Image: Antoinette Brown Blackwell, Library of Congress
Maggie’s other daughter by John Blaine, Frances (aka Frankie), has a “calling,” meaning she feels that God wants her in ministry. Not “women’s ministry,” but “ministry.” Period.
But if it was difficult for a woman to be taken seriously as a physician – or even considered a possible candidate by the medical profession, it was even worse for a woman drawn to ministering to a congregation to become ordained.
There were certain Christian groups who were open to women speaking in public and taking leadership roles. The most well-known among them were the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). Women were welcome to speak in Meeting and held various positions within the Meeting. But the one thing a Quaker Meeting frowned upon was “hireling clergy.” There was no ordination. In fact, there were no pastors. Everyone could be moved by the Spirit to speak and lead.
As for the rest of the Christian groups, you can count on one hand the number of known women ordained by them:
The stories about Frankie currently fall between 1860 and 1864. A woman wouldn’t be ordained in a more “mainstream” Methodist group until 1866 when the North Indiana Conference of the Methodist Protestant Church ordained Helenor M. Davison. Still, that was the action of a lone Conference. The Methodist Protestant Church as a denomination did not began ordaining women until Anna Howard Shaw in 1880.
As a historical note, women were forced to take a step back in 1939 when the Methodist Protestant Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South united to form The Methodist Church. One stipulation of the merger stated that although women could be ordained as deacons and elders, they only could serve in local churches and could not be grant full Conference membership. Why was that a big deal? Because Methodist Protestant women already had been ordained and now had to give up their Conference memberships to satisfy the stipulation. They were sacrificed on the altar of “unity.” Being a member of Conference meant a minister could be appointed by the Bishop and his cabinet to serve churches anywhere in the geographical area assigned to that Conference. Membership also meant the minister had voting rights at Annual Conference, as well as any other perks and protections granted to ordained clergy. Methodist Protestant clergywomen were busted to second-class citizens within The Methodist Church.
The situation finally was rectified in May 4, 1956,when the General Conference of the Methodist Church voted to give women full clergy rights.
I just want to note that the merger of 1939 exacerbated another inequality. Within Methodism, jurisdictions are geographically based. But the MEC, South only would agree to the union if a jurisdiction, called the Central Jurisdiction, was created specifically for black annual conferences. A movement eventually began to abolish the Central Jurisdiction, and finally was made official in 1969 when The Methodist Church merged with the Evangelical United Brethren.
Yes, I know all this Methodist stuff is confusing. You ought to try teaching it to 6th-8th graders in a confirmation class. It’s “bang your head against the wall because it feels so good when you stop” time.
My point is, our Frankie has a rough road to travel if she wants to serve a congregation. But she’s a tough, determined cookie, as I’ll illustrate in tomorrow’s Squeaking Blog.
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder