Miriam Therese Winter

Miriam Therese Winter
"The soul of the universe is divinity present everywhere and in everything, in you and me, in friend and foe, and in all who share our sacred space on our hallowed planet."
- MT Winter

Induction Category:
Arts & Humanities

Born: 1938

Inducted: 2002

Town: Hartford

Miriam Therese (M.T.) Winter discovered the magic of words and music as a child. She wrote her first poem when she was just six and a year later began to learn the piano. Her love of music followed her when, many years later, Winter joined the Medical Mission Sisters in Philadelphia, ready to begin her dream of traveling to developing nations and providing much needed medical care. During her travels,  she developed a new dream, that of spreading care and love through song rather than medicine, and she continues to transform the world.

Gloria Winter was born in Passaic, N.J., in 1938. After her high school graduation in 1955, Winter entered the Medical Mission religious community. When taking her vows, she received not only her habit, rosary, cross and veil, but also her new name: Miriam Therese. Winter went on to earn her B.A. in music from Catholic University, her Master’s degree in religious education from McMaster Divinity College, and a Ph.D. in liturgical studies from Princeton Theological Seminary. She studied Gregorian chants and soon began writing her own songs, songs that people in her own time could understand and relate to. Before long, Winter’s songs found their way into churches and hearts around the country.

Over the course of her journey, Winter discovered feminist spirituality and began to work toward the full liberation of women, believing that this liberation is essential to the liberation of all peoples. Armed with her musical compositions and her steadfast beliefs, Winter traveled to developing nations—but not to provide the medical assistance she once thought she would. Instead, she was providing people around the globe with hope through music and empowered women through her ministries. As a Medical Mission Sister, Winter has ministered to refugees in camps on the Thai-Cambodian border and to starving children in Ethiopia. She has shared her scholarship and her music with communities in Botswana, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya and India. Through workshops and lectures, prayers and songs, she addresses issues of justice and gender, peace and reconciliation, global inequality, and personal piety. In addition, she has performed her own music in concerts in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and across the United States. Since 1998, she has also ministered to women inmates at the Niantic State Correctional Institution in Niantic, Conn. Today, she is a professor of liturgy, worship, spirituality, and feminist studies at Hartford Seminary where she founded the Women’s Leadership Institute.

MT Winter has received honorary doctorates from Albertus Magnus College and St. Joseph’s College. She has been included on ASCAP's 1968 Popular Awards List and has received awards for several of her books including WomanWisdom and WomanWitness. In 2001, she published Out of the Depths: The Story of Ludmilla Javorova, Ordained Roman Catholic Priest, which explores the calling of women to the priesthood, and in 2009 she published Paradoxology: Spirituality in a Quantum Universe.

During This Time
1966 - Today: Struggle for Justice

Feminism in the late 1960s was aided by President Kennedy, who formed the President’s Commission on the Status of Women in 1961, and his successor, President Johnson, who backed passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, or religion. Difficulties in implementing the law through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) led a group of women in 1966 to create the National Organization for Women (NOW), demanding “action to bring American women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now.”

A younger group called for a more radical approach to social change than simply considering what was possible to achieve politically. “Women’s liberation” demanded freedom without limitation. Some took part in consciousness-raising groups, others demonstrated against the Miss America pageant, and many discussed their expectations of mutual enjoyment of sex. They established rape crisis centers, domestic shelters, and women’s studies programs. Title IX of the federal Education Amendments Act also increased pressure on universities to hire more women faculty and expand the number of female college athletes. Activist protest among gays and lesbians, such as the Stonewall Riot, symbolized this group’s potential to resist oppression.

Under pressure, many states repealed legislation prohibiting abortion. In 1973, the Supreme Court legalized its availability to women in Roe v. Wade. Also in 1973, the Senate and the House of Representatives passed the ERA, and states began its ratification.

Yet, dissension arose in the ranks of the movement, as it had earlier after passage of the 19th amendment. Feminists disagreed as to whether pornography should be banned or protected as a form of free speech, and whether lesbian identities should be kept secret or disclosed. Black women were more concerned with poverty and welfare in their communities than with personal career advancement; for them, sterilization abuse was more important than abortion, and they were deeply insulted by attacks on the African American family as matriarchal and dysfunctional.

A backlash was growing in the 1970s, along with a New Right in politics. The ERA was defeated and opposition to abortion increased. Conflicts between pro-life and pro-choice candidates have impacted every presidential campaign since then.

Still, gains have been made in many areas. From 1960 to 2000, increasing numbers of women sought entry to higher education, and bachelor’s degrees awarded to them increased from forty to sixty percent.  Definitions of marriage have changed, as when courts gave full rights and responsibilities and the name of marriage to same-sex civil unions in Connecticut in 2008. The Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991 highlighted concern about sexual harassment on the job, and the number of sexual harassment cases filed with the EEOC have increased, as have judgments in favor of the women. Finally, in 2009, women crossed the fifty percent threshold and became the majority of the American workforce. Once largely confined to repetitive manual jobs, now they are running organizations that once treated them as second-class citizens.

The Women’s Movement has changed women’s lives, influenced the economy, and made debate about their roles, family life, and sexual conventions central to national politics and American history.

Special thanks to Barbara E. Lacey, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of History, St. Joseph's College (Hartford, CT) for preparing these historical summaries.