March: Women’s History Month

March: Women’s History Month

Last month we celebrated Black History Month, focusing our attention on learning and celebrating the contributions Black Americans have made to our nation and church. This month, we honor and celebrate another largely underrepresented group in the narrative of our church and nation’s history: Women.

By God’s design, women are life-givers. Dr. Catherine Gilliard reminded us last week that though women have often been hidden figures, we have been indispensable contributors to the life and growth of the church. As half the world’s population, women have been bringing life to business, the arts, science, politics and beyond for as long as we’ve had breath. For this Women’s History Month, the women of LMDJ will be exploring how women have made and continue to bring life to the topics of: Activism, Politics, Business, and the Church.

Examples of Activism In the Bible

Hebrew Midwives

“But Shiphrah and Puah had respect for God. They didn't do what the king of Egypt had told them to do. They let the boys live.” Exodus 1:17

Shiphrah and Puah, Hebrew Midwives, are some of the first female activists we encounter in scripture. It was their act of resistance to the king, and the activism of many other unnamed midwives that the lives of many baby boys were spared. The Rev. Wil Gafney, Ph.D names these midwives’ as the “mothers of a revolution:”

“The liberation of the Israelite people in Egypt begins with Shiphrah and Puah. They are the mothers of a revolution waged by women. They likely enlisted untold numbers of birthing-women and expectant mothers in their resistance movement… Their act of resistance sets the stage for those to follow.” Wil Gafney, Womanist Midrash

It is through the Hebrew Midwives that we recognize there are women before us, all around us, and ahead of us - both named and unnamed - involved in the delivery of justice, love, and mercy. Women who sit in the pain of undelivered justice. Women who cut the ties of systemic oppression and social barriers. Women who unapologetically take up redemptive space in a world not designed for them. From biblical times to today, these are the women that we celebrate, we are challenged by, and we call ourselves to live more like.

Examples of Activism In American History

"The voice of the Great Spirit is heard in the twittering of birds, the rippling of mighty waters, and the sweet breathing of flowers." Zitkála-Šá

Zitkála-Šá was born in 1876 on the Yankton Indian Reservation. After years of attending a boarding school run by missionaries, she soon began to realize that her education was an institutionalized way to erase her tribal identity. From essays and short stories to the first opera writing by a Native American, Zitkála-Šá began to process through the pain and trauma she experienced as a result of this erasure through writing.

Through positions as a teacher, writer, and organizer, Zitkála-Šá fought against the Americanization of native nations. Later on in her life, she moved to Washington D.C. as part of the fight to help shape policies and laws that countered assimilation tactics as well as recognize the Native Americans’ US Citizenship. As a result of her work, the Indian Citizenship Act passed in 1924.

Zitkála-Šá co-founded the National Council of American Indians where she was the council’s president and continued to advocate for Native suffrage rights until she passed in 1938.

When I think of female activists, there are a few prominent names that come to mind: Angela Davis, Malala Yousafzai, Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks. Today, we are going to highlight two specific women whose names may be unfamiliar to you, but who used their experiences and gifts to pursue freedom for all.

Examples of Activism Today

" Every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person a potential activist, every minute a chance to change the world." Dolores Huerta

Dolores Huerta was born in 1930 in New Mexico and soon moved to California. Her mother’s activism within the community and dignifying treatment of workers shaped Huerta. Also impactful was the discrimination she faced in school growing up and ended up becoming a teacher herself. After seeing so many of her farmer students come to school hungry, she became an activist for the rights of the hispanic community.

From advocating for impoverished, immigrant, and women’s rights to driving over 17 million people to stop buying grapes out of protesting farmer’s rights, Huerta’s work has resulted in programs and legislations that center dignity and equality for each of those groups. “Discrimination and sexism were constant in her life as a woman in a male-dominated world. Most of her life, she’d never thought to take credit for her work. But later on, she came to the realization that speaking in favor of women and supporting her community were key for the future.” Source

Here are a few resources to help you on the journey: