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Miriam at the River Blog #4: Miriam's Water

Posted by Jane Yolen on 2/14/2020 to Passover

I have long been fascinated by how folk stories of strong girls and women have gotten hidden over the years of retelling. I even wrote several anthologies focused on this—NOT ONE DAMSEL IN DISTRESS. 

It was only recently I turned and looked at some of the oldest and well-known stories in the Western world—the stories from the Hebrew Bible, where except for a very few, the women’s tales are hidden behind their brother’s, father’s, grandfathers, and uncle’s stories. I decided—along with my dear friend and member of my critique group, Barbara Diamond Goldin (a Jewish Book Award winner herself) to delve into the Torah and tease the girl’s and women into the light in our anthology, MEET ME AT THE WELL.

It wasn’t enough for me because younger children needed to hear those stories, too. I wanted to tell them in the lyrical high language of our ancestors. I wanted them to be fully illustrated picture books for children.

That was the true beginning of MIRIAM AT THE WELL. That and a poem I wrote but never published about her.

These days Miriam has become a hero, a woman of valor in our eyes. In younger, more feminist households at Passover, alongside a glass of wine on the table for the prophet Elijah there is, appropriately, a glass of water for  Miriam. Water—in all its forms, are used in her story to teach us many things, such as how women are as essential as water to a tribe.



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