Walking My Yellow Brick Road – A Memoir

2012—ISBN 0-934512-09-4

Imagine this book as being like a quilt—with many colors and many patterns, written at different times for different occasions, but each with a unique glimpse of one part of my “yellow brick road”—the journey of my life.

Throughout the quilt you will find Dodson Gray Valentines. In the early years of our marriage, David and I began sending hand-made customized Valentines of affirmation to good friends we appreciated in our lives.

In my mid-fifties complications after my cancer surgeries interfered with my arm movements and we could no longer hand-make our Valentines. So we shifted to printed “mantra-of-the-year” Valentines.

Now those Valentines which seem relevant to particular patches of the quilt illuminate the patchwork.


I felt like Dorothy in Frank Baum’s fantasy about The Wizard of Oz. I wanted to get back to my equivalent of Dorothy’s Kansas, back to where I was whole and focused and myself again.

  •  Introduction
  • Prologue
  • “When I with Autumn Had a Talk”
  • Growing Up
  • Split-Apart Heart: Growing Up in Segregation
  • Becoming Myself
  • “Poems at the Turning of a Life”
  • Intimacy Means Risking Vulnerability
  • Non-Hierarchical Partnering
  • A New Balance of Power: Dependence, Independence, Interdependence
  • Walking My Yellow Brick Road, Part One
  • Painting the Seasons Sacred
  • Color: A Meditation on Our Daughter Lisa
  • Motion: A Meditation on Our Son Hunter
  • Raising a Non-Sexist Son
  • Grieving My Mothering Self
  • A Feminist Meditation on Motherhood
  • Choosing the Family You Want
  • Walking My Yellow Brick Road, Part Two
  • Reflections on a Double Twenty-fifth Reunion
  • Ministry by Inadvertence: “Nudged” by God
  • Come Inside the Circle of Creation
  • Seeing and Hearing the Living Earth
  • Power—That Hot Potato!
  • Looking for God
  • Interpreting the Furor over The RE-imagining Conference

But, unlike Dorothy, my yellow brick road has never just stretched out before me, each yellow brick gleaming in sunlight. Oh no! My yellow brick road was (and still is) very elusive. It only appears in front of me at what seems to be one brick at a time.

  • The Ancient Call to Newness: Venturing Forth from an Old Land
  • Toward a Theology of Diversity: A Way Out of the Cultural War over Homosexuality
  • “Beauty and the Beast”: A Feminist Parable
  • Hidden Life-Metaphors
  • Breast Cancer: Choosing Aesthetics, Identity, Survival
  • Glimmer: Meditation on Death and Living
  • Sometimes the Mystery Speaks

I am amazed that somehow, in some way, my own crazy, unorthodox, often elusive but ever-beckoning-onward Yellow Brick Road has given me some power to change the world.

  • Why Do the Birds Sing? Healing after Trauma
  • Scattered Families: Maintaining Intimacy & Connection in the Long-Distance Relationship
  • What is the theological opportunity at the Theological Opportunities Program?
  • What TOP Has Meant to Me
  • Surfing at the TOP Planning Process
  • Lifelines and Miracles
  • TOP Retirement Garden Party
  • Looking Back: Who Am I As a Woman?
  • A Memorial Meditation
  • The Season Is Turning

ELIZABETH DODSON GRAY is a feminist theologian who is both heir and critic of our Judeo-Christian heritage. For 32 years she was Coordinator of the Theological Opportunities Program, a fall and spring lecture series begun at Harvard Divinity School in 1973. She has authored three books, edited one, and co-authored two others. In 1989 the National Film Board of Canada’s Studio D released a 19-minute film, “Adam’s World,” about her thought and work.

For the twenty years from 1975 to 1995 she was away two or three times a month lecturing in the U.S. and in Canada on campuses, at regional and national conferences, and in church-related settings. In 1990 she gave a lecture Uppsalla College in Sweden, and in 1991 she lectured in Britain at Mansfield College, Oxford and at the University of Edinburgh and the University of East Anglia. Her lecturing was an outgrowth of work she and her husband David did as members of Carroll Wilson’s team at MIT’s Sloan School of Management for a multi-year seminar on “Critical Choices for the Future,” an anticipation of today’s energy concerns and global climate-change issues. In 1973 they prepared with another MIT colleague the staff work for ten days of Congressional hearings in the 93rd Congress, published as Growth and Its Implications for the Future.

Her own first book, Green Paradise Lost (1979), asked why we ever thought we could get away with treating nature so badly. It is now viewed as one of two classic eco-feminist texts.

In the early 1970s she worked out for herself a feminist critique of our male-dominated culture. Her second book, Patriarchy As a Conceptual Trap (1981), condemns what since the Middle Ages Christian theology has called the Great Chain of Being—the cosmic hierarchy which she finds rooted in the patriarchal “ranking of diversity” which begins with men ranking men above women and humans above animals and all of nature. Ranking diversity is the conceptual trap.

In 1988 she edited Sacred Dimensions of Women’s Experience, which is about the religious dimensions of those portions of the total human experience which males never experience—and therefore have never named as sacred (for example, women bringing life in childbirth).

In 1994 she wrote Sunday School Manifesto: In the Image of Her?, contrasting the woman-affirming accounts of Jesus in the gospels with subsequent centuries of women-denigrating Christian theology and practice. She notes that Christian theology and churches have never repented of this history of denigrating women.

In 2000 Gray received Yale University’s Distinguished Alumni Aware. And on June 3, 2010 at a Spring Garden Party honoring their service to the Theological Opportunities Program, Elizabeth and David Dodson Gray were presented with the Donella Meadows Award by the U.S. affiliate of The Club of Rome. Donella Meadows was a pioneering American environmental scientist, teacher and writer, and she is best known as lead author of the influential book The Limits to Growth.

Elizabeth Dodson Gray’s papers are archived at the Sophia Smith Collection (SSC) at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. The SSC is one of the foremost archives of women’s history in the world.