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HANDOUT 2: Thirty Years of Feminist Transformation

Excerpted with the author's permission from the article "Thirty Years of Feminist Transformation" by Kimberly French, which originally appeared in UU World, Summer 2007. Copyright Kimberly French, 2007.

(In this section of the article, French describes the results of the 1977 Women and Religion Resolution)

With staff, funding, and ink backing them up, women across the Association began strategizing how to eradicate sexism from their own religion.

The first task was to change sexist language. Women and Religion groups charged that the UUA's Principles, written in 1961, failed to affirm women (with phrases like "the dignity of man") and failed to show respect for the earth. A revision process led to the 1985 Principles and Purposes, which substantially rewrote the previous six Principles and added a seventh: "Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part."

Activists also objected to language in Hymns for the Celebration of Life, the UUA's 1964 hymnal, which had sections titled "Man," "Love and Human Brotherhood," and "The Arts of Man." Interim hymnbooks circulated until a commission could complete Singing the Living Tradition in 1993, which uses more inclusive language.

One of the most visible changes spawned by the Women and Religion movement has been the rapid increase in women UU ministers—from about 5 percent in 1977 to about 50 percent today. That trend is expected to escalate, as 70 percent of UU retired ministers are men and 75 percent of those preparing for fellowship are women.

Along with more women in the pulpit, feminist theology has reshaped the tone of both UU worship and religious education. Many of the new worship forms designed by Women and Religion groups—such as the water ceremony, chalice lighting, and sharing of joys and sorrows—have been so wholly embraced by churches that UUs are often surprised to discover their relatively recent, and feminist, origins.

Women demanded and got curricula celebrating goddesses, women religious leaders, and women's spirituality: Cakes for the Queen of Heaven by the Rev. Shirley Ranck in 1986 (revised 1997) and Rise Up and Call Her Name by Elizabeth Fisher in 1994.

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Last updated on Saturday, December 10, 2011.

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