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In "Faith like a River," a Tapestry of Faith program
Introduce this activity in these words, or paraphrase. Pass around (or project) the portraits of Livermore and Brown as you speak about each woman.
How is freedom best achieved? For people who are oppressed or marginalized to achieve equality and freedom, when is it most effective for people to work within existing structures of power? When is it most effective to work outside those structures? When is it most effective to work as a separatist movement? How forceful must demands be in order to be achieved? These questions have been played out through human history and extend into our own congregations. In struggles over issues from theology to administration, some people will break away while others will work within the existing structures.
In the second half of the 19th century, the rights of women became a topic of debate in society at large and in Unitarian and Universalist congregations. Should women vote? Take an equal part in the affairs of business and the nation? Have full participation in our churches as professional and lay leaders? Mary Livermore and the Rev. Olympia Brown agreed that women were capable of larger roles in society and in the churches. They disagreed over how such freedom was best achieved.
Mary Livermore, married to Universalist minister Daniel Parker Livermore, was a tireless worker for the rights of women. When she addressed the Universalist Centenary Assembly in 1870, she believed women were capable of great things, but that their work should be under the direction of the male leadership of the church. She would later come to work for women's right to the vote.
Universalist minister Olympia Brown was the first woman in the United States ordained by a denominational body. She believed women could (and should) work at an equal level with men, independent of male direction.
Distribute Handout 1, How Is Freedom Achieved? Invite the designated volunteers to read the words of Mary Livermore and Olympia Brown aloud. Then, ask for comments and observations, using these questions:
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Last updated on Wednesday, October 26, 2011.
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