‘The age of [women] being a footnote to history is over.’
– Dr Amanda Foreman in the BBC series The Ascent of Women.
Our past is full of incredible women who transformed lives and communities through social and political change. Their courageous actions, determined perseverance and unwavering passion for justice and God have impacted our lives today. Yet, many have remain unrecognised, ignored and buried in brief footnotes in articles and books.
It’s time to do some excavation!
To celebrate International Day of the Girl on 11 October, Sophia Network is curating a special #SheInspiresSN series to celebrate the contribution of Christian female leaders from history. As well as honouring their achievements, our fantastic contributors will be helping us to reflect, explore and discuss what we can all learn about Christian leadership from their character, faith and example.
Be prepared to be inspired, challenged and affirmed each weekday morning of October (starting on Monday). The #SheInspiresSN series demonstrates that God has been using women in His mission and ministry throughout the centuries in many different countries.
#SheInspiresSN explores courageous women like Canadian Suffragette Nellie Clung, Belfast activist Isabella Tod and New Zealand leader Kate Sheppard. During the late nineteenth century, these women - inspired by their faith and sense of justice - helped to secure women the right to participate in governing their countries. Their actions ultimately paved the way for women like Frances Perkins, the first female member of the US Cabinet, who believed that every Christian should be involved in the political sphere.
Throughout the centuries, women have also been subverting gender norms and challenging the patriarchal structures in religion in order to follow their God-given calling. #SheInspiresSN will explore the lives of Margaret Hellwart, the seventeenth-century founder of Anabaptist movement, Amy Carmichael whose legacy of love for girls in India lives on today, and Catherine Clark Kroeger, a twentieth-century pioneer of egalitarian theology.
Many of the women in our #SheInspiresSN series display an incredible love for God. Their willingness to serve Him no matter what the cost is humbling, challenging and uncomfortable for us. Missionary Betty Stam embodied Paul’s cry in Philippians Ch.1:21. Can we say that we share the same desire?
Women of Colour were courageous in both overcoming sexism and racism. Rev Dr Kate Coleman shares how Crimean nurse Mary Seacole’s courage and audacity to follow God’s calling inspires her in her leadership. ‘Tenacity in adversity’ is how Kingsley Armstrong describes US Olympian Wilma Rudolf, a sportswoman who fought racism on and off the track.
This is just a taster of the Christian female leaders that you’ll get to know throughout October. These women were called by God to be transformers, agitators, justice-seekers, public speakers, social activists, restorers, carers and lovers. They’ve demonstrated courage, compassion, audacity, determination, resilience, fortitude, hope and faith.
Ultimately the lives of the #SheInspiresSN women (and many more whose stories are yet to be told) underpin a firm calling from God to use their giftings for His glory, a lack of acceptance for injustice and an unwavering belief that He could use them (women!) to inject hope into lives and communities.
Let’s not just celebrate these women.
Let’s pray that God would use their legacy to challenge us to follow our God-given calling no matter the cost.
Just as they did.
As well as being a Trustee of Sophia Network, Dr Claire Rush is Advocacy Co-ordinator for The Girls' Brigade England & Wales, International Vice-President of GB Worldwide and co-editor of Have Women Made A Difference? Women in Irish Universities, 1850 - 2010.