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AS WOMEN WE ARE POWERFUL.
WOMEN IN RELIGION
SEPTEMBER 29, 2016
I can remember attending church throughout the years, listening attentively as the Pastor preached his sermon. The role of the women in religion has always been the subordinate position, beginning with Adam, and then Eve as his helpmate. There are women that many Christians never heard of, these women impacted society in such tremendous ways with their determination and dedication along with Christian values, allowed their contributions to change society as we know it today. This paper will discuss some of the great women of this era, and how their contributions were and still are so vital.
Women have always been instrumental in directing the congregational and community focused ministry in the Christian church. (Carpenter,2000; Murphy,2000) During 1880-1920 black women provided leadership in the church and initiated the development of programs that would help parishioners, and the community. Not only were women concerned about providing aid and social services, but many were instrumental in establishing organizations which provided for the needs of the African diaspora throughout the world. (Hull,1994) Led by the earlier work of female Christian preachers and activist of color such as Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Jillian Jane Tilman, and others, many women of this period (1880-1920), established a relationship among Christian Institutions, community, organizations, and “the helping hand” tradition. (Martin and Martin,2002, p.11)
This paper will address two women of this era, and their contributions in education, child welfare, national social support, and international social support. By the late 19th century black people were at a disadvantage because of the oppression, and the inability to read and write. Church women were mainly involved in the promotion of education, and they believed education would open doors of equal opportunity and growth. (Carlton-LaNey, 2001; Murphy,2000; Raboteau,2001) Of the women of this era, Nannie Helen Burroughs is one of the most famous, because of her many contributions. Although her role as an educator assumed various forms, Martin and Martin classify her as a “radical womanist educator” (2002, p.169), with a distinctive Christian purpose. Burroughs was born in Orange, VA., on May 2, of either 1883 or 1897. (Carpenter,2000; Daniel,1931; Hammond,1922; Murphy,2000) When she was five years of age her mother moved to Washington, DC, in hopes of a better education for Nannie. Ms. Burroughs excelled as a student, and would later want to become a teacher, but to her disappointment, she wasn't selected, but through the pain and disappointment of not being chosen to become a teacher, she formed the idea that one day she would open a school for colored girls in Washington. Later, while living in Kentucky, she served as a bookkeeper, stenographer, and editorial secretary in the Office of the Foreign Mission Board of the National Baptist Convention. She organized the Women's Industrial Club, which served inexpensive lunches to working class people. Organizer by day, Burroughs was a teacher of bookkeeping, shorthand, typewriting, millinery, and sewing at night. Based on her hard work she was elected secretary of the Women’s Auxiliary at the Colored Baptist Convention. It was in that position that her dream of opening the National School for colored girls resurfaced, but the committee was not in support of it at the time. In 1907, the committee voted to endorse the plan for a school, and on October 19, 1909, the Training School for Women and Girls opened its doors. Miss Burroughs, without a doubt, left her legacy in education, social welfare, social policy, and the Christian religion.
The life and contributions of Margaret Murray Washington, often overshadowed by her husband, Booker T. Washington. Mrs. Washington was born between 1861 and 1865, to James Murray (Caucasian), and Lucy Murray (African American washerwomen). Following her father’s death, she went to live with Quaker’s in a local community. It was there Margaret learned the importance of social activism, piety, and good works. Margaret was assigned to a teaching position at the age of 14 in the same school she had previously been a pupil. (Harlan,1972; Hine, 1997; Scott,1907; in Carlton-LaNey, 2001, p.58) Margaret served as an educator, social activist, and a community reformer; in each role, she promoted Christian values and the "helping hand tradition." It was after her graduation from college that she had the honor to speak to Booker T. Washington, founder of the Tuskegee Institute, whom she later married, and given the title of "First Lady," which is still used in churches today. In March of 1895, Washington organized 13 women affiliated with the Tuskegee Institute, to form the Tuskegee Women’s Club. The purpose of the club was to promote the general intellectual development of women. (Carlton-LaNey, 2001; p.62) From 1912-1918, Washington served as the President of the National Association of Colored Women, (NACW), an organization established in 1896 to reveal and promote contributions that women made toward the progress of people of color. (Dickerson, 2001; Rief, 2006) The contributions, hard work and dedication from Miss Nannie Helen Burroughs, and Mrs. Margaret Murray Washington have produced opportunities for women of color today. Through their commitment to Christian faith-in-action, commitment to change social and ethnic American thought, and social welfare, religion changed forever.
In conclusion, in a speech given by Jimmy Carter to the Parliament of the World's Religions, he stated, “The belief that women are inferior human beings in the eyes of God, gives excuses to the brutal husband who beats his wife, the soldier who rapes a woman, the employer who has a lower pay scale for women employees, or parents who decide to abort a female embryo". Women have, and still are considered subordinate to men in many places all over the world. But, women such as Ms. Burroughs and Mrs. Washington were instrumental in paving the way for strong women of faith today. They not only impacted the Christian way of life, by practicing Christian values in all aspects of their lives, but they were also able to affect society as a whole yesterday and today.
Brade, K. A. (2008). Lessons from our past: African-American Christian women and the integration of faith and practice. Social Work and Christianity, 35(3), 312-323. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/230161920?accountid=35812
Carter J. (2009), Speech to the Parliament of the World’s Religions, The Carter Center
Martin, E. & Martin J. (1985). Social work and the Black experience. Washington, DC: National Association of Social Workers.
Martin, E. & Martin, J. (2002). Spirituality and the Black helping tradition in social work. Washington, DC: National Association of Social Workers.
Murphy, L. (2000). Down by the Riverside: Readings in African American religion. New York: New York University Press
Rouse J. (1996). Out of the shadow of Tuskegee: Margaret Murray Washington, social activism, and race vindication. Journal of Negro History, 18, 31-46
Raboteau, A. (2000). Canaan Land: A religious history of African Americans. New York:
http://search.proquest.com.contentproxy.phoenix.edu/docview/230161920/1859F7608B824399PQ/17?accountid=35812Oxford University Press, Inc
Running head: WOMEN IN RELIGION
6ed, but the committee was not in support of it at the time. In 1907, the committee voted to endorse the plan for a school, and on October 19, 1909, the Training School for Women and Girls opened its doors. Miss Burroughs, without a doubt, left her legacy in education, social welfare, social policy, and the Christian religion.
The life and contributions of Margaret Murray Washington, often overshadowed by her husband, Booker T. Washington. Mrs. Washington was born between 1861 and 1865, to James Murray (Caucasian), and Lucy Murray (African American washerwomen). Following her father’s death, she went