For hundreds of years, young women who came of age in southern China learned a secret language. Secret, that is, from the men and the boys. Like their mothers and grandmothers before them, these girls were denied the opportunity of learning to read and write Chinese. So the oppressed women of that culture — determined to have a means of expressing themselves — developed their own language. It was a girls-only writing script called Nushu.

According to an article in the Washington Post, three days after her wedding a new bride would receive a "Third Day Book," lovingly inscribed in Nushu by her mother, grandmother, and "sworn sisters." In delicate, elongated handwriting these women expressed feelings of sadness at losing a daughter and friend and shared best wishes for her future happiness. The bride would make her own entries in Nushu, and the book became a diary of her married life.

Someday the bride would teach her own daughter Nushu. And so these peasant women preserved their language for over fifteen hundred years, right into our century. With no education, means, or encouragement, they created something unique in all of history: the only language written by women for women.1

Another Language for Women Exists Today

Did you know that God has given us our own mother-daughter language? Unlike Nushu, our language is not a secret. It is not a response to oppression, but it is a uniquely feminine language. As mothers and daughters, God has entrusted us with its progress and preservation. It’s the language of biblical womanhood.

Biblical womanhood, simply defined, is God’s perfect design for women as revealed in the Bible. Much more than a writing script, it’s a way of life. More than something we read or write, it’s something we speak and do.

We find this language scattered throughout the entire Bible. Tucked in Titus 2:3-5 is a summary of some of the qualities of a godly woman, such as purity, self-control, kindness, love for husband and children, skill in homemaking, and a heart of submission. But we find more traits in passages such as Proverbs 31:10-31, 1 Timothy 5:9-10, and 1 Peter 3:1-6 — steadfast faith, good works, strength, and wisdom, united with a gentle and quiet spirit. Together these characteristics comprise the language of biblical womanhood. They provide for us a composite sketch — to imitate and copy like an aspiring artist would copy a great masterpiece.

Passing the Language On

But first we must understand our responsibility to pass on this language from mother to daughter. For while God clearly calls all older women to school the younger women in the art of biblical womanhood (Titus 2:3-5), one of the most important teacher-student relationships is between a mother and her daughter. We have an exciting task, an assignment from God Himself to transfer these feminine attributes from one generation to the next. This is our mother-daughter purpose. Our mission.

I was reminded of our mission when my mother sold her house. Because of my father’s failing health, my parents recently moved from Florida to Maryland to live with my sister and her family. At my mom’s request, my brothers, sisters, and I sorted through all their belongings.

I brought several items home for my daughters: some old books for Nicole, a crystal bowl for Kristin, and my grandma’s handmade quilt for Janelle. For myself I kept a solitary piece of china, one of the few remaining plates from the set my grandfather bought my mother for her wedding.