, John Calvin gets to the point of the matter effectively. In Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book First: Of the Knowledge of God the Creator, Calvin states:

Our wisdom consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves…No man can survey himself without turning his thoughts towards the God in whom he lives and moves; because it is perfectly obvious, that the endowments which we possess cannot possibly be from ourselves.

God has gifted my seven granddaughters with the same gifts as all women. As a 65 year old Christian grandmother, my prayer is this:

  • they would learn from the strong, capable women in their lives
  • they would see their own character qualities and strengths as God’s design 
  • they would use their strengths in virtuous ways to glorify God and serve others