March is National Women’s History Month, with “history” being a misnomer. Although women’s stories are intertwined, and shared with men, several factors such as social, religious, economic, and biological have worked to create a unique sphere for women's history. Women’s stories have become a separated because they have often been pushed to the margins of our history books, or have been omitted altogether.
However, the stories of women’s achievements are integral to the fabric of the whole, because our shared stories unite families, communities, and nations. Knowing women’s stories provides essential role models for everyone, because the stories teach about tenacity, courage, and creativity. These stories can have a huge impact on the development of self-respect and the creation of new opportunities for girls. The impact might seem abstract to some, and less pressing than the immediate struggles of working women today, but by telling a complete story, girls and young women realize that much of what we enjoy today IS because of yesterday, when some women believed in ALL possibilities.
Unitarian Universalism is very supportive of females in all levels of leadership, grounded in more than one hundred years progressive policy and reform. In 1863 we became the first denomination in the United States to ordain a woman with full denominational authority. Today many ministers are women and our majority is growing, with more than half of all active Unitarian Universalist ministers being women. However, our numbers were few in 1977 when the survey was taken in support of a Women’s Resolution. While it took time before the resolution passed, it called for a dismantling of the patriarchal, sexist language that was used in our principles and purposes, which involved the entire denomination.
Last year we had a week long celebration at the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia to commemorate the 100th year of the death of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, born in 1825. Heralded as the most famous nineteenth century African American poet and novelist, Frances E.W. Harper was a brave and principled political activist who advocated for freedom and equality, for everyone. She spoke for the Anti-Slavery societies before the Civil War, and for Women’s Suffrage and Temperance movements after. Yet despite all of her remarkable accomplishments, her name cannot be found in many history books. Women have contributed and achieved in fields of politics, music, mathematics, science, art and literature. Some like Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Dorothea Dix, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Margaret Sanger, and Margaret Fuller, helped shape the course of our nation, while others made smaller yet significant contributions that are only remembered by families and friends.
Nevertheless, their work speaks to us across the decades, as they instruct us to keep continued vigilance on our freedoms, and open doors to all persons crossing all boundaries of isms. They demand that we pay attention to their wisdom, following their lead. So in honor of our foremothers, and to women in every role in our denomination: those greeting visitors, leading congregational committees, and delivering sermons on Sunday - blessings to you in this National Women's History Month.
From My Heart To Yours,