Women of Valor: An Essay Contest and Giveaway

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

“A woman of valor who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.” 
- Proverbs 31:10

Eshet chayil—woman of valor— has long been a blessing of praise in the Jewish community. Husbands often sing the line from Proverbs 31 to their wives at Sabbath meals. Women cheer one another on through accomplishments in homemaking, career, education, parenting, and justice by shouting a hearty “eshet chayil!” after each milestone.  Great women of the faith, like Sarah and Ruth and Deborah, are identified as women of valor. 

One of my goals after completing my year of biblical womanhood was to “take back” Proverbs 31 as a blessing, not a to-do list, by identifying and celebrating women of valor: women who are changing the world through daily acts of faithfulness, both in my life and around the world. 

And today I want to give you the chance to join me in this effort by participating in an essay contest. 

Write an original essay, up to 800 words, about a woman of valor in your life. It could be your mother, your sister, your wife, your best friend, your Sunday school teacher from long ago, a pastor, a mentor, a saint from centuries past, or even a woman you met for only a few minutes but whose presence changed you. Send your essay, along with your name, mailing address, short author bio, and (if you would like) a photo of the woman you have featured to contest@rachelheldevans.com byFriday, August 24 to be entered.  (Please copy the essay directly into the email, and please ensure that you have received permission from the subject and photographer if you include a photo. *Essays that fail to meet these specifications will be disqualified.*) I'll have non-exclusive, first-time rights to the winning pieces, which means winners can publish their essays elsewhere after they've appear on my blog. Essays must be original, but feel free to adapt a piece you've already written. If you don't win, I hope you will still share your essay on your blog if you have one. I'll be sure to link to some of my favorites. 

I will choose five winners whose essays will be featured on the blog each day of the week, August 27-31, 2012. 

(For inspiration, see Six Bolivian Women of Valor.) 

For this contest, I am delighted to be partnering with Hill Country Hill Tribers, a non-profit that provides supplemental income and marketable skills for Burmese refugee artisans living in Austin, Texas. So in addition to being featured on the blog, each of the winners will receive a flower necklace—for themselves or for the woman of valor that they feature—made by a woman from Hill Country Hill Tribers using traditional hand-tatting skills.  


The flowers are crocheted with nylon thread around an antique bronze washer and hung with a bronze chain. The necklaces are 17-inches long, and winners will be the first to receive these new additions to HCHT’s fall line, available to all August 28. Winners will be given their choice of heather gray, dark coral, or jade. (I have a red flower necklace from HCHT, and let me tell you, I get compliments on it all the time.) 

These necklaces are made by a woman of valor named Christine:


Jessica Goudeau, Executive Director of HCHT, explains why Christine and her fellow artisans are women of valor: 

"The artisans of Hill Country Hill Tribers are weavers, sewers, tatters, jewelry-makers, stay-at-home moms, grandmothers, widows, teachers, mentors, students, and survivors. They escaped persecution in their home country and fled to refugee camps in India, Thailand, and Malaysia, where they lived for months or years before receiving permission to resettle in the United States.

The Hill Triber women have staggering courage: they are learning new languages and new skills in a culture that is bewilderingly different from what they left behind in the mountains of Burma. All of the artisans are women (except one grandfather who sews bibs and Christmas ornaments) and their experiences are typical of many women around the world. For most of them, education in their villages was a luxury that was more important for the boys—often the girls had to stay home to help with children and housework rather than attending the village school. Some of the artisans are illiterate in their own languages; they can barely write their names in English, much less read bus signs or fill out Medicaid forms. A couple of the artisans are college-educated, but they’re stuck working part-time housekeeping jobs. Most of the women stay at home with their small children or grandchildren, which means they have few chances to earn money or learn English. But these women moved to a new country to do whatever it takes to help their children have education and resources they never enjoyed.

Being a part of Hill Country Hill Tribers allows them to earn money working at their own pace making items they help design. Over the last few years, these women have transformed from scared new refugees to proud and empowered designers, teachers and providers. Their English skills improve by leaps and bounds in the conversation classes. They learn basic inventory skills in group meetings. Most importantly, they maintain connections with their hill tribe cultures that might be lost otherwise. Their daughters grow up watching their mothers weave and crochet in the home like their grandmothers and great-grandmothers before them. By crafting beautiful products in their homes and gathering together often, these artisans are weaving a community in Austin that is rooted in their past and reaching toward a new future."

Learn more about Hill Country Hill Tribers, and take a look at their products, here.


(Note: Product shots are used by permission of Charis Dishman at Charisdishmanphotography.com and the Hill Triber group shot is by Kelsi Williamson at Kelsiwilliamson.com.)

It’s an honor to be partnering with Hill Country Hill Tribers for this contest. I can’t wait to read your contributions and meet all the women of valor who have changed your lives. 

Now go write something!

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