Who are the "Calendar Sisters" and the Daughters of Mary? How did being in the company of this circle of females transform Lily?
In the novel, "The Secret Life of Bees," The "Calendar Sisters" are: April, May, June, and August Boatwright. The Boatwright sisters live together in a pink house in Tiburon, South Carolina. April died early in life and this has left May shaken and fragile. June is a musician who is afraid to commit to her long-time companion and boyfriend. August is the eldest and the "matriarch" of the family. These women, as well as several neighbors, worship Our Lady of Chains. These women are the Daughters of Mary. In fact according to August all women are daughters of Mary. August is a strong leader for this group and a strong mother figure for young Lilly.
Lilly comes to live with the sisters when she leaves her abusive father and to help save Rosaleen, who has been beaten and arrested. She is truly looking for her mother, or at least information about her mother. When she arrives she is a scared, insecure child full of hate and anger. By the time the novel ends, Lilly has grown more mature and strong enough to stand up to her father. She learns what she needs to know about her mother and grows into acceptance and peace.
"Through the Daughters of Mary, Kidd depicts a feminist, matriarchal alternative to the racist white male religious and civil authorities who otherwise dominate the town of Tiburon. The Boatwrights and the other Daughters worship a divine feminine presence, the Virgin Mary. The nurturing qualities stand in sharp contrast to Brother Gerald, the Baptist preacher at the church in Sylvan."
The Calendar sister's in the book "The Secret Life of Bees" are the women who Lily, a fourteen year old white girl and run-a-way, finds when she is search for information about her mother. The sister's names are August, June, and May Boatwright. The sisters are African American. They raise bees and make honey. May suffers from depression and has difficulty handling sad situations. August befriends Lily and becomes a mother figure and friend to her. Lily later finds out that August had taken care of Lily's mother when she was young. June is somewhat standoffish and distant but later becomes family to Lily.
Lily has run away from her father. When she was a child she accidentally killed her mother with a gun. She carries the guilt with her. Her father has been a very unloving and cruel parent towards Lily. Among the three sisters she begins to change as she discovers her feelings as a young woman, becomes memorized by the bees, and feels the intense love in the household.
The Daughters of Mary are a group of black women who have created their own faith. They practice their faith in the Boatwright home. At the center of their worship is a black statue of Mary. Lily feels a special kind of energy from Mary.
The transformations that Lily undergoes at the Boatwright’s include: Her feminity blossoms; she experiences love for a boy for the first time; she is able to have a mother/daughter relationship with August; she learns what it means to have a family that loves and trusts her, and she forgives herself for her mother's death.
The "Calendar Sisters" is Rosaleen's term of endearment for the sisters August, May and June (and maybe April, though she is deceased by the time Lily meets the sisters). August is the oldest and keeps bees, June teaches at the local colored high school and plays music for the dieing, while May stays at home with a week grasp of her own emotions and often loses herself in feeling the misery of others.
These three hold the services of The Daughters of Mary, who are a flock of colored women and a few men, who worship a statue of Mary, the mother of God. These women form a support group to each other, which eventually extends to Lily and helps her cope with her internal conflicts and becoming her own strength.
Lily eventually is able to forgive herself for her mother's death, her mother for leaving her and her father for the way he treated her, because of the support for the Daughters of Mary.
"I go back to that one moment when I stood in the driveway with small rocks and clumps of dirt around my feet and looked back at the porch. And there they were. All these mothers. I have more mothers than any eight girls off the street. They are the moons shinning over me." The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd page 302.
These are the women that would come to the house to pray in front of the statue of Mary. Lily was able to see their confidence and strength while in their presence. She was transformed by gaining confidence through their example. Also, she learned to trust them and this in turn helped her trust herself. Eventually, she was able to stand up to her father.