I was most influenced by my bat mtzvah haftarah reading, the story of Deborah. It was February 1952; I was not quite 13. I had never’ encountered Deborah in Hebrew school. I’d only learned about the matriarchs, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, and Queen Esther, but here was a woman who was in the Tanakh in her own right, not because she was the mother or wife of an important man. Deborah was a prophet, a military commander, and the only woman among the Bible’s thirteen Judges. I was deeply impressed by the fact that she led her people in their victory over the Canaanites and then presided over forty years of peace. Thirty-one centuries passed between the reign of Deborah and the era of Golda Meir. As a little Jewish girl growing up in the 1950’s, I drew my inspiration from both.
P.S. Earlier in my childhood, I loved The Adventures of K’tonton because I was a tiny kid myself. Maybe K’tonton was an unconscious metaphor for the powerlessness of being a girl.
Letty Cottin Pogrebin, a founding editor of Ms. magazine, is the author of eight books. Her most recent titles are Getting Over Getting Older (Little, Brown, 1996) and Deborah, Golda and Me: Being Female and Jewish in America (Doubleday, 1992).