I intended to post this last Sunday, but then I dropped my Mouse while cleaning the desk, and it broke, and it took three days for the local computer store to come up with a ten buck "made in China" mouse that had a plug that matched my much patched up and upgraded old computer.
Last week I spent time doing three things. Watching Nancy Pelosi's body language, re-reading parts of "Reunion" Tom Hayden's biography and history of the founding of SDS and the Port Huron Conference, and reading through a whole pack of memoirs of both Catholic Nuns and the debates about renewal and all during the 1960's. For all the talk about Nancy as a San Francisco Liberal or the daughter of a Baltimore Democratic Machine Pol, something is profoundly missing -- Nancy Pelosi was, for 16 years, educated by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur - and as I watched her, intentional or not, I kept seeing the culture. I certainly don't think it explains everything or maybe anything of importance, but it could help in understanding. My own understanding of it is limited -- I attended one of their academies for four years, and remained in contact with some of my teachers till they died in the 1980's -- but I was never Catholic, and never in real agreement with everything. None the less, this is a world that is largely not comprehended by those who propose to report the rise of Pelosi.
Within Roman Catholic Womens Teaching Orders there is a class system -- at the top is the Madams of the Sacred Heart (to read about them you can consult "Memory of a Catholic Girlhood" by Mary McCarthy). Their mission was the female ultra elite of the Catholic World, and no others. Next in the class order are the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur -- a teaching order that did both the staffing of the immigrant schools at the parish level and the operation of more elite schools at both the primary and high school level, plus the foundation of three Catholic Women's colleges, one of which is Trinity in Washington DC.
The de Namur's were founded in the wake of the French Revolution and as something of a resistance against its extremes. It was much influenced by Jesuit teaching, but it was always, in context, profoundly feminist. It is a pontifical institute, but has a long history of making demands and resisting male domination. As an order they tend to just go ahead with what they agree on -- and hope that they are not really notice by those in power who would call their number.
This is what got me about Tom Hayden's history of the Port Huron Conference "Reunion" -- the fact that about 40% of the delegates were products of the de Namur schools. Reading his statistics, I instantly went back to the text, and found all the linguistic confirmation necessary. And in the last few weeks, I have checked out how many of Pelosi's classmates were part of Port Huron, with all its demands for participatory democracy, for civil rights (remember this was 1962) and for variations on the theme of economic democracy. But this is not an ideology, it is a culture...it is a feminist culture cultivated in both a Catholic culture and Catholic institutional structures, and one which was half attention to the immigrant world, and the other half to the elities who really could not afford or access the Madams schools. And I should point out that as of the late 60's the de Namurs decided to no longer staff parish schools, for the most part they closed their elite schools, and adopted advocacy missions for the poor. Trinity College in DC today is one of the best access points for welfare moms who want to work toward professional status. It is not the kind of "class" school that Nancy knew when she attended, but I think she grew with the de Namur mission concept. But she still has the de Namur body language, and that was what caught my attention.
I don't know how to put all this in the context of the Middle East -- or even the events of the last few days when I had no operational mouse, but now that I can "mouse" I hope the contribution stimulates.