At the May service of The Goddess House, not only were the grandmothers of our blood line honoured, but also women we found inspirational as well as some of the many brave women throughout time who put their lives on the line for women's rights and a better quality of life. One of these woman was 18th century British writer and philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797).
Best known for "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" (published in 1792), Wollstonecraft argued that women are not naturally inferior to men, but appear to be only because they lack education. She suggested that both men and women should be treated as rational beings and imagines a social order founded on reason.
Wollstonecraft was quoted as saying "I do not wish women to have power over men, but over themselves." Very wise words indeed,
Another amazing woman was Sojourner Truth (1797-1883), the self-given name (from 1843 onwards) of Isabella Baumfree, an African-American abolitionist and women's rights activist. Born into slavery, Truth escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826.
After going to court to recover her son, she became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man. Her best-known extemporaneous speech on racial inequalities, "Ain't I a Woman?", was delivered in 1851 at the Ohio Women's Rights Convention. The speech follows:
"Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?
Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?
Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say."
Source: Women in History
Closer to home was South Australian Suffragette, Mary Lee (1821-1909). Born in Ireland, Lee migrated to Australia in 1879 and in 1883 became active in the ladies' committee of the Social Purity Society which advocated changes to the law relating to the social and legal status of young women, as well as the end to child labour in order to protect girls from abuse and preventing them from becoming prostitutes or child brides.
The group's success was a passage in the 1885 Criminal Law Consolidation Amendment Act that raised the age of consent from 13 to 16.
More information about Mary Lee can be found - South Australian History
The Goddess House would like to thank Tara-Jade for bringing these women, amongst others, to our honouring service, and reminding us of the important role they played in order for women to have what are considered these days as basic rights.