Doers of the Word
Meet Abigail, Sarah, and Elizabeth
Abigail Adams, the wife of the second US president, John Adams, was interested in Jesus’ treatment of women. “It is a pleasing and grateful circumstance to read in the life and character of Our Savior, the affection and tenderness which he manifests to women – to Mary, to Martha, to the widow of Samaria, and many others.”
In today’s Gospel of Mark, Jesus spoke out against the ease with which men divorced women, often leaving them without a home or income. (A famous rabbi named Hillel taught that a man could divorce his wife if she did anything at all to displease him, such as burning his food. A stricter school, headed by Shammai, limited grounds for divorce to marital infidelity. Jesus clearly sided with Shammai but pointed much deeper, beyond the technicalities of divorce to God’s original design for marriage.) Jesus emphasized the permanence of marriage saying, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one … what therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Verses 7-9).
Sarah Grimke, a member of the women’s suffrage movement, also claimed that her beliefs were based on the Bible. In her 1837 Letters on the Equal of the Sexes, and the Condition of Women, she states: “Here then I plant myself. God created us equal – he created us free agents – he is our Lawgiver, our King, and our Judge, and to him alone is woman bound to be in subjection, and him alone is she accountable for the use of those talents with which her heavenly Father has entrusted her.”
Women’s rights pioneer Elizabeth Cady Stanton also drew on the Bible to criticize claims that women were inferior. In her 1854 speech, she said, “How could man ever look thus on a woman? She… who gave to the world a Savior, and witnessed alike the adoration of the Magi and the agonies of the cross. How could such a being, so blessed and honored, ever become the ignoble, servile, cringing slave, with whom the fear of man could be paramount to the sacred dictates of conscience and the holy love of Heaven?”