Faithful women. Indispensable yesterday, today and tomorrow.
In every era and in every part of our Country, heroic women have arisen among us. Oftentimes, they pursued their passion for truth and justice quietly, without public support and in the midst of great difficulty. Some of them, after years of self-sacrificing work, became well-known during their lifetimes. Others have not lived in public memory at all, but have come to us primarily as footnotes in written histories. Our female legacy has been created as much by women we do not know as by women whose names are familiar.
Fortunately, we now have the scholarly tools to unearth the smaller historical stories and appreciate their significance. It’s important to learn about the presidents and generals who’ve shaped our destinies and to learn about the women who have witnessed for justice, often alone and overwhelmed by the dominant voices of economic and social oppression. These lone female voices came from women who were mothers, teachers, preachers, helpers of the poor, and self-published authors.
Today, when we women get together for the purpose of learning more about each other, we begin by telling our stories. It’s no different when we decide to learn about women from our past. The heroic stories offered to you here are centered on deep religious faith. Whether a woman lived in the nineteenth century or is with us now in the twenty-first, she has found her motivation, her comfort, and her courage in her relationship with God. Reading the Gospels, singing hymns, praying for others—these are the simple acts that turned women into activist reformers and intellectuals. They could not stay quiet and meek in the face of slavery, poverty, and gender inequality. When they spoke out, they did so with the assurance that God demanded no less. Their lives became the vehicles for God’s love.
In the small profiles that follow, you will read about two remarkable sisters who were instrumental in the abolition of slavery and the establishment of women’s rights. And you will read the stories of an educator who founded one of the great women’s colleges, one of the first women to become a medical doctor, and a blind woman who listened to the heavenly music in her head and wrote the melodies down as hymns.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that God somehow blessed only these holy women of the past. God is working through us now—in you and me and all of us—as we work to preserve our environment, abolish the causes of poverty and oppression, and become the people of light. There is hope because God works through us today, preparing us to take our place in the long line of heroic women who have made life better in a million different ways.
- Helen LaKelly Hunt