Women who no longer belong to somebody now can belong to everybody - the community, a chosen circle of friends, a worship group, or even to the world - by virtue of contributing knowledge or creative insight or healing gifts. In fact, the elder women who survived in ancient or tribal cultures developed a way to further species survival independent of their wombs. These women became sources of experience and wisdom and were often venerated as shamans with healing powers, upon whom both individuals and tribe depended to handle crises. As the influence of female deities increased steadily up to 500 B.C., the role of medicine man was assumed by medicine woman. "The fact that women were shamans during this period indicates they had entered into the most authoritative and honored ranks of healers," writes Jeanne Achterberg in Woman as Healer.
Wisdom, or the collective practical knowledge of the culture that is more simply termed common sense, has continued up through history to be associated with older women. Even in postmodern times, when Christianity rejected females as deities or primary healers, great public women did emerge and exert their influence through the religious system. Some became prized as advisers to emperors and popes, turned to for their healing powers, venerated as holy - and it turns out that they were usually near fifty when they took on this aura of wisewomen.
Today's pioneering women in postmenopause in advanced societies eventually give up the futile gallantry of trying to remain the same younger self. Coming through the passage of menopause, they reach a new plateau of contentment and self-acceptance, along with a broader view of the world that not only enriches one's individual personality but gives one a new perspective on life and humankind. Such women - there are more and more of them today - find a potent new burst of energy by their mid-fifties.
Sheehy, G. (1991). The silent passage. New York, NY: Random House.