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“Lucy Laney is an excellent builder. Her contribution to American life is that of building character.”     Attorney James C. Waters, Former Secretary of the Law School, Howard University.

Lucy Craft Laney was a true builder of society. Remembered as the founder and principal of the Haines Institute in Augusta, Georgia for fifty years, Lucy is one of the most famous educators in the United States. She founded the first kindergarten and the first nurses’ training school in Georgia.

Lucy Craft Laney was born a slave in 1854 in Macon, Georgia. She spent most of her childhood in Savannah where her father, Reverend David Laney was a preacher or exhorter. He became an ordained Presbyterian minister and pastored a church. Lucy’s mother, Louise was a very godly woman who raised not only her own large brood of children but took in the Laney cousins and many orphans. Lucy loved being around other children. She would continue to love the company of children her whole life long.

Lucy was very bright and was taught to read at the age of four by Miss Campbell, the master’s sister. Miss Campbell recognized Lucy’s giftedness and in spite of the local prejudice against blacks undertook to educate Lucy herself. Thanks to Miss Campbell Lucy was later able to attend Atlanta University at the tender age of fifteen. In 1873 Lucy was a member of the first graduating class of Atlanta University. She then began a teaching career in Savannah.

After teaching for 10 years, Lucy began her own school in the basement of Christ Presbyterian church in Augusta. On the first morning there were six pupils, three little girls, one older girl, and two boys. At first, Lucy had only wanted to take girls but her heart was too big for poor children and she accepted many underprivileged boys. When the boy would show up at her door, Lucy had the gift to see past the child’s raggedness to what the boy could become.

By the end of the first year Lucy had 75 students. At the end of the second year she reported 234. In 1886, Lucy visited the Presbyterian Board’s annual meeting to seek funds. The Board was impressed with her work but only voted to give her the funds to get home. However, while attending the Board conference Lucy made friends with Mrs. Francine Haines who would become a great benefactor. The little school which had been called Miss Laney’s school was renamed in honor of Mrs. Haines. Later it would be chartered and named the Haines Normal and Industrial Institute.

By 1893 the institution had become a large boarding school, furnishing a home for 60 – 70 girls and some rented cottages for 15 – 20 boys. In 1906 an administration building, McGregor Hall was erected. Miss Laney believed that girls should get a good education for a teaching career but should also be self-sufficient. Therefore, the school ran a model garden.

Soon the school would boast 26 teachers and 713 students. Graduates would go on to attend Atlanta University, Fisk U., Howard U., Shaw U., and Taladega College. Her students would be found in all walks of life throughout the United States.

One of Lucy’s most important contributions to the community was the introduction of trained nurses into Atlanta. Lucy convinced the city to give her an old “pest house” where patients with infectious diseases were kept, to use as a hospital. She brought a white trained nurse from Canada to be superintendent. Ten girls at Haines studied nursing. Later when the city built a new two-hundred bed hospital, one of these colored girls was made its superintendent.

Besides all of her work at the school, Lucy was involved with efforts to alleviate the prejudice against blacks in her community. She helped to found the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1918. She was active in the Interracial Commission, the National Association of Colored Women, and the Niagara Movement. She helped integrate into the community the work of the YMCA and the YWCA. Many prominent blacks were her friends including Madame C. J. Walker (see post 5/2/17) and Mary McLeod Bethune (story posted on 4/11/17).

In recognition of her accomplishments Lucy was awarded the degree of Master of Arts by Lincoln University in 1904; by her alma mater, Atlanta University, in 1923; by South Carolina State College in 1925; and by Howard University in 1930.

Lucy passed away in 1933. In 1974, she was honored to have her portrait placed in the Georgia state capitol by Governor Jimmy Carter, along with portraits of Rev. Henry McNeal Turner and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Lucy’s portrait bears tribute to “the mother of the children of the people,” …. a woman who knew that “God didn’t use any different dirt to make me than the first lady of the land.” Lucy was inducted into the Georgia Women of Achievement in 1992.

I really love looking at old pictures of people and I found this wonderful video on You Tube. You will get a few more details of Lucy’s story as well as the enjoyment of seeing much that can be explained better in pictures than in my short biography. I know you will really enjoy this story of a truly great American educator. It’s a little over 9 minutes long and the production is professionally done. Author – Tina Calhoun.

https://youtu.be/lRiEJdz6tco

You should also consider checking out the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History if you are ever in Augusta.

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For the last few weeks we have focused on the contributions to society made by black women. Bessie Coleman, early stunt flyer and first black woman with an international pilot’s license (post April 4, 2017), Mary McLeod Bethune, educator and leader (April 11); Mae Jemison – first female black astronaut (April 18); Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson – achievements in the space industry and instrumental in getting the first Americans in space and on the moon (April 25); (May 2) Madame C. J. Walker, entrepreneur and philanthropist, and last week (May 9) Rosa Parks, courageous mother of the civil rights movement.

This week I would like to share an article from Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) about Rev. Emily Awino Onyango, written by Sarah Rodriquez. The title is – “Journey into Priesthood: Egalitarian Women Making History”, published on March 22, 2017. There are many stories of courageous women at CBE’s website. Please consider joining the organization and supporting their work. They also have a book store and you will find many of the books that I have reviewed on this site there. http://www.cbeinternational.org/

In shining a light on these women’s stories, we will defy patriarchy’s attempts to marginalize the historical contributions of women. Instead, we will unashamedly celebrate their courage and persistence.

This week’s article will focus on Rev. Emily Awino Onyango, an Anglican priest ordained in her native Kenya.

Emily was born and raised in a Christian home. She spent her childhood learning Christian values, having family prayers, and attending church. At the age of ten, Emily attended a children’s camp. It was at this camp that Emily first decided to have a personal relationship with Christ.

As she grew older, the people around her encouraged her in her faith. For instance, she said, “When I was in secondary school, I was greatly inspired by my Christian religious education teacher, Lorna Mwanga, who was very passionate about her faith. I also greatly admired the life and vocation of the prophets that she was teaching about.”[1] Emily learned much from her religious teachers, and she grew to greatly admire the female evangelists and administrators in her church.

I also asked Emily to list some female missionaries who inspired her. She named Olive Owen, the wife of Archdeacon Owen who worked in Nyanza, Kenya in the 1940s. Olive Owen supported the women in her community and fought for women’s rights in the community and in the church. Thus, it is easy to see why she inspires Emily, as Emily has faced her share of uphill battles while entering church ministry in Kenya.

According to Emily, “Olive Owen said that her main mission was to liberate the girls in her community who were suffering. She was one of the people who worked hard for the establishment of a girl’s school… and supported the girls who were being forced into marriage with older men.”[2]

Emily felt that God had called her to church ministry, so she applied to St. Paul’s United Theological College, from which she graduated in 1983. Next, she became a Sunday school coordinator in the diocese and a lay reader at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Kisumu, Kenya. She describes this work as “very fulfilling, as [she] had the opportunity to influence the worldview of the children.”[3] Emily advanced in church leadership when she was appointed as a deacon on July 29, 1984. She was eventually ordained as a priest on December 15, 1985.

Naturally, Emily faced much resistance as she climbed church leadership. Although the Lambeth Conference in 1978 allowed for women to be ordained in the Anglican Church, each diocese was allowed to choose whether or not they were going to ordain women as priests.

The Diocese of Maseno South decided to affirm women’s ordination, and Rev. Lucia Okuthe became the first female Anglican priest in Kenya. Of course, Rev. Okuthe’s ordination was not without controversy. According to Emily, “People found [women’s ordination] difficult to accept because it was against African culture . . . Even as I was teaching, they had stereotypes, like ‘women are stupid’ and ‘women cannot keep secrets.’”[4]. Emily had to contend with a great amount of gender-based prejudice when she started going through the process of ordination, something most women in ministry experience in pursuing their calling.

Many disagreed with the ordination of Rev. Lucia Okuthe, but according to Emily, she still had an advantage over Emily. She said, “People argued that Lucia was in a better position because she was a widow and she was past menopause, while I was young and single.”[5] The clergy of the church in which Emily was ordained mainly objected to Emily’s marital status, because they believed that marriage made women distinguished and respectable in society. Nevertheless, Emily was ordained as a single woman.

When Emily first entered ministry, she saw a great gender disparity. She had graduated with men who immediately began earning twice as much as she did. Moreover, she did not receive housing allowances like the men. When she started teaching in a Bible school, “it was evident that most of the ordinands, who were predominately men, were against having women in the ministry.”[6]

Every area of the world faces different challenges to gender equality. Emily noted that some parts of her culture have perpetuated gender disparity in the church. She said that African traditional culture contains “negative stereotypes and myths [about women] that inform the worldview of the people.” Emily believes that these beliefs, along with a patriarchal interpretation of Scripture, have impeded the growth of egalitarianism in Africa.

Nevertheless, Emily still remains positive. While she encountered resistance to her ordination, she also met many Christians and parishioners who encouraged her and praised her spiritual gift for ministry.

Emily is currently researching gender inequality. She aims to devise a curriculum that will empower members of the clergy and the laity to understand gender issues. She also continues to train clergy, evangelists, and others, as well as perform advocacy work in her community. Emily is one of the many women forging a path for other women in church leadership.

Notes

[1] Emily Onyango, interview by Sarah Rodriguez, October 6, 2016.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.

 

 

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Mae Jemison was the first African-American female astronaut. A bright and energetic girl, she also became a doctor and served in the Peace Corps. Mae is also a dancer, a teacher, a speaker, and an author.

Mae was born on October 17, 1956, in Decatur, Alabama. Seeking better educational and work opportunities her family moved to Chicago when Mae was three years old.

A bright student Mae learned how to read before she went to school. She told her kindergarten teacher that she wanted to be a scientist when she grew up. There weren’t very many African-American scientists in the 1960’s but that didn’t stop Mae. She loved astronomy and often looked up at the stars and dreamed. During her school years Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. Mae was determined to go into space some day.

In 1977 Mae went to medical school. She had to choose between two careers – dancer or doctor. Mae decided that she could be a doctor and still dance, but she could not doctor if she was a dancer. The energetic and practical Mae went to medical school. Later when she got to go into space she proved that she could do both by dancing in the shuttle!! Mae took a poster of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater with her on her flight.

When Mae became a doctor she wanted to help poor people and so starting in 1983 she traveled to Africa and served with the Peace Corps. She served in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

In 1985 Mae returned to California to work at a hospital. This was when she pursued her dream of becoming an astronaut. She applied at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). One year later she began her training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The first woman in space was Sally Ride and the first African-American in space was Guion Bluford. These astronauts were an inspiration to Mae as she trained. Mae learned about the space shuttle she would be working on. She had to get use to zero gravity and the limits of space. She would be doing scientific experiments on board the shuttle.

In 1987, during Mae’s training the space shuttle Challenger exploded killing all astronauts on board. This disaster was somewhat of a setback in the space program but Mae was still as determined as ever to be an astronaut. Mae was one of only 15 candidates chosen out of about 2000 applicants.

Another person who was an inspiration for Mae was Nichelle Nichols, who is famous for her role as Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek.  In 1993, Mae Jemison starred in: Star Trek: The Next Generation (1993) – as Lieutenant Palmer, episode “Second Chances”. She was the first real live astronaut to appear on Star Trek.

On September 12, 1992, Mae Jemison became the first African-American women to go into space on the space shuttle Endeavour. The crew stayed in space for over 190 hours (nearly 8 days). Mae’s experiments were used to see the effects of zero gravity on the human body.

In 1993, Mae left NASA so that she could get involved in other projects. She wanted to encourage young people to follow their dreams. She began an international science camp program for teenagers called The Earth We Share.

Other achievements for Mae Jemison include:

  1. The founding of the Jemison Institute. 1995
  2. College Professor, Dartmouth College. 1995
  3. The 100 Year Starship Program. Mae joined in 2011. The program’s goal is to help humans travel to the stars in the next 100 years.
  4. International Space Hall of Fame. NASA Space Flight Medal.
  5. Awarded the Doctor of Engineering (honorary) degree in 2007.
  6. Mae has also written articles and books including “Journey Through Our Solar System (True Books: Dr. Mae Jemison and 100 Year Starship) 2013.

 

Below are the links to two interesting YouTube videos with pictures and interviews of Mae Jemison that I think you might enjoy:

Mae Jemison: I Wanted To Go Into Space, July 31, 2014

https://youtu.be/B0vGDfuWhfI

Mae Jemison – Mini Bio, January 12, 2012

https://youtu.be/EgOaIKshbIU

 

 

 

 

 

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Through love and faith and determination I have been persistently facing obstacles, small and large, and I have made them stepping stones upon which to rise.          Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary McLeod Bethune is remembered as an educator and an activist. Mary was born with three strikes against her – she was poor, black, and female. This indomitable woman who believed that “Love, not hate, has been the fountain of my fullness” spent her life building a better world.

Mary McLeod Bethune was born on July 10, 1875 near Mayesville, South Carolina. This was during the period of ‘reconstruction’ in the South. Tempers often ran as hot as the weather and as the nation adjusted, unfair anti-black violence escalated. Through it all many black men and women maintained their faith in God. There was a strong belief that education would raise the status of black people in the perceptions of others and would result in better jobs.

Originally Mary trained at Moody Bible Institute (as it is called today) to become a missionary to Africa. It seems incredible to us now, but she was told that black women were not allowed to go on the missionfield. This didn’t stop Mary for long. Realizing that this setback was only a ‘stepping stone upon which to rise’ she put her heart and soul into educating poor black children, starting with girls. Mary believed that as the mothers in the homes, girls would grow up to have a profound impact on their children’s education.

Mary married Albert McLeod Bethune in 1898. They had one son. Sadly, due to disagreements that couldn’t be reconciled Mary and Albert ended the marriage in 1907.

Mary founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Negro Girls in Daytona, Florida in 1904. She started with only five students but the school grew to over 250 students in only a few years. Mary remained the president and leader until 1942. In 1923 the school combined with the Cookman Institute for Men. The newly combined school, called the Bethune-Cookman College, was one of the few places where African-American students could get a college degree.

Besides her important work at the school, Mary also became politically involved. She was president of the Florida chapter of the National Association of Colored Women for many years.  Mary worked with presidents Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin D. Roosevelt to improve life for African-Americans. She served on many committees and started up her own organization – the National Council of Negro Women. In 1936 President Roosevelt appointed her to be the director of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration. In this position Mary was able to help young people find jobs. At this time Mary also served as an advisor to both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

In 1942 Mary retired from Bethune-Cookman college. She moved to Washington DC and lived there for several years. She was an early member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In the early 1950’s, President Truman appointed her to be the official delegate to Liberia for the inauguration of their new president.

Eventually Mary returned to Florida to retire. She passed away on May 18, 1955.

Before she died Mary wrote “My Last Will and Testament.” She wanted to leave her people with a legacy of serving. Here are her ‘bequests’.

             I leave you love.
             I leave you hope.
             I leave you the challenge of developing confidence in one another.
             I leave you a thirst for education.
             I leave you a respect for the uses of power. (This power should be placed on the side of human justice.)
             I leave you faith.
             I leave you racial dignity.
             I leave you a desire to live harmoniously with your fellow men.
             I leave you finally a responsibility to our young people.

Faith Courage, brotherhood, dignity, ambition, responsibility – these are needed today as never before. We must cultivate them and use them as tools for our task of completing the establishment of equality for the Negro.

If I have a legacy to leave my people, it is my philosophy of living and serving. As I face tomorrow, I am content, for I think I have spent my life well. I pray now that my philosophy may be helpful to those who share my vision of a world of Peace, Progress, Brotherhood and Love.

 

In 1973, eighteen years after her passing,  Mary McLeod Bethune was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. In 1974, a seventeen-foot bronze sculpture commemorating Mary’s work in education was erected in Lincoln Park, Washington DC. It is the first statue ever dedicated on federal land to honor either an African-American or a woman.

 

The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp in her honor in 1985.

 

The Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site was opened in 1994.

 

 

 

I found a wonderful video production of Mary’s life on YouTube. It is in three parts totaling a little over 26 minutes. It gives great historical background and contains many contemporary photos. I highly recommend it!!

 YouTube:

  1.  Mary McLeod Bethune Part One desktop, Jan. 24, 2009, Brian Stewart 9:42

https://youtu.be/CTEYr8cd1us

2. Mary McLeod Bethune Part Two desktop, 9:46

https://youtu.be/-6zHh9U8ZYI

3. Mary McLeod Bethune Part Three desktop, 6:44

https://youtu.be/encR1RbFk3w

 

 

 

 

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I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.
Dorothy Day

d-d-entertaining-anglesRecently I came across a DVD that does a pretty fair job of telling the story of Dorothy Day’s life.

In our busy world it is often easier to watch a good video than to find time for books. I would still recommend reading the biography of Dorothy Day as well as her own writings. They are very inspiring.

The video is titled: Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story.

It is done by “Paulist Pictures”. You can get the DVD from Amazon or many other religious organizations that sell books and biographies of historical Christians.

I thought that the production of the movie was well-done. The actors, Moira Kelly as Dorothy Day and Martin Sheen as her friend and mentor Peter Maurin were very believable in their parts. Often other movies are ruined by the shallowness of the acting but in this production Moira Kelly and Martin Sheen gave very strong performances.

I really appreciated the introduction to the movie – It showed Dorothy in prison in the early 1960’s for protesting the war in Vietnam. It gave the viewer a glimpse of another facet of her life besides caring for the poor. Dorothy believed in peace and justice and was willing to practice what she preached! She went to prison several times.

The scene in the prison may or may not have been a real event in her life, but it pictures for the viewer just how much Dorothy loved the ‘unlovely’.  She comforts a woman cell mate who is quite agitated, seemingly coming off of drugs. As Dorothy sits with the woman’s head in her lap, the woman vomits on Dorothy whose reaction is only kindness and concern. The woman is moved by Dorothy’s kindness and wants to know “What is the story of your life?”

Dorothy begins a reminiscence. She reflects back to the time that she lived like a bohemian in Greenwich village along with friends who were trying to find answers to poverty in socialism and communism. No one in the crowd believed in God. Dorothy herself was very skeptical.

Over the next few years Dorothy suffered from failed love affairs and had many heartbreaks. But she encounters a wonderful nun who shows her love. The nun is also engaged in helping the poor. Dorothy wonders what the nun gets out of it. Dorothy finds out that just helping others gives you great joy.

I won’t give away any more details. I hope that this has whetted your appetite to see a film about a very courageous woman. A woman who did many things that she regretted in her early life but found forgiveness and love in the Lord Jesus. A woman who did not look back but spent her time helping others more unfortunate than she was.

In our day especially, women can be encouraged that they can do great things for God. Dorothy was a single mother with no money whose legacy includes over 100 “soup kitchens” and other places of charity for the poor. She ministered to the lives of thousands of angels.

And if you have some time, read the books too!!

Following are some pictures of the real Dorothy along with some of her most famous quotes.

quote-the-gospel-takes-away-our-right-forever-to-discriminate-between-the-deserving-and-the-dorothy-day-44-23-97

dorothy-day-poverty

 

 

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Again, a conversation with the doctor. We always come back to the same point: “The church may not mix in politics,” he says. And I tell him that when you are a Christian and profess that God is almighty, there is not single area of life from which you can eliminate God.          (Diary of Diet Eman, December 11, 1939)

 

These brave words from Diet Eman were not just empty talk. Because of her efforts toEman rescue Jews during the time of the Nazi occupation in Holland, Diet would suffer hunger, loneliness, danger, and imprisonment in order to follow her faith. Like all of us there were times when Diet wondered if God had forgotten her, but her doubts were short lived. She always came back to the knowledge that nothing could harm her unless God allowed it. This assurance of God’s love and faithfulness carried her through the horrible events of of the Nazi occupation in Holland in World War II.

emanfamilyBorn in 1920, Diet grew up in the Dutch city of The Hague. She was the third child of four in a godly Christian family. When she was seventeen she met Hein Sietsma, her future fiancé. Diet was ambivalent about Hein at first but soon grew to love him.

In 1938 the Dutch were worried about war. They could see what power Hitler had. Hitler had taken Austria, Poland, and would later take France very quickly. Diet recorded her fear in her diary that war would come and everyone would be in great danger. She knew that Hein would have to fight. Diet often wrote prayers in her diary and concluded the October 31, 1939 entry with, “O Father, console them and please spare our country from that terrible disaster, not because we are any better but only out of grace. And if it has to be different, then teach me to pray: ‘Your will be done.” O please protect him whom my soul loves!”

The Dutch people’s worst fears were realized when on May 10, 1940 the Germans invaded Holland. Holland fell in only five days, capitulating on May 15. Queen Wilhemina and the government had escaped to England for safety taking the Dutch treasury with them. This was important because Hitler had planned on using the money to finance his war.

Diet and Hein had no way of knowing how long the war would last but decided to get busy diet-hein-1right away and help the resistance. After they witnessed the cruelty of the Nazi’s to the Jews they knew that they had to help Jews go into hiding. Everyone is familiar with the story of Corrie ten Boom (whom Diet would later meet) but the ten Booms were only one of hundreds of families who hid Jews. Many thousands of Jewish lives were saved by Christians who acted on their convictions of faith.

The resistance work was very intricate and dangerous. Diet and Hein helped to find housing for the Jews and then provide support for them with fake identification cards, and stolen ration cards. Many times while Diet was bicycling to the home of some farmers who were hiding Jews she had to go through check points. If the Germans had searched her and found the stolen cards, she would have been arrested on the spot. She and anyone who was implicated could have been shot.

Eventually both Hein and Diet were caught and imprisoned. Diet was sent to the prison at Scheveningen and then to Vught concentration camp. At the train station on the way to Vught Diet witnessed the reunion of Corrie and Betsy ten Boom. The sisters had a tearful reunion since they had been apart for months and their father had recently died at Scheveningen prison.

Diet was going by her third false name when she was caught and imprisoned. She prayed to God that she could keep her secret not only for herself but for all those who would be implicated if the Germans found out who she really was. She prayed to God to help her get released. The idea came to her to play dumb. Though she could speak German, she pretended to speak only Dutch and acted like a naïve fool whenever questioned. When her trial came up the ploy worked. Though one of the German judges was not satisfied with her story he could not disprove it. She was released August 19, 1944.

You might think that Diet would breathe a big sigh of relief and try to go back to a “normal” life. The Canadian troops were making their way through Holland freeing one town after another. Perhaps Diet could just relax now. But not Diet. She went right back to work in the resistance using one of her fake names – Willie.

The Germans were angry that the Dutch had resisted so long and blockaded any food from getting to the people. The German soldiers stole any remaining food from the farms and so began the Hunger Winter of 1944 -45. Still the brave Dutch resisted. And Diet continued to help the Jews until Dutch liberation on May 5, 1945.

Diet had tried to find out what happened to Hein. She received several letters from him, the last one dated December 10, 1944. Diet continued to try and write to him and finally one day she learned through a letter from Hein’s father that Hein had died at Dachau on January 20, 1945.

After liberation people who had come into contact with Hein or were with him in prison came forward to console Diet as they told of Hein’s great Christian character. Many were comforted by this man who maintained his faith until his death. Diet found some consolation for her grief when she heard these testimonies that her beloved Hein had been used of God even under persecution.

Diet took a job that involved travel. She wanted to get away from the evil of the war. She married and had two children. In 1969 Diet moved to Grand Rapids Michigan where she became an export manager for an export firm.

In 1978 on a news show, Diet was reunited with Corrie ten Boom. This is a very thrilling story. You can then follow a link with that story on YouTube and watch the video of “Diet’s Story of Faith and Courage”. I encourage you to watch and be blessed.

Diet retired in 1986 and did volunteer work as a translator for Christian Doctors in the Luke Society, the Red Cross, and the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee in Central and South America.

Diet was asked to put her story in a book. It was published in 1994 and is entitled “Thingsthings we couldn't say We Couldn’t Say” and you can easily get it on Amazon. During an interview about the book she was asked, “Would you like to skip that part of your life?” Diet responded that she would not. She could only think of all of the blessings that God had given her – new friends, strength to overcome threats, danger, and prison. She praised God for His protection of her parents who lived to die at the ripe old ages of 91 and 93.

In 1998 Diet received the Righteous Among the Nations medal form Israel’s Yad Vashem in recognition of her aid to Jewish people during the war.

Last year, on June 2, 2015 Diet “stole the show” when Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima went to Grand Rapids for a visit. The royal couple viewed a ballet based on Diet’s book, “Things We Couldn’t Say”, at Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. King Willem-Alexander said that Diet was one of their “national heroes with the highest decoration of anybody in the Dutch Resistance against the Nazis.”

I sent an inquiry to Calvin Seminary to Barbara Blackmore to find out if Diet was still alive. She forwarded my email to Dr. James Schaap. Dr. Schaap is the co-author of the book, “Things We Couldn’t Say”. What a privilege to hear back from him. Yes, Diet is still “alive and well, although painfully hard of hearing and certainly getting up there in age–94 or so, I think. It’s not easy to communicate anymore, except if you’re there with her in her apartment,” says Dr. Schaap. He also recommended The Reckoning, a documentary of Diet and other resistance workers’ lives.

Diet reminds us all that God loves us and is faithful and is in control of our lives. Diet remained totally dependent on Him through all of her life. She could say with David, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, Whom shall I fear? … For he will hide me in His shelter in the day of trouble” (Psalm 27:1, 5).

Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. (Psalm 103:2)

 

 

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Dorothy Day was born in Brooklyn Heights New York on November 8, 1897. Her father dorothy dayJohn Day was a sportswriter. Dorothy’s mother was a kind woman whose example of warm-hearted sharing with anyone in need would affect Dorothy for the rest of her life.

Dorothy’s family had moved to San Francisco in 1904 and were there when the great fire destroyed most of the city in 1906. Her mother joined her neighbors in gathering food and clothing for the displaced families who were sleeping in the park in Oakland. Within a few weeks the Day’s would move to Chicago because the newspaper office where John worked was burned down by the fire.

John Day could not find work and began to write a novel. Mrs. Day struggled to put meager food on the table. It was during this time that Dorothy met several kind Catholic women who reflected the love of Christ to her. She never forgot them.
 Eventually John Day was hired by a newspaper and the family moved to a nicer home on the north side of Chicago. Dorothy was an excellent student in her high school. She loved languages and studied Latin and Greek.

Dorothy’s older brother Donald took a job with a small paper. This paper sympathized with the rising labor movement. Through Donald’s influence Dorothy studied the works of Carl Sandburg, Upton Sinclair, and Jack London, writers who were calling attention to the injustices of the class system in the industrial world. At this time Eugene Debs became a hero in Dorothy’s eyes.

Though her parents did not claim to be religious – Dorothy’s father even claimed to be an atheist – Dorothy loved to read the Bible. She was confused about God in her early years but gradually came to see how Christ manifested love to people, especially the marginalized. She saw that Christ had rejected the “things of this world” but she did not believe that God meant for people to live in abject poverty either.
 Dorothy recalled how her mother and the people in Oakland responded to the poor in the aftermath of the San Francisco fire. She dreamed of the day when all people, not just the social workers and missionaries, would be open-handed and generous to the poor.

The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?*

Dorothy’s father lost his job again. She did not know if she could afford to go to college but because of her excellence in Latin and Greek she won a scholarship to the University of Illinois. She began to attend in 1914. She enjoyed her independence very much but never forgot the poor and downtrodden.
 After two years Dorothy’s father got a job in New York City. Dorothy decided to leave school and go to New York to be close to her family.

Dorothy looked for a job at a newspaper and finally found one in 1916.
 She worked for several socialist newspapers and also took part in the anti-war activities of many of her friends opposing the military draft. People in our day have come to accept US involvement in war but in 1917 many Americans wanted to let Europe solve its own problems. Dorothy may have been accused of being anti-patriotic when Wilson made laws against speaking out against his policy of war. Later during the Vietnam war many would agree with Dorothy’s belief that America should not interfere in wars. In spite of the changing attitudes of Americans about fighting in wars, Dorothy would remain a pacifist.

It should come as no surprise then that Dorothy would take part in the women’s suffrage movement. On one occasion after a protest Dorothy and other suffragettes were arrested and put in prison. They were treated abominably. It was hard for her to believe that human beings could treat fellow humans that way. “I had an ugly sense of the futility of human effort, man’s helpless misery, the triumph of might. Man’s dignity was but a word and a lie. Evil triumphed,” she later wrote. Dorothy struggled with her faith in the face of such injustice.

In the next few years Dorothy experienced love, marriage, and the birth of a child. With her common law husband, Forster Batterham she had a daughter, Tamar in 1926. During this time Dorothy was renewing her growth in her Catholic faith and she wanted to be baptized and to get Tamar baptized. The whole discussion of religion bothered Forster and eventually he left his wife and daughter. He would only return at the very end of his life to visit Dorothy when he was dying of cancer. At that time they would make amends and renew friendship. Dorothy always remained devoted to Tamar for the rest of her life, always finding time to be with Tamar and her children even during Dorothy’s busiest years.

The 1930’s was the time of the Great Depression. Dorothy began to seek ways to live out her Catholic faith in service to the poor. In 1932 her prayer was answered when Peter Maurin knocked on her door. He was a French immigrant who had a vision for a society that really lived out Christian virtues.

dorothy day live drastically

Together Peter Maurin and Dorothy founded a newspaper called the Catholic Worker. The goal was to start houses for the poor and farming communes. Over the next few years the idea would blossom until it was replicated worldwide.

Dorothy was asked to speak many times. She was really shy but she knew that her talks were spreading the philosophy of the Catholic Worker. Dorothy longed to see a time when everyone would serve humanity through each one’s individual efforts. Putting aside her fear of speaking in front of crowds, Dorothy began to speak to school groups, women’s clubs, conventions, and other social workers. Dorothy bravely explained the concept of service to those in need as real Christianity.

 I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.

Dorothy practiced what she preached. Choosing voluntary poverty, she lived in a small upstairs room in one of the houses of hospitality. Lest one think that she thought of herself as a martyr she maintained that she was privileged. All she needed was a bed and bath and two large shelves full of books. After all, if you’re so busy serving others what else do you need in life? Dorothy was happy.

During World War II Dorothy worked extra hard in the hospitality houses due to the shortage of men. Her pacifist stance was unpopular but in years to come many would see that it was consistent for this woman who wanted all people to love one another.

Dorothy welcomed the strides that the African-Americans made during the 1950’s. On one occasion Dorothy visited an integrated commune. There were strict segregation laws in Georgia and the people in the commune received many threats. Dorothy was warned that there could be violence. One night, fifty-nine year-old Dorothy was on watch duty when suddenly she heard screeching tires. Soon a shower of bullets was rained down on the car in which she was sitting. Dorothy had been criticized for her beliefs, and spent time in prison; now she nearly lost her life in the cause of justice.

In the 1960’s Dorothy would go to the Vatican in Rome to urge the Church to make a strong anti-war statement. Dorothy was thrilled when many protested the Vietnam war.
While in Rome she joined a ten-day fast to bring the attention of the public to the starving millions of the world.

dorothy day poverty

In the 1970’s Dorothy marched with Cesar Chavez to protest the mistreatment of farm workers. One thousand protesters were arrested, Dorothy among them. By this time Dorothy was in her seventies and beginning to look a little frail. However, she took her two week incarceration stoically, remarking, “If it weren’t a prison it would be a nice place to rest.”

Dorothy was beginning to tire. She turned down speaking engagements but continued to write for the Catholic Worker and to visit with family and friends.
Dorothy was distressed about the changes in the world in the 70’s. Even the Catholic Church seemed to be changing. But she found consolation in her Bible. As she had done since the earliest days of her conversion she read from the Psalms every morning. Reading her Bible, Dorothy was comforted in her belief that Jesus Christ is our example of love and living.

My strength returns to me with my cup of coffee and the reading of the psalms.

In her old age Dorothy received many honorary degrees and awards. During her life she had written many books including; “From Union Square to Rome”, “House of Hospitality”, “Loaves and Fishes”, “The Long Loneliness”, and “On Pilgrimage”.

In 1979 the hospitality house where Dorothy was living was sold and she moved back to New York City into a hospitality house called Maryhouse. In her quarters in this house Dorothy passed her time reading, writing, and receiving visitors. On November 29, 1980 Dorothy died peacefully in her room. Her beloved daughter Tamar was with her during her final hours. Her final resting place is the Cemetery of the Resurrection on Staten Island.

*Throughout this essay I sprinkled appropriate quotes from Dorothy’s writings.

 

 

 

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