Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Surprising Take on One of TEc's Holy Women

The lectionary pages have been working the new "Holy Men and Holy Women" into the calendar, and the comments found there are usually favorable to the recently elected,but today we find a qualified summary for Elizabeth Stanton.

ELIZABETH CADY STANTON (26 Oct 1902) by James Kiefer

"Mrs. Stanton was born in 1815 and reared in the Presbyterian Church. She found the Calvinist doctrine of predestination dismaying, and rebelled against it. She denounced the clergy of her day for not upholding women's rights, but as she travelled giving speeches on the subject, she found no lack of pulpits available to her. She undertook to write what she called a Women's Bible. It never got beyond a series of notes on selected Biblical passages. For example, she quotes the passage in Genesis where we are told that Noah's Ark had only one window, and remarks that if a woman had been consulted, the Ark would have been better designed.

Reading Mrs. Stanton's life and works, I have an uncomfortable feeling that she was interested in 'religion' only as a potential ally or opponent in her campaign for women's political equality. I once spent some time in a congregation where the preacher never mentioned God or Christ except when they could be quoted in support of the preacher's political agenda. It was not a good experience. For me, reading about Mrs Stanton moves me, not to say, 'Lord, give me the grace to follow you, as you did to Mrs. Stanton,' but rather, 'Lord do I do that? Do I think of you as there to carry out my agenda? If so, then help me to recognize it and to stop it.'

Meanwhile, if we think that the abolition of slavery and the recognition of women's right to own property are in accordance with justice, and are accordingly good things, then we can thank God for accomplishing good through Mrs Stanton and others. 'It is enough to be sure of the deed. Our courteous Lord will deign to redeem the motive.' (Julian of Norwich)

We probably should take a deeper look into her attempt at Biblical revision in "The Woman's Bible" where in the Introduction she wrote,
"Bible historians claim special inspiration for the Old and New Testaments containing most contradictory records of the same events, of miracles opposed to all known laws, of customs that degrade the female sex of all human and animal life, stated in most questionable language that could not be read in a promiscuous assembly, and call all this 'The Word of God.'"

"The only points in which I differ from all ecclesiastical teaching is that I do not believe that any man ever saw or talked with God, I do not believe that God inspired the Mosaic code, or told the historians what they say he did about woman, for all the religions on the face of the earth degrade her, and so long as woman accepts the position that they assign her, her emancipation is impossible. Whatever the Bible may be made to do in Hebrew or Greek, in plain English it does not exalt and dignify woman. My standpoint for criticism is the revised edition of 1888. I will so far honor the revising committee of wise men who have given us the best exegesis they can according to their ability, although Disraeli said the last one before he died, contained 150,000 blunders in the Hebrew, and 7,000 in the Greek."
I also wonder if the powers that be who came up with the new list of Episcopal "Holy Men, Holy Women" knew what Elizabeth Cady Stanton had to say about one of the Episcopal church's most sacred cows?
"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." Letter to Julia Ward Howe, October 16, 1873, recorded in Howe's diary at Harvard University Library

She classified abortion as a form of "infanticide." The Revolution, 1(5):1, February 5, 1868

Also from Stanton:

"Dr. Oaks made the remark that, according to the best estimate he could make, there were four hundred murders annually produced by abortion in this county alone....There must be a remedy to such a crying evil as this. But where should it be found, at least begin, if not in the complete enfranchisement and elevation of women?" - The Revolution 1(10) 146-147 March 12, 1868

h/t Clinic Quotes
Or perhaps her review on the lectionary pages was less than favorable because of these views?


  1. What's funny is that the Bible/God's Word is probably the least sexist portrait of the times of all of them. When one acknowledges that the first witness to Christ's Resurrection was female and is named and relied upon by men as evidence of a living Savior, one realizes that Christianity has long been the sanctuary of equality in a world that, indeed, treated women as chattel. The view of Christianity/Bible as sexist is only predicated on a misreading, deliberate or otherwise, of two verses in Ephesians 6.


  2. I thought it was that comment about covering heads that got people upset.