Helen Hull Hitchcock: A Light in the Darkness | Sherry Tyree | CWR
I met the founder of Women for Faith & Family thirty years ago, and my life was changed forever
Editor's note: On October 20th, Helen Hull Hitchcock, founding director of Women for Faith and Family and editor of Adoremus Bulletin (and a contributor to CWR), died in St. Louis after a short and sudden illness. She was 75 years old. Helen was the wife of James Hitchcock, Catholic author and emeritus professor of history at Saint Louis University, and mother of four daughters and grandmother of six grandchildren. CWR asked Sherry Tyree, longtime friend of the Hitchcocks and a fellow worker at Women for Faith and Family, to write about Helen's life, work, and witness.
The phone rang.
It was a Dr. Anne Bannon—I didn’t know her—who had read my recent letter to the editor in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Dr. Bannon said a new Catholic women’s group was springing up in St. Louis and she thought I’d like to be part of it. Here’s the meeting date—could I come?
I couldn’t—thank goodness. That was that.
I figured these women were probably a bunch of nuts. I’d worked in the Catholic end of the civil rights movement in the 60s and had had enough of the kind of fringe element that seems attracted to WHATEVER’S HAPPENING NOW—loosely-knit folks who glom on to a current worthy cause and then excuse their own questionable behavior because, after all, their hearts are in the right place.
That was the 60s; this was the 80s. Liberalism, which held the moral high ground back in the day, had become cocky, then nasty, and traditional religion, which had once been vital to the civil rights cause, was now shown the door. In the 80s, religion was the enemy of liberalism, most especially Roman Catholicism.
A month later—uh, oh—Dr. Bannon phoned again with the date of the next meeting. In a weak moment, I said I’d attend.
So my husband dropped me off, and I walked into a room full of women who seemed, well, perfectly normal.
Like me, they were concerned about this neo-anti-Catholicism that had emerged, and were determined to do something about it. I felt very much at home.
All too soon—midnight!—time to leave. Anne Connell offered to drive me.
My husband Donald was pacing the floor: just as I had forgotten the time, he had forgotten where he had dropped me off! Where had I been? A half-hour more and he was ready to phone the police….
I told him something important had happened that night, something good. It was much the way a woman feels when she knows she is pregnant and no one else yet knows.
And that’s how I met Helen Hull Hitchcock.
Back then, in ’84, radical feminism was in full flower, support for the killing of unborn children was confident, pervasive, and public—and anyone who disagreed was treated with derision and vilification.