Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Building Bridges: A World Religions Program for 8th-9th Grades

Activity 1: Story - Lucretia Mott, the Brazen Infidel

Activity time: 30 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Read the story "Lucretia Mott, the Brazen Infidel" so you will be comfortable presenting it.
  • Read Handout 1, Declaration of Sentiments, and decide how best to share this rather long document. You may want to edit it for length, although all of it is fascinating.
  • Post blank newsprint. Create two columns: "Equal" and "Unequal."

Description of Activity

Participants hear and discuss the story of Lucretia Mott, examine the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments, and discuss the progress of women's rights since 1848.

Read the story aloud. Ask for initial reactions. What did the youth think of the story? Had they heard of Lucretia Mott before? If so, in what context?

Ask participants if they had heard of the first Women's Rights Convention, which was organized by Lucretia Mott, a Quaker, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a Unitarian, in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. Tell the group more than 300 women and men attended, and 100 signed the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments on the rights of women. The United States had become a nation only 72 years before.

Distribute Handout 1, Declaration of Sentiments. Invite volunteers to read it aloud, taking turns by paragraph. Then, ask for reactions.

Expand discussion with these points:

  • Do you recognize the language of the introduction? What might be the purpose of echoing the Declaration of Independence? [Suggest, if no one does, that the language called attention to the lack of independence of a large portion of the United States population.]
  • Do you think it was obvious to people at the time that women and men are created equal? Do you think most people believe this now?
  • Do you think women and men today are treated equally? How so, or how not? [Among the offenses listed in the Seneca Falls Declaration, some have been addressed: Women can vote, keep their own wages, and attend most colleges. Husbands cannot legally deprive their wives of freedom or beat them. Have all the issues raised by Stanton and Mott been addressed? Point out that, as of 2007, women in the U.S. on average still only earned 78 cents for each dollar paid to men; although wage discrimination is illegal, women are frequently paid less than men even when performing the exact same job. Why would this still be the case?]

Distribute paper and writing materials. Invite participants to make two columns-"equal" and "unequal"-and use them to list observations from their own experience:

  • Areas in which girls/women and boys/men are treated equally.
  • Areas in which girls/women and boys/men are treated unequally.

If they do not bring it up, remind participates that inequity can work either way. There may be areas where males lack a freedom or an opportunity that females enjoy.

In this discussion of gender equality and inequality, be aware of the implications for LBGTQ people. How does gender injustice affect gay man and lesbians? How does gender bias and discrimination affect transsexual people? Perceptions that gender is binary (only two gender identities-male and female) and that there are appropriate roles for "males" and "females," limit the freedom and opportunities for people of all gender identities and sexual orientations.

Give the group about five minutes to write examples of "equal" and unequal" on their papers. Then, lead participants to share their comments with the group, using this process:

  • Go around the group, inviting each participant to read a single item from their page. Ask the first participant for an "equal" observation; ask the second participant for an "unequal" observation.
  • Continue alternating "equal" and "unequal" observations, until one or the other runs out. Take note of when this happens.
  • As participants speak, use the newsprint you have posted to record categories that are mentioned-for example, "employment," "voting," "sports," "dress code," etc.
  • Ask participants to check off each item on their papers as it is read. Ask them to raise their hands if they also had an item someone else has shared. It is important to put a check mark on the newsprint next to categories that are repeated to show how common an equality or inequality is perceived by the group.
  • Continue reading observations until all have been read.

After all have shared, ask participants:

  • What are the findings of this exercise?
  • Which column has more entries?
  • What categories stand out? Where does society have the most work to do in the area of equal rights for all genders?
  • What are Unitarian Universalists doing for gender equality and gender justice? What is our congregation doing?
  • What would Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton think of the progress that has been made?

Including All Participants

Be mindful of the likelihood that someone in the group may be questioning their gender identity. Do not ask the youth to identify themselves as male or female. Avoid categorical remarks that indicate gender binary and do not make generalizations about boys and girls or "male" and "female" behavior or traits.