Junia is Not Alone

I take the title of this post from the little e-book I wrote, Junia is Not Alone. Here is the kind of evidence that needs to be repeated and expanded more and more. Thanks to Sandra Glahn for this fine sketch:

Often evangelicals teach that women were content with their lot in life until Betty Friedan came along and started the feminist movement. Yet this version of history is inaccurate. And if we believe Jesus is the Truth, we need to tell the story as it actually happened….

Because Protestants do not celebrate saints’ days, we miss out on learning about many great women in Christian history.

Take for example the one whose “day” falls on November 17.Hilda, Abbess of Whitby (born AD 614), led a large community of men and women studying for God’s service, five of whom went on to become bishops. She brought the gospel to ordinary people, but kings and scholars also sought her counsel. She was a missionary, teacher and educator, and her abbey became one of the great religious centers of North Eastern England. Hilda is one of many such women in history.

Few writings by and about women have survived from centuries prior to the printing press. Yet some do remain, including The City of Ladies by fourteenth-century author Christine de Pizan (c. 1365–1430). Later came defenses of women from Quakerism’s founder, Margaret Fell Fox (1614–1702); Tory pamphleteer, Mary Astell (1668–1731); abolitionist Hannah Moore (1745–1833); and the author of Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797). Most of these writers acted out of a religious impulse with the relatively unified objective of elevating women.

In the eighteenth century the first Great Awakening with its revivals in the 1730s brought a rise in lay power. Women’s involvement in missions sometimes included preaching, and on the frontier Christian women experienced increased levels of autonomy.

By the nineteenth century the pro-woman consciousness had a label: “the woman movement.” Today we identify these efforts as first-wave feminism. Red-letter dates marking the start of first-wave feminism are July 19 and 20, 1848. The place was Seneca Falls, New York, and the event was the Seneca Falls Convention. Those organizing and in attendance were mostly male and female Bible-believers. A group organized the meeting to feature Lucretia Mott, an eloquent Quaker who favored full sex and race equalization. Together the group drafted a Declaration of Sentiments addressing the role of women in society along with an accompanying list of resolutions….

The “new woman” was not an invention of second-wave feminism either. Betty did not start the “woman movement”; Christians did. Motivated by the belief that men and women were made in God’s image to “rule the earth” together, these pro-woman, pro-justice believers sought to right wrongs for those who had less social power.

Isn’t it time we reclaimed our own story?




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  • I loved that article. The entire series at Ed Cyzewski’s blog about women in ministry has been healing and helpful for me, too.

  • Yes. Reclaiming history is a big part of the journey. Thanks for this summary.

  • Wonderful. I’m a reformed evangelical who is sickened by how poorly our sisters have been treated in churches. Thank God for your book (which I recommend) and for the scores of those who are rising up to gracefully push for equality in our churches.

  • Cindy

    Sarah#1 what is the address for that blog, please.

  • I read “Junia is Not Alone” this weekend was deeply moved. Your book was not only helpful to me in my journey as a minister but also healing. It gave me great hope because of your willingness to so passionately celebrate the role of women both historically and presently. In my world, few men would be so bold. I appreciate this post because I have not been exposed to the rich voices and stories of women in ministry and am in a tradition that is divided over the role of women. Thank you for giving Junia life and today’s women a voice.

  • PLTK

    Cindy, while I am not Sarah#1, I do have the site address: http://inamirrordimly.com/the-women-in-ministry-series-home-page/

    He has been running this series for a few weeks now and there are a number of posts.

  • Yes, if there’s something Comps need to hear again and again is that, well, that they need to read more about the Christian roots of feminism. We have a book on our shelf called “Woman, Man’s Equal.” You’d think it was published in 1974, but it was published in 1874. And in the opening paragraphs it calls the subordination of women to men the belief and practice of pagans!

    My wife was raised Friends (quaker). And while her church was comp, the history of her denomination wasn’t. My wife just wrote a blog post on redeeming the word “feminism” and touches on this history. It’s worth a read. It’s at RubySlippers.org. Here’s the direct link: http://www.etsy.com/listing/88351051/all-was-well-harry-potter-inspired-vinyl. The opening image alone is priceless.

  • Sorry… that link was the wrong one (though that’s a cool macbook decal LOL)…. here’s the right one: http://soulation.org/jonalynblog/2012/02/what-does-feminism-mean-to-you.html

  • If there’s a young woman who might be interested in more primary historical research… I grew up in Swarthmore, named after the home of Margaret Fell (Fox) in England, & attended Friends Meeting there & at Pendle Hill, a nearby Quaker retreat center. Swarthmore College’s first president was a Quaker woman pastor, and they still have original documents, as far as I know, in the college library’s archives related to women in American Quaker history.

    Another major resource center for the history of the women’s movement and its roots in Christian faith, the temperance movement, & the suffragettes is held at the Smith College library. http://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/ssc/about.html My father donated family papers to this collection from his mother & grandmother’s correspondence with early American feminists that he’d inherited. (Both my grandmothers & at least 2 of my great grandmothers, plus great-great grandmothers were active in these movements, and 2 participated in all three movements.)

  • Evelyn

    Pedant’s Corner:

    Having written my dissertation on Christine de Pizan I’d just like to say that she’s not quite such a cut-and-dried example of ‘proto-feminism’ (for want of a better word) as this brief sketch makes it appear.

    She was a woman and a writer (Europe’s first professional female writer, no less) but she was pretty conservative.