A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Does Anyone Know a Reliable History Source for Women’s Suffrage and Temperance Movements?

I found the following, after Barbara Roberts mentioned that Christians were involved in the suffrage movement of the late 1800’s .  It is from Answer.Yahoo –

In the 1890s, ten times as many New York women were in the WCTU (Women’s Christian Temperence Union) as in all the suffragette groups combined. Tampa alone had three different tempernce organizations(one for blacks, one for whites, and one for Cuban Americans), but Florida’s suffrage group had only twenty members in the whole state, eight of them men.

However, all those temperence women gradually began to feel that having the vote would be a very good thing because it held the key to the prohibition of liquor. They became critical grassroots soldiers for the suffrage movement, organizing all those petition drives and referenda campaigns and state lobbying efforts that kept the effort going during the dolrums and gradually pushed it forward to success.

The woman who brought these two very different political drives together was Frances Willard, the president of the WCTU for twenty years, and a leader with a sweeping vision of how women could reform the country. Willard had a genius for building a mass movement by finding common ground for compromise. She initiated a policy called “do everything” in which the members were encouraged to fight for reform in what4ever way struck them as best. The national headquarters had dozens of departments, dedicated to everything from world peace to public health, and one of the most active was the section devoted to woman suffrage. In many small towns, the WCTU was the centre of all feminine political activity. Everett Hughes, a Chicago sociologist, remembered the WCTU gatherings his mother hosted, in which the women talked about “general sanitation and improving education, about the child labor laws.”

End Quote

If you know of some good sources that are not at least totally prejudiced against Christianity, and that give a good history of the suffrage and/or temperance movements, I would be very interested to read them.

1 Comment

  1. Avid Reader

    That’s a great question.

    There’s a great book called Daughters of the Church by Ruth Tucker and Walter Liefeld. This book is written as an encyclopedia of women in ministry from the time of Christ to present day. It gives a lot of uplifting short bios on Christian women doing a powerful work for God—several of those women were involved in the suffrage movement.

    For more information on the history of women’s suffrage I would recommend History of Women’s Suffrage—-Volume 1—-by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. It’s available for free on Amazon and Google Books. This book highlights the work of many powerful Christian women including Angelina and Sarah Grimke. It also takes an honest look at the issue of domestic violence and abuse towards women.

    For people who don’t have time to read the full book here’s the cliff notes version:
    The suffrage movement in America started with a strong willed teenager named Angelina Grimke (1805-1879). Born into one of the most powerful slaveowning families of South Carolina, Angelina was raised to believe that slavery was God’s will. Fortunately as she read the Bible for herself, the Holy Spirit began to deal with her heart. He showed her Ephesians 4:28 “Let him that stole, steal no more but labor with his hands…..” The Holy Spirit dealt with her that it was a sin to own human beings because it was stealing their very lives. Thus according to this verse, it was her family’s responsibility to earn their own living through working with their own hands instead of living off the wages stolen from the slaves.

    When Angelina shared that revelation with her family, they were furious. They told her she was crazy for rejecting their luxurious lifestyle. When Angelina confronted the Pastor of their church he put her under “church discipline.” She would courageously stand before the church board, telling them that they all needed to repent of being slaveowners. They told her that she was too young to know any better.

    When Angelina started receiving death threats, she moved north to be with her sister, Sarah Grimke. Then Angelina published her book–Appeal to the Women of the South. That book is a powerful scriptural study on how freedom is God’s will and women have a responsibility to speak out against injustice. In this book Angelina wrote that the foundation of women’s rights is obedience to God’s command—since we are responsible to obey God therefore we are responsible to make our own decisions. That was unheard of in a time of American history when women could not have control of their bank account, own property, receive an inheritance, or even work a job without permission from their husbands or fathers. Women literally had the same legal status as children who needed a conservator to manage their finances for them. Angelina challenged that whole system by writing that women were responsible before God to think for themselves instead of blindly following the oppressive system.

    Long story short, that book caused Angelina to receive invitations to share her testimony at churches around America. Back then, it was considered unthinkable for women to preach from the pulpit. No sooner had she started a national speaking tour than the Pastors of a major Christian denomination issued a “Pastoral letter” demanding that women be silent in the church. That sparked a national debate on whether women could be involved in public affairs.

    Angelina’s sister Sarah Grimke would respond in her powerful book—
    Letters on Equality of the Sexes—which shows from the Word of God that Jesus commanded us to “let our light shine before men” but the church was telling women to “hide their light under a bushel.” Both Sarah and Angelina’s books are the considered the foundation of the American feminist argument and both are fascinating scriptural studies which are available online for free.

    Angelina and Sarah had such a powerful effect on their friends Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton that when Stanton wrote her book—History of Woman Suffrage, she dedicated it to Angelina and Sarah. (By the way, Lucretia Mott was another strong Christian whose favorite Bible verse was 2 Cor 3:17 “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”)

    In 1840, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton traveled with their husbands to the World Antislavery Convention in London. They were not allowed to participate because they were women. Being forced to sit in the back and be silent inspired them to return home and launch the women’s suffrage movement.

    That’s how it all began. The suffrage movement was birthed by the abolition movement because women believed they could destroy slavery if they could vote. Look closely at the suffrage movement and you will find lots of strong willed women who found their freedom in Christ Jesus.

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