Posts Tagged ‘Temperance’

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love, kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8).

“…to stand by the great cause of poor, oppressed humanity. …This has been my ‘call’ from the beginning, by frances willardnature and by nurture; let me be true to its inspiring and cheery mandate even ‘unto this last.’” (From France Willard’s autobiography, “Glimpses of Fifty Years”, p. 694.)

“’Except the Lord build the city, they labor in vain that build,’ and she has always sought to commit her work and her ways to the keeping of the Divine Master in a simple child-like faith that He would lead her in the way she should go and would make all her paths straight before her” (“Introduction, pg. ix”)

Though her name has been forgotten today Frances Willard was the most famous woman in America, and was even well-known in Europe, during the late 19th century. Frances Willard died in New York in 1898, and her body was transported by rail to Chicago, pausing for services along the way like a presidential funeral train. In Chicago, 30,000 persons filed by her casket in one day. Ruth Bordin wrote, “The nation mourned her with a grief, admiration, and respect it would have bestowed on a great national hero or martyred president. No woman before or since was so clearly on the day of her death this country’s most honored woman.” Flags flew at half-mast in New York, Chicago, and Washington, D. C.

I recommend two books on the life of this fascinating woman:

1. Anna Gordon’s The Beautiful Life of Frances E. Willard. I am privileged to have an original 1898 Memorial edition (Women’s Temperance Publishing Association, Chicago, IL, 1898). There are still original books available as well as reprints in online bookstores.

  1. Frances Willard’s autobiography, Glimpses of Fifty Years: The Autobiography of an American Woman. Again, there are beautiful reprints available.

In a previous post, January 23, 2013, I listed the many accomplishments of Frances Willard including her temperance work, her aid to poor and destitute women, her aid to the refugees from the Armenian Christians who were being persecuted in Turkey, and the advances she made in education. In her day women struggled to get into college; women today can be grateful for equal opportunities in education thanks to women like Frances Willard.

In this post I would like to present just a sampling of the wisdom of this great woman.

To be busy doing something that is worthy to be done is the happiest thing in all this world for girl or boy, for old or young. (pg. 70)

Frances’s learned a valuable lesion from her blind friend. This young girl maintained a cheerful attitude because … “happiness is from within; that the real light shines in the heart, not in the eyes, and that everybody who will be glad may be” (pg. 91).

On Christian fellowship – I honestly believe that I regard all the churches, the branches rather of the one Church, with feelings of equal kindness and fellowship. … The churches are all fighting nobly and zealously to make the world better and happier. Oh, I earnestly pray that as I grow older, the kindly, all-loving, catholic spirit may more deeply ground itself in my heart! (Pg. 127)

friction:peaceAnd – How much of life’s present friction will be avoided when the average mind discovers that the central aim of any life is best conserved by choosing for one’s motto “In non-essentials, liberty”! (Pg. 201)


On perseverance – But I have come to believe that it is well for us, well for our characters, those beautiful fabrics we are weaving every day, to do those things that do not make us happy, but only make us strong. (Pg. 147)

As a young woman, Frances sought for satisfaction in life. She believed that the answer is in Christ.  Christ has in His nature the elements that will make all this true when we behold Him face to face. We do not know that we are seeking here when we strive so hard and fret so much. … we shall erelong awake to life and be restless and hungry and thirsty no more! (Pg. 184)

It broke Frances’s heart to leave behind her girls at Evanston College where she had labored for years, giving the best of her life. She was forced out by the new president who refused to examine his lax rules for the students as she advised. She could no longer stay there in good conscience lying to the parents that their daughters were not at risk spiritually. Though she was more “in the right” and agonized over the decision to leave her young women behind she received peace when she rested in God. She heard His voice saying, good to forgive, best to forget. (Pg. 239)

In the turning point in her life, when Frances stepped away from a secure job for an unknown future she turned to her Bible for comfort. This verse gave her assurance, Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. (Psalm 37:3) (Pg. 337)

More on forgiveness: Frances met Pandita Ramabai. (See my posts on this amazing woman from India, Dec. 22, 2011 and Sept. 6, 2012). Frances was very impressed with the gentleness of Ramabai. This seems to be her motto. “Has any wronged thee: Be bravely avenged; slight it, and the work’s begun; forgive it, and ‘tis finished.” (Pg. 558)

In her religious journey Frances sought to lead others to Christ. In her day Unitarianism was on the rise. She struggled with the idea of a Trinity as many do, but finally she decided to adjust myself to the idea of “Three in one” and “One in three.” … I translate the concept of God into the nomenclature and personality of the New Testament. What Paul says of Christ, is what I say; the love John felt, it is my dearest with to cherish. (Pg. 624)

On Companionship – “Tell me with whom thou goest and I’ll tell thee what thou doest.” No precept was ever more frequently repeated and enforced by my parents than this. (Pg. 637)

On knowing ourselves – I wonder if we really know ourselves in respect of discount as well as we do in respect of advantage? It seems equally important that we should, else our undertakings will be out of all proportion to our powers, and failure a foregone conclusion. I have always believed that in a nobler state of society we should help each other by frank and kindly criticism, couple with equally frank praise, and have held, in the face of steady contradiction from my friends, that Christian people ought thus to help each other here and now. (Pg. 646)

Finally, I cannot help but include this piece of “prophecy”. Frances lamented the fact that the newly invented “phonograph” would ruin the beauty and intimacy of good conversation.

To my thought, conversation is the filling and soul of social life, the culmination of the spirit’s possible power, the giving of a life-time in an hour, though its form and method certainly have changed in this electric age when the phonograph has come into being. I half suspect that there will be a strike in the physical manufactory one of these day; the muscles of the face will refuse to do their duty, the tongue will make believe paralytic, and the lips will join the rebellion. (Pg. 686)

Frances said this before radio or television or computers or I-phones or texting or tweeting!! How far we have traveled! Do today’s teens even know how to have a conversation that is more than 10 seconds long?

I pray that at the end of my life I will enjoy the old hymn so much loved by Frances Willard and be able to sing its words truly:

May the Lord He will be glad of me,
May the Lord He will be glad of me,
May the Lord He will be glad of me,
        In the heaven He’ll rejoice









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ant. brown quote 1

If any college dared to refuse a female student her hard earned degree today just because of her gender, that school would be in big trouble. Not only could there be a lawsuit pending, but society would be outraged. We cannot imagine a woman not getting a degree or a good job or a position in an organization just because she is a woman. As women today we take it for granted that we should be treated with respect. We expect to be paid fairly and given our due for our hard work.

This has not always been the case. In the mid-nineteenth century women were seldom allowed to attend college and less seldom given the degrees that they earned. Society was wary of giving women the idea that they could do anything outside of the home. While we agree that marriage and family are high callings and women should be careful to honor their husbands and be good mothers, society should not limit them from where God has called them.

a b blackwellToday, the reason women can go to school, even seminary, and get their diplomas and then get good jobs is thanks to women like Antoinette Louisa Brown Blackwell.

I greatly admire Antoinette Blackwell who often stood alone to be faithful to her own convictions. At the same time Antoinette was willing to be a peacemaker in order to advance the cause of justice. Antoinette always sought to do what was right.

Antoinette came from a Christian home and longed for the church to get serious about the Christian duty to take care of the downtrodden and abused. She united her faith to her actions.

This week we will recap the main events of Antoinette’s life and next week we will examine her thinking. Antoinette was a brilliant woman – compassionate and intelligent, able to submit to authority yet also a leading orator in her day, a theologian, a scientist, a wife, a mother, and a philosopher.

Antoinette Louisa was born to Joseph and Abigail Morse Brown on May 20, 1925 in Henrietta, New York. Demonstrating her intelligence at an early age she started school at the age of 3. Before she reached her ninth birthday she was admitted to the Congregational church as a member. This was unusual in her day, but the elders of her church were convinced of her learning and her piety.

Antoinette’s entire family was drawn to the reform movements in the 1800’s – anti-slavery, temperance, and moral reform. Joseph and Abigail encouraged all of their children, sons and daughters, to get an education. Antoinette went to local schools and eventually became a teacher in 1841.

In 1846 Antoinette began to attend Oberlin College. Oberlin was known as a college that believed that women and blacks (the term “African American” did not come until many years later) should receive an education. There were two groups of abolitionists in her day. Antoinette and her family believed that abolition should come as a result of political action; she was a “voting abolitionist”. The more radical abolitionists advocated extreme measures to free the slaves. The Brown family was hopeful that legislation would end the cruel system in a peaceful way.

While at Oberlin Antoinette made a life-long friend, and future sister-in-law, of Lucy Stone. They were good friends even though Lucy did not approve of Antoinette’s orthodox religious views or her view on political abolition. Both women however were interested in advancing the cause of justice for women.

Antoinette received a literary degree in 1847. That was what was available to women at that time. She was determined to remain at Oberlin for three more years in order to study theology and train for the ministry. When she had completed the course work for the degree the faculty refused to grant it to her. While the male students were invited to the commencement exercises, Antoinette’s name did not even appear in the official listings of the theological class of 1850. It was not until 1908 that Antoinette Brown’s work was fully recognized when Oberlin granted her a D.D.

While at school Antoinette accepted speaking engagements in Ohio and New York. She spoke on slavery and women’s rights.

After completing her work at Oberlin, Antoinette left for New York and began to do charitable work in the slums. She lectured to earn money to help in the cause for the poor.

Antoinette traveled to Massachusetts to attend the first National Woman’s Rights Convention. After this she began to lecture more frequently in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New England on slavery, temperance, and woman’s rights. She sometimes preached on Sundays when invited into local churches.

In the fall of 1852, Antoinette fulfilled a dream since childhood by becoming the minister at a Congregational church in South Butler, New York. On September 15, 1853, Antoinette was ordained as a minister, becoming the first woman to be officially ordained in a Protestant church in the United States.

This ministerial position only lasted until July 1854 when Antoinette resigned. She had found that being in charge of a church was not really her calling. There were stresses and strains with her congregants. She was also feeling the tug to get back into more work to raise the status of women.

Antoinette left for New York and worked with Abby Hopper Gibbons for women criminals and prisoners. In 1855 Antoinette’s lifelong friend, Lucy Stone, married Henry Blackwell. The Blackwell family members were all involved in various reform movements. Henry’s brother Samuel became interested in Antoinette. He knew that she shared the same feelings of concern about justice as he did. He proposed almost as soon as he met Antoinette. Antoinette had to think about it a while, but finally they were married in 1856.

Over the next few years the Blackwell’s had seven children. Five girls survived until adulthood. The Blackwell’s moved to New Jersey to raise their family.

Antoinette put aside her lectures to be with her husband and children. She was a happy wife and mother. Antoinette turned to writing because she could do this while tending her children. When the girls were old enough, she took a few speaking engagements. Sam proved to be a man ahead of his time. While Antoinette was busy writing or speaking he looked after the children.

In 1869 Antoinette published her first book, Studies in General Science. In this book she reveals what a fine mind she had. She was optimistic as people in the mid-nineteenth century were, seeing a time when people would ultimately cooperate and get along with each other. Five or six more works followed including a book of poems and a novel.

In 1878 Antoinette joined the Unitarian church. They recognized her as a minister and she began to work with the Unitarians for the rest of her life.

Antoinette outlived most of her fellow reform workers. She alone experienced the ABBlackwell3-235x300passage of the nineteenth amendment and tasted the sweet victory of enfranchisement in 1920 when she cast her vote for Warren G. Harding for president.

Antoinette died in Elizabeth, New Jersey on November 5, 1921. This brave woman had been a leader in many reform movements. Antoinette knew how to put her principles into action her whole life, integrating her orthodox theology with her concern for justice for women, blacks, and the poor. We can learn much from her life.









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