The “Christian” Heritage of the First Wave

Posted on July 25, 2011 by

I thought we might shed a bit of light on the so-called first wave of feminists, whom Christian feminists (is that an oxymoron?) often hold up as God-fearing, Bible believing women who simply wanted to end female oppression. Whether or not these women had legitimate arguments on one or two points is not something I want to debate, though I will if the reader insists. Aside from being anti-abortion, however, the philosophy of most of these women was very similar to that of the more “radical” feminists of the 60′s, whom most all Christians agree have done a great deal of damage to family life, and by extension to society at large. Allow me to introduce to those who may not know, a few members of the first wave.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902), who refused to allow the word “obey’ to be a part of her marriage vows:

“The memory of my own suffering has prevented me from ever shadowing one young soul with the superstitions of the Christian religion.”

“The Bible teaches that woman brought sin and death into the world, that she precipitated the fall of the race, that she was arraigned before the judgment seat of Heaven, tried, condemned and sentenced. Marriage for her was to be a condition of bondage, maternity a period of suffering and anguish, and in silence and subjection, she was to play the role of a dependent on man’s bounty for all her material wants, and for all the information she might desire…. Here is the Bible position of woman briefly summed up.”-

Introduction to The Women’s Bible, which Stanton authored.

Those are just two of the quotes I found from Mrs. Stanton, never mind that the second is total misrepresentation of what the Bible teaches. She is recorded as having felt like a caged bird bound to the domestic drudgery of her home. In fact, she is reported to have breathed a sigh of relief after being freed from her domestic drudgery when she hired full time help in the form of a nanny/housekeeper who remained in her employ for 30 years, freeing her to jump into the suffrage movement with both feet. Apparently the domestic drudgery was okay for that woman to endure.

Lucy Stone (1818-1893), first woman recorded to have kept her own name after marrying. In fact, she was very much in line with today’s thinking since she was 37  and well educated before she finally tied the knot. She was arrested for refusing to pay property taxes when she wasn’t allowed to vote. I actually agree with her in principle on that one. My problem is that we are often told that  no women were allowed to own property before these women fought the good fight on our behalf.

Susan  B. Anthony(1820-1906), whom I have a bit more regard for since she was at least never married and therefore never had a family to treat as a stumbling block to all she might be without them. Still, the view of  the white woman  as being oppressed on the level of the African slave is something that I will never be able to agree to. A couple of quotes from Ms. Anthony, as I’m sure she would be called today:

“I beg you to speak of Woman as you do of the Negro, speak of her as a human being, as a citizen of the United States, as a half of the people in whose hands lies the destiny of this Nation.”

“I do not consider divorce an evil by any means. It is just as much a refuge for women married to brutal men as Canada was to the slaves of brutal masters.”

(I do not believe women should be subject to a husband’s brutality either, but how many divorces can honestly be blamed on that?)

“Oh, if I could but live another century and see the fruition of all the work for women! There is so much yet to be done.”-

I, too wonder what Ms. Anthony would think if she could see today’s empowered woman.

Victoria Woodhull (1838-1927), the first woman to run for president in 1872. Married 3 times, and a fierce proponent of the idea of “free love”, she is quoted as saying:

“To woman, by nature, belongs the right of sexual determination. When the instinct is aroused in her, then and then only should commerce follow. When woman rises from sexual slavery to sexual freedom, into the ownership and control of her sexual organs, and man is obliged to respect this freedom, then will this instinct become pure and holy; then will woman be raised from the iniquity and morbidness in which she now wallows for existence, and the intensity and glory of her creative functions be increased a hundred-fold …”

So much for the oh-so-holy first wave of feminists.