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Sister Doris Broke The Glass Ceiling

Nathaniel and Doris Tying the knots

In those days sister Doris was born, sending a girl child to school in that part of the country was not on any father's utmost to-do list. If they did because of the new wave of "civilization" that swept across the country, it was just a matter of time to get them out for a potential suitor. Not that girls could not learn as boys would, the place for the girl child was already known. Her ultimate trajectory was to grow or be groomed into a house wife. That is why at an very early age sometimes as early as three months old or less, a girl child would already be engaged or the future husband would already be identified. That was the trend in the 1940s when Papah, Wilson Jah had his first child whom she named after his mother. Later she was nicknamed “Nwan” interpreted literally as “bird” or small as a bird due to her petit body size. It would take some time though before Hollywood could catch on to the “Nwan” body size. Doris grew in that environment but will come to defy all the norms. Strangely enough, Papah too chose to live outside the status quo by sending Doris and all his other daughters to school. He did not just send them to school as a temporary holding area until they got ready to for an early marriage; Papah was determined to swim against the tides to help his daughters reach their full potentials academically.
It is not an over statement that boys children were a big deal; girls weren’t. There were many places that a father would go with his son and not a daughter. The traditional barriers and role assignments were enormous. My dad’s peers literally lampooned him for not having a son. Anytime they were going on a conference, they would call their sons to carry their stools or chairs. Or when there was a big animal being butchered in the village square, they would call their sons to pick up their share of meat. After they have called their sons, they would look at my dad and mock him jokingly “call Doris.” This was not a place for a girl and so that would be the center of their joke.

Doris, obviously was not an orphan, but she began school at the Doodwicken Orphanage Mission School run by American missionaries of the Liberia Christian Assemblies church. Although about 30% of the students who live on the mission were orphans or those whose parents could not afford anything. Some had different issues. In general, the mission served as a sanctuary from many things that plagued children and even adults in that part of the World. There were some parents who were so poor that they could not even afford clothes and other necessities for their children and hence sent them to live with the missionaries; there were those who could either be forced to marry or into other roles as dictated by the society and there were those whose future was already certain by virtue of their parentage and therefore had little or no chance if they remain in their villages. So in a way everyone was an orphan in one way or the other. This was a perfect place for Doris who resolved to live outside the norms. TO BE CONTINUED

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