Archive for the ‘Intersectionality’ Tag

Feast of Sarah Mapps Douglass (September 9)   Leave a comment

Above:  Painting of a Flower, by Sarah Mapps Douglass

Image in the Public Domain

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SARAH MAPPS DOUGLASS (SEPTEMBER 9, 1806-SEPTEMBER 8, 1882)

U.S. African-American Quaker Abolitionist, Writer, Painter, and Lecturer

Sarah Mapps Douglass comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).

Sarah Mapps Douglass, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 9, 1806, came from that city’s African-American elite.  Her family, active in the abolitionist movement, included her father (Robert Douglass, Sr., a baker), her mother (Grace Bustill Douglass, a teacher and a milliner), and her brother (Robert Douglass, Jr., an artist).  Our saint, well-educated, started teaching, in 1825, at a school her mother had helped to found.  Then Sarah taught at the Free African School for Girls.  After that, in 1837, she founded the African Institute, subsequently renamed the Institute for Colored Youth in 1852 and, eventually, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania (the oldest Historically Black College or University in the United States).  Douglass had a professional connection to the African Institute/Institute for Colored Youth for most of the rest of her life.  She also insisted on the revolutionary idea that male and female students receive equal opportunity to study subjects previously off-limits to girls and young women.

Douglass, a financial supporter of and literary contributor to William Lloyd Garrison‘s The Liberator (founded in 1831), helped her mother to found the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1833.  This biracial society, which included Lucretia Mott (1793-1880), was radical, by the standards of the time.  It advocated for the abolition of slavery as soon as possible and in such as way as to leave former slaveholders holding the proverbial bag.  The organization also supported boycotts of goods slaves had manufactured, distributed anti-slavery books and pamphlets, and opened a school for African-American children.  Our saint remained active in the society for years, too.

Douglass also helped to lead the Female Literary Association, founded in 1831.  This organization, for African-American women, both free and enslaved, challenged White racism and encouraged self-improvement via education.

Douglass became a pioneer of another sort.  She studied medicine, with a specialty in hygiene and gynecology, from 1853 to 1877.  She also matriculated as the first African-American student, at the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania.  Then she taught night classes to African-American women.

Douglass, a fine artist, was one of the first African-American painters, too.  She signed her work and challenged White racist assumptions in yet another way.

Our saint married in 1855.  Her husband, a widower with nine children, was the Reverend William Douglass, the Rector of the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, Philadelphia.  He died in 1861.

Our saint faced racism within the church, too.  One day, at a Friends meeting house in New York City, a member asked her:

Does thee go out ahouse cleaning?

Sarah wrote to a friend and explained what she did next:

I wept through the whole of the meeting….

Sarah Mapps Douglass died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 8, 1882.  If she had lived one day longer, she would have turned seventy-six years old.

My parents raised me to believe in racial equality.  My father was a United Methodist minister in rural southern Georgia. U.S.A.  Many of his parishioners (in the 1980s through the early 2000s, especially) were openly and unapologetically racist.  Many of them used racial slurs openly and unapologetically.  Others used slightly less impolite language.  I recall that, one day in 1990 or 1991, in Alapaha, Georgia, I heard Henry, a neighbor and a fellow parishioner, say, “African-American engineering,” a paraphrase of a slur.  Church members, such as Henry, should have known better than to be racists and to use racist language.

Sarah Mapps Douglass lived prior to the coining of the word “intersectionality.”  Yet her life epitomized that word.  She dwelt at the intersection of being female and African American.  Our saint contended with sexism and racism.

Biases, such as sexism and racism, come in two varieties, by one method of categorizing them.  These varieties are conscious and unconscious.  The most difficult biases to recognize in oneself are the ones does not realize are biases.  One may mistake them for being objectively they way things are and perhaps mistake them for the way things ought to be.  One need not wear bed sheets or shave one’s head to function as a racist.  One can also be a racist without realizing one’s racism.  And, when one recognizes oneself as a racist, combating that form of bigotry in oneself can prove difficult.  Such is the hold social conditioning has on people.

Every society always needs revolutionaries such as Sarah Mapps Douglass at her time and location, to challenge moral blind spots in the collective norms and mores.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 20, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SEBASTIAN CASTELLIO, PROPHET OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

THE FEAST OF CHRISTOPHER WORDSWORTH, HYMN WRITER AND ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LINCOLN

THE FEAST OF ELLEN GATES STARR, U.S. EPISCOPALIAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC SOCIAL ACTIVIST AND REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA JOSEFA SANCHO DE GUERRA, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SERVANTS OF JESUS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL RODIGAST, GERMAN LUTHERAN ACADEMIC AND HYMN WRITER

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Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil

and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us [like your servant Sarah Mapps Douglass]

to use our freedom to bring justice among people and nations,

to the glory of your name;

through your Son, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-14

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 37

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Feast of Emily Greene Balch (January 9)   1 comment

Above:  Emily Greene Balch

Image in the Public Domain

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EMILY GREENE BALCH (JANUARY 8, 1867-JANUARY 9, 1961)

U.S. Quaker Sociologist, Economist, and Peace Activist

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If Messiah should arise bodily from death, it would mean there was more for us to learn in our efforts to understand than we had expected.  It would not overthrow any truth that we had eventually reached, whatever adjustment our thought might have to make.

–Emily Greene Balch, quoted in G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006), 90

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Emily Greene Balch, raised a Unitarian, spent her adult life working for social justice.  She, born in Boston, Massachusets, on January 8, 1867, came from a wealthy and prominent family.  Family wealth enabled our saint to receive a fine education.  Unitarianism, with its tradition of social justice activism, also contributed to Balch’s professional direction.  She graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1889 then at the Sorbonne.  In 1892, in Boston, between graduate studies at the Sorbonne and at Harvard, Balch founded Denison House, modeled after Hull House, in Chicago, Illinois.  Our saint continued her graduate studies (focused on poverty, sociology, gender, and economics) at the Universities of Chicago and Berlin.

Balch served on the faculty of Wellesley College from 1896 to 1918.  She rose to Professor of Economics in 1913.  The college fired her in 1918; the cause of the termination was our saint’s pacifism during World War I.

Balch spent her professional life pursuing practical solutions to problems of poverty and gender.  The word “intersectionality” did not exist yet, but she tried to help people at intersections of categories, such as poor, child, female, immigrant, industrial worker, and conscientious objector.    She supported the labor union movement, was a suffragette, helped conscientious objectors, advocated to end child labor, and worked on industrial education.   Balch, Jane Addams (1860-1935), and others founded the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in 1915.  Our saint served as the Secretary General of that organization for a number of years.  She also joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation.  Balch, a convert to Quakerism in 1921, assisted refugees from the Third Reich while continuing to help conscientious objectors during World War II.  She also supported Allied victory in that war.  For our saint’s work with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946.

Balch, who never married, lived to the age of 94 years.  She died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on January 9, 1961.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 1, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA, DISCIPLE OF JESUS

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Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servant Emily Greene Balch,

to work for justice among people and nations, the the glory of your name,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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Feast of Sojourner Truth (November 26)   2 comments

Above:  Sojourner Truth

Image in the Public Domain

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SOJOURNER TRUTH (1797-NOVEMBER 26, 1883)

U.S. Abolitionist, Mystic, and Feminist

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If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

–Sojourner Truth, 1851

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Sojourner Truth comes to this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, mainly via The Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.  She also comes to my Ecumenical Calendar via Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), and G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).  Truth’s Lutheran feast day, shared with Harriet Tubman, is March 10.  The feast day situation in The Episcopal Church is complicated, though.

The Episcopal calendar of saints used to be a simple matter.  From 1963 or so to 2009, the then-current edition of Lesser Feasts and Fasts defined the church calendar.  From 1988 to 2006, the triennial General Convention approved the new edition of Lesser Feasts and Fasts, with “new” saints added.  The General Convention of 2009 left Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2006 (published in 2007) unaltered yet authorized a greatly expanded side calendar, the first guide to which which was Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010).  The General Convention of 2012 left Holy Women, Holy Men (2010) alone, but the General Convention of 2015 authorized a successor, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016).  The General Convention of 2018 authorized the expanded Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018, which, as of the date I write this post, is available only as a PDF document.

Truth, therefore, has two feast days in The Episcopal Church.  Her feast day from Holy Women, Holy Men (2010) and A Great Cloud of Witnesses (2016) is July 20.  She shares that feast day with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Amelia Bloomer, and Harriet Tubman.  However, her feast day (by herself) in Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018 is November 26.

Isabella Baumfree, born in Rifton, New York, in 1797, was a slave.  She, a daughter of James and Elizabeth Baumfree, grew up speaking Dutch, not English.  After our saint learned English, she spoke it with a Dutch accent.  Young Isabella suffered greatly.  She, sold more than once, never knew her siblings; slavery broke her family apart.  She endured beatings, the scars of which her body bore throughout her long life.  When Isabella was 13 years old, her master mated her with Thomas, an older slave.  She and Thomas had five children.  As the government of New York prepared to free all the remaining slaves in that state on July 4, 1827, Isabella’s master reneged on promises to free her prior to that date.  In 1826 she liberated herself and her youngest child, Sophia.

Isabella spent 1826-1843 in New York City and the immediate area.  Elizabeth Baumfree had taught her daughter to trust in God.  Isabella became a Christian under the influence of her new employers (1826-1829), Isaac and Maria Van Wagener, Quakers.  Our saint, their housekeeper, adopted their surname.  In 1828 she successfully sued for the freedom of her son Peter, sold illegally into slavery in Alabama.  He joined her in New York and became Peter Van Wagener.  About that time, Isabella joined a Methodist congregation.

Isabella, who claimed to have conversations with God, was not, unfortunately, the shrewdest of mystics at all times.  From 1829 to 1832 she was housekeeper to Elijah Pierson (1786-1834), a dodgy evangelist who billed himself as “Elijah the Tishbite.”  He was also a friend of her next employer, Robert Matthews (1788-circa 1841), who billed himself as “Matthias the Prophet,” operated a commune from 1832 to 1835, and also turned out to be untrustworthy.

Our saint’s life changed in 1843.  Peter, a crewman aboard a whaling vessel, died.  Isabella, discerning a call from God to become an itinerant evangelist and political activist, renamed herself Sojourner Truth.  She was a feminist, a suffragette, a pacifist, an educator (despite being illiterate), a pacifist, and an advocate of temperance.  Truth also worked with Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison.  The latter man published her dictated autobiography, Narrative of Sojourner Truth, in 1847.

Truth, based at Northampton, Massachusetts, from 1844 to 1857, was usually a Methodist.  She had an association with the Millerites, however.  After William Miller’s predictions of 1843-1844 proved false, she chose to remain separate from that movement, which spawned the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Truth, unlike other abolitionists, understood the principle summarized in intersectionality, a word that did not exist during her lifetime.  Her life played out at the intersection of race, slavery, and gender.  Perhaps Truth’s best, most succinct summary of why freedom for slaves and the equality of men and women must go hand-in-hand was the “Ain’t I a Woman” speech, which she delivered at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio, in 1851.

Truth, who moved to Battle Creek, Michigan, where some of her daughters resided, in 1857, supported the U.S. military during the Civil War and worked for justice for former slaves after that conflict.  She helped to recruit African-American soldiers during the war.  She also met with President Abraham Lincoln in 1864 then remained in the District of Columbia, to minister to slaves in refugee camps.  Then Truth spent seven years unsuccessfully lobbying for federal land grants for former slaves.

Truth remained a radical in her final years.  In 1872 she tried to vote in the presidential election;  she would have voted for President Ulysses Grant, with whom she had met.

Our saint, aged about 86 years, died in Battle Creek, Michigan, on November 26, 1883.  The truths for which she worked and advocated have never died, though.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 7, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMITIAN OF HUY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF HARRIET STARR CANNON, FOUNDRESS OF THE COMMUNITY OF SAINT MARY

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH ARMITAGE ROBINSON, ANGLICAN DEAN, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROSA VENERINI, FOUNDRESS OF THE VENERINI SISTERS; MENTOR OF SAINT LUCIA FILIPPINI, FOUNDRESS OF THE RELIGIOUS TEACHERS FILIPPINI

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Almighty God, who has made the Church to be one body with many members and many gifts:

we thank you for the witness of your daughter, Sojourner Truth,

and for her courage to preach the truth of your liberating love in the face of injustice.

Grant that we, like her, may use our time, talents, and energy to proclaim the coming of your Kingdom,

which is good news to the poor, and in which all the oppressed shall be made free;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Wisdom of Solomon 5:15-20

Psalm 126

Mark 4:21-29

Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018

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