The Role of Women in History

Preservers and Propagators of Liberty as Teachers of the Human Race

 

By Stephen McDowell

[This article is from, Stephen K. McDowell, Building Godly Nations, Charlottesville,
Vir.: Providence Foundation, 2004, pp. 147 ff. This book can be ordered from
www.providencefoundation.com]

“Dear God, guide me. Make my life count,” prayed Susanna
Wesley daily. Born the 25th of 25 children to a minister and his wife, she
loved God from her youth and had a burning desire to live her life for Him. As
a young woman she dreamed, “I hope the fire I start will not only burn all of
London but all of the United Kingdom as well. I hope it will burn all over the
world.”

Susanna was always looking for an opportunity to fulfill
that dream and was always asking God what He would have her do. How should she
start that fire? Should she become a missionary, a teacher? Or did God have
another plan for her? At a young age she married a minister and, like her mother,
began having children —19 in all. She devoted most of her time and effort to
being a good wife and mother.

Even in the midst of hardship after hardship, she continued
to pour herself into her children and inspire them for good. When her children
were around five or six-years-old she would set aside one whole day to teach
them how to read. She taught the alphabet phonetically and then had her
children read the Bible.

She never traveled throughout the world or directly started
a spiritual fire in London or elsewhere. But Susanna’s dream did become a
reality in her 13th and 17th born children, Charles and John Wesley, who spread
the Gospel throughout the world.

Susanna Wesley’s words, “Dear God, guide me. Make my life
count,” have echoed down through the centuries as women have tried to discern
God’s role for them in the advancement of liberty, nations, and His Kingdom.
Modern women can look to them as examples for applying Biblical principles to
their lives as they strive to leave their own mark on history.

 

Molding Young Minds

Women in early America saw their most crucial role in
society as forming the character of the next generation. They thought that men,
in general, could lead the nation, but that they were the ones who would train
the leaders. This was primarily carried out in the home.

John Adams wrote in a letter to his wife, Abigail, “I think
I have some times observed to you in conversation, that upon examining the
biography of illustrious men, you will generally find some female about them,
in the relation of mother, or wife, or sister, to whose instigation a great
part of their merit is to be ascribed.”1

In recent years, people have debated whether women can
compete with men in public life. Certainly they can, but never forget that no
one can compete with a mother in the home. As more mothers have joined the
workforce, through choice or necessity, the United States has experienced
greater problems because those who can best form the character of the next
generation are having less input into the lives of the next generation. Neither
the state, nor the school, nor even the church can effectively replace mom or
dad in the home.

Daniel Webster said it well in his Remarks to the Ladies of
Richmond, October 5, 1840:

[T]he mothers of a civilized nation . . . [work], not on
frail and perishable matter, but on the immortal mind, moulding and fashioning
beings who are to exist for ever. . . . They work, not upon the canvas that
shall perish, or the marble that shall crumble into dust, but upon mind, upon
spirit, which is to last for ever, and which is to bear, for good or evil,
throughout its duration, the impress of a mother’s . . . hand.2

God has ordained certain unique duties for men and women.
The primary role of women is as mothers, who are teachers that form and shape
the character of the next generation. While all women are not mothers or wives,
this is still the primary role of women in life, though they are certainly not
limited to only this role.

Mothers comfort and feed their children. They feed not only
the physical child, but also the spiritual, mental and emotional child. This
feeding nourishes and instructs, strengthens and invigorates, enlivens and
comforts. Mothers provide this comfort and nourishment to their children and to
society. Teaching naturally flows from this desire.

God describes Himself as a mother to Israel, “As one whom
his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in
Jerusalem” (Is. 66:13). Paul said that they had brought the Gospel to the
Thessalonians in a gentle manner, “as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her
own children” (1 Thess. 2:7). This heart for their spiritual children caused
Paul and those with him to gladly pour out their own lives for the Thessalonian
believers. This is the heart God gives mothers for their children. Without this
heart, nations are doomed.

There is a statue in Plymouth, Massachusetts, honoring the
Pilgrim mother. On the base of that statue these words are engraved, “They
brought up their families in sturdy virtue and a living faith in God without
which nations perish.” These qualities, imparted in the American home, are the
foundation of our existence as a free nation. As the role of mothers is
diminished in shaping the godly character of future generations, so will America
decline. Mothers who fulfill their primary role will impact society in many
ways.

Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams was one of the most inspirational and
influential women in history. She was the first woman to be both the wife and
mother of an American president, an honor she held solely until Barbara Bush,
the wife of former President George H. W. Bush, saw her son George W. Bush
sworn in as president.

It is said of Abigail that as a wife and inspiration to John
Adams she “strengthened his courage, fired his nobler feelings and nerved his
higher purposes. She was the source of his strength and the inspiration that
gave him the power to rise above his own weaknesses as often as he did.”

An excerpt of a letter to her husband on the day he became
president reveals much of her character:

You have this day to declare yourself head of a nation. “And
now, O Lord, my God, thou hast made thy servant ruler over the people. Give
unto him an understanding heart that he may know how to go out and come in
before this great people, and that he may discern between good and bad. For who
is able to judge this thy so great a people” were the words of a royal
sovereign; and not less applicable to him who is invested with the chief
magistracy of a nation, though he wear not a crown, nor the robes of royalty.

My thoughts and my meditations are with you, though personally absent; and my petitions to Heaven are that the things that make for peace may not be hidden from your eyes. My feelings are not those of pride or ostentation, upon the occasion. They are solemnized by a sense of the obligations, the important trusts, and numerous duties connected with it. That you may be enabled to discharge them with honor to yourself, with justice and impartiality to your country, and with satisfaction to this great people, shall be the daily prayer of your A.A.3

Abigail’s influence was not only instrumental to her
husband’s achievements, but also those of her son, John Quincy Adams. She was
responsible for his education — training that produced a great statesmen.

Abigail was John Quincy’s primary educator until age 10 or
11. As a 10-year-old, John Quincy knew French and Latin, read Rollins and
Smollet, and helped manage the farm with his mother while his father was away
serving the nation. At the same age he wrote to his father in a letter, “I
wish, sir, you would give me some instructions with regard to my time, and
advise me how to proportion my studies and my play, in writing, and I will keep
them by me and endeavor to follow them.”4

At age 11, John Quincy traveled with his father to France,
yet Abigail used her letters to continue the education she had so well begun at
their home in Braintree, Massachusetts. In June of 1778 she wrote:

You are in possession of a naturally good understanding, and
of spirits unbroken by adversity and untamed with care. Improve your
understanding by acquiring useful knowledge and virtue, such as will render you
an ornament to society, and honor to your country, and a blessing to your
parents. Great learning and superior abilities, should you ever possess them,
will be of little value and small estimation, unless virtue, honor, truth, and
integrity are added to them. Adhere to those religious sentiments and
principles which were early instilled into your mind, and remember, that you
are accountable to your Maker for all your words and actions.5

In the same letter she encouraged John Quincy to pay
attention to the development of his conduct by heeding the instruction of his
parents; “for, dear as you are to me, I would much rather you should have found
your grave in the ocean you have crossed . . . than see you an immoral,
profligate, or graceless child.”

When he was 14 he received a U.S. Congressional diplomatic
appointment as secretary to the ambassador of the court of Catherine the Great
in Russia. Besides serving as president, he also served 18 years in the U.S.
House of Representatives, was a U.S. Senator, was Secretary of State, and
served as Foreign ambassador to England, France, Holland, Prussia and Russia.
In addition to his scholarship and statesmanship, John Quincy had been trained
in godly character and thought. He had a providential view of history6,
as seen in his 1837 July 4th Oration7, where he spoke of America
being a link in the progress of the Gospel throughout history, and where he
recognized the founding of this nation upon Christian principles.

John Quincy once wrote of his mother:

My mother was an angel upon earth. She was a minister of
blessings to all human beings within her sphere of action. . . . She has been
to me more than a mother. She has been a spirit from above watching over me for good, and contributing by my mere consciousness of her existence to the comfort of my life. . . . There is not a virtue that can abide in the female heart but
it was the ornament of hers.8

Sarah Edwards

Jonathan Edwards was perhaps the greatest
theologian/philosopher in America’s history and was the leader in sparking the
first Great Awakening in the 1730s. Much of his success was due to his wife,
Sarah. She managed the household, was instrumental in raising their 11
children, and created an atmosphere of harmony, love and esteem in their home.
Visitors frequently stayed overnight in the Edwards’ home and were more often
affected by the character of the home than any words spoken by Jonathan in
conversation.

When George Whitefield visited them, he was deeply impressed
with the Edwards’ children, with Jonathan and especially with Sarah — her
ability to talk “feelingly and solidly of the things of God,” and her role of
helpmate to her husband. Her example motivated him to marry the next year.9

A writer, who knew and visited the Edwards, Samuel Hopkins,
wrote of Sarah’s training of her children:

She had an excellent way of governing her children. She knew
how to make them regard and obey her cheerfully, without loud, angry words,
much less heavy blows. . . . If any correction was necessary, she did not
administer it in a passion. . . . In her directions in matters of importance,
she would address herself to the reason of her children, that they might not
only know her will, but at the same time be convinced of the reasonableness of
it. . . . Her system of discipline was begun at a very early age and it was her
rule to resist the first as well as every subsequent exhibition of temper or
disobedience in the child . . . wisely reflecting that until a child will obey
his parents, he can never be brought to obey God.10

A study was done of 1,400 descendants of Jonathan and Sarah
Edwards. There were 13 college presidents, 65 professors, 100 lawyers, 30
judges, 66 physicians, and 80 holders of public office including three
senators, three governors, and a vice president of the United States. Sarah not
only affected the lives of many during the time she lived, but through her
descendants she has touched all of eternity.

Mercy Otis Warren

Many women carried their role as teachers beyond their
families, for example Mercy Otis Warren. Mercy wrote one of the first histories
of the American Revolution, History of the Rise, Progress and Termination of
the American Revolution, which was quite unusual for a woman at that time.

She wrote this work with a desire to be of use to the newly
formed American republic. She thought a principal responsibility of her
writings was, “to form the minds, to fix the principles[,] to correct the
errors, and to beckon by the soft allurements of love, as well as the stronger
voice of reason, the young members of society (peculiarly my charge), to tread
the path of true glory.”11 True history will inspire youth “to tread
the path of true glory.”

In her writings, Mercy not only saw an opportunity to
benefit her country, but to also fulfill her role as a mother—“to cultivate the
sentiments of public and private virtue in whatever falls from her pen.”12
She agreed with the common sentiment of her day that history should train
people, especially young people, in “public and private virtue.”13

Mama West

Benjamin West’s mother greatly influenced society through
inspiring her son, the father of American painting. Raised in a plain Quaker
home in Pennsylvania, Benjamin West (1738-1820) went on to become a very
successful painter known throughout America and Europe. While serving as the
president of the British Royal Academy, Benjamin gave much support to many of
America’s first artists. He attributed his success to his mother.

When Benjamin West was seven years old, he was left one
summer day with the charge of an infant niece. As it lay in the cradle and he
was engaged in fanning away the flies, the motion of the fan  pleased the child and caused it to smile.
Attracted by the charms thus created, young West felt his instinctive passion
aroused; and seeing paper, pen and some red and black ink on a table, he
eagerly seized them and made his first attempt at portrait painting. Just as he
had finished his maiden task his mother and sister entered. He tried to conceal
what he had done, but his confusion arrested his mother’s attention, and she
asked him what he had been doing. With reluctance and timidity, he handed her
the paper, begging at the same time, that she would not be offended.14

His reluctance likely came from the strict Quaker tenets
against graven images; and he wasn’t sure how his mom would respond. He had
never seen a painting or portrait before.

Examining the drawing for a short time, she turned to her
daughter and, with a smile, said, “I declare, he has made a likeness of Sally.”
She gave him a fond kiss, which so encouraged him that he promised her some
drawings of the flowers which she was then holding, if she wished to have them.

The next year a cousin sent him a box of colors and pencils,
with large quantities of canvas prepared for the easel, and half a dozen
engravings. Early in the morning after their reception, he took all his
materials into the garret, and for several days forget all about school. His
mother suspected that the box was the cause of his neglect of his books, and
going into the garret and finding him busy at a picture, she was about to
reprimand him; but her eye fell on some of his compositions, and her anger
cooled at once. She was so pleased with them that she loaded him with kisses
and promised to secure his father’s pardon for his neglect of school.

How much the world is indebted to Mrs. West for her early and
constant encouragement of the immortal artist. He often used to say, after his
reputation was established, “My mother’s kiss made me a painter.”15

Building Nations Through the Home

Besides the primary source of education, homes are also the
seed-beds of the Gospel, civil liberty, civility, health and welfare. They, not
the government, are to be the primary provider of health, education, and
welfare. Homes are the foundation of society. It is here that women have great
influence.

The Gospel is spread primarily through the homes of a
nation. After Lydia was converted by Paul (his first convert in Europe), she
introduced her household to God and then opened her home to Paul, and hence, to
the Gospel (Acts 16:14-15). Christianity first spread into Europe through her
home. Women, more than anyone, can make the atmosphere of their home conducive
to spreading the Gospel.

Civil liberty is also chiefly spread through homes.
Motherhood is critical for the development of the character and self-government
necessary to support a free nation. Mother, and educator of women in the 19th
century, Lydia Sigourney, said:

For the strength of a nation, especially of a republican
nation, is in the intelligent and well-ordered homes of the people. And in
proportion as the discipline of families is relaxed, will the happy
organization of communities be affected, and national character become vagrant,
turbulent, or ripe for revolution.16

Further, homes provide the foundation of happiness and
comfort in a society. It is in homes that morals and true knowledge are
imparted. It is there that spiritual and mental health is cultivated, which
provide the most important ingredient for physical health. Caring for the
elderly, the sick, the orphaned and the needy should also be in the home.
Daniel Webster wrote:

[H]appiness . . . depends on the right administration of
government, and a proper tone of public morals. That is a subject on which the
moral perceptions of woman are both quicker and juster than those of the other
sex. . . . It is by the promulgation of sound morals in the community, and more
especially by the training and instruction of the young, that woman performs
her part towards the preservation of a free government. It is generally
admitted that public liberty, and the perpetuity of a free constitution, rest
on the virtue and intelligence of the community which enjoys it. How is that
virtue to be inspired, and how is that intelligence to be communicated?. . . .
Mothers are, indeed, the affectionate and effective teachers of the human race.17

Dolley Madison

As the first lady, Dolley Madison was the facilitator of the
nation’s business. Because President Thomas Jefferson’s wife had died at a
young age and he never remarried, Dolley served as White House hostess during
his administration.

She continued this role when her husband, James, succeeded
Jefferson as president. For 16 years she set a home atmosphere for the White
House and the office of the presidency. She was the first to serve state
dinners at the White House, where much of the nation’s business was, and has
been, accomplished. And during the War of 1812 she risked great danger by
staying in the White House to save important paintings and documents when the
British troops were marching into Washington.

Narcissa Whitman

Narcissa and Marcus Whitman were among the first
missionaries and pioneers to the Oregon territory. Narcissa and another
missionary’s wife were the first two American women to travel over the Rockies.
The settlement of the northwest took place through the Whitman home. Narcissa
was known for her faith, courage and determination. In the end those she came
to serve took Narcissa’s life. Indians martyred her and her husband.

Harriet Beecher Stowe

When Harriet Beecher Stowe visited President Abraham Lincoln
in the White House he first greeted her with the words, “So this is the little
lady who made this big war.”18 He made this statement due to the
influence of her book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. A runaway best seller in the 1850s,
it sold more than 100,000 copies in six months and put her on the forefront of
America’s abolition movement. She was acclaimed by literary and political
leaders throughout the world, from Charles Dickens to Mark Twain to England’s
Queen Victoria.

Prior to writing the book, Harriet didn’t have much time to
do anything outside the home, “I am but a mere drudge with few ideas beyond
babies and house-keeping.” When her husband Calvin’s salary was cut in half at
the seminary where he worked, Harriet’s writing developed out of necessity.

Calvin had always encouraged her in her writing, believing
it was part of God’s fate for her. He told her to let her writing flow, for as
a result her husband and children would call her blessed, like the woman in
Proverbs 31 who uses her talents for good.

She began to write some articles and submit them to eastern
magazine publishers. Her success was immediate, though she continued to face
many personal challenges. With her rapidly growing family, eventually numbering
seven children, came an increase in physical sickness, plus all the pressures
she faced caused her to feel emotionally drained. After she heard that her brother
had been found shot to death outside his home, she broke down physically and
emotionally. During a time of recuperation, she began writing a series for a
magazine that became Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Concerning Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet said she did not write
it, “I was only the instrument. The Lord wrote the book.”19

Though this book led to international fame and visits with
many famous people, Harriet remained faithful to her duties as a wife and
mother. She also assumed leadership in the anti-slavery movement. With the help
of her husband and brother, she drew up an anti-slavery petition, got 3,000
ministers to sign it, and presented it to the U.S. Congress.

Harriet Beecher Stowe had as much to do with the freeing of
the slaves in America as anyone. And she brought about this great social change
while fulfilling her duties and responsibilities in the home.

 

 

Persevering Through Adversity

Many women have contributed to the advancement of God’s
purposes with great circumstances to overcome.

Pamela Cunningham

Pamela Cunningham had become an invalid when she fell from a
horse as a girl. When her mother visited Mount Vernon in 1853 and reported to
Pamela the state of disrepair to which first President George Washington’s home
had fallen (she had seen its stateliness as a child), Pamela began “to emerge
from her sheltered life and participate openly in public affairs.” She took it
upon herself to preserve the memory of “the Father of our Country.”

Elswyth Thane writes in Mount Vernon is Ours:

The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association is not sponsored by nor
beholden to the Federal Government or the State of Virginia. It stands alone,
its original charter having been granted in 1858, when ladies were not supposed
to be capable of conducting anything like public affairs, and it was the
creation of one resolute woman who at the age of 37 acquired what even her
friends at first considered an impracticable obsession. She had made up her
mind that the home, which George Washington loved, should not be allowed to
fall down in ruins from neglect. Not the uncooperative Washington family, the
skeptical Virginia Legislature, nor her own condition of chronic invalidism
could daunt her, nor swerve her from her apparently impossible purpose. As an
example of sheer grit and courage, laced with Southern charm, Ann Pamela
Cunningham remains unique.20

God’s providence was evident in all she did to accomplish
the task. She enlisted the assistance of Edward Everett (pastor, member of
congress, Governor of Massachusetts, senator, President of Harvard, minister to
Great Britain, and known for his oratory), raised the money, persuaded John
Augustine Washington to sell the land, and obtained the approval of the state
of Virginia. In her invalid condition all the travel and work nearly killed her,
but she persevered, and her vision was accomplished. The organization which she
started, The Mount Vernon Ladies Association, is the oldest non-government
sponsored organization for the preservation of an historic site.

Phillis Wheatley

Phillis Wheatley was the first significant black writer in
America, and her book of poems was probably the first book published by a black
American. Her accomplishments are even more admirable when considering her
circumstances in life.

Phillis came as a slave to America from Africa in 1761, at
about the age of eight. When she arrived she knew no English and was frail.
While she quickly learned English, and much more, she remained frail all her
life. John and Susanna Wheatley purchased Phillis and incorporated her into
their family life. Susanna and her daughter, Mary, tutored her in the Bible,
English, Latin, history, geography and Christian principles. Phillis learned
quickly and acquired a better education than most women in Boston had at the
time.

Phillis began writing poetry at age 12 and many of her poems
reflect her strong Christian faith. At the age of 18, Phillis joined the Old
South Congregational Church. She was not only glad to be a Christian but was
also proud to be an American. God was her first priority, followed by herself
and the Wheatley family.

Shortly after her first book of poems was published in 1773,
John Wheatley gave Phillis her freedom. In her short life she gained much
renown and met many famous people, including President George Washington, about
whom she had written a poem.

The following poem reveals Phillis Wheatley’s providential
view of life, recognizing God’s hand in her own circumstances and history.

On Being Brought From Africa to
America

‘TWAS mercy brought me from my Pagan land,

Taught my benighted soul to understand

That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:

Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.

Some view our sable race with scornful eye,

“Their colour is a diabolic die.”

Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain,

May be refin’d, and join the angelic train.21

 

A Lady of Philadelphia

The following is from The Women of the American Revolution
by Elizabeth F. Ellet:

A letter found among some papers belonging to a lady of
Philadelphia, addressed to a British officer in Boston, and written before the
Declaration of Independence, reads, in part,

“I will tell you what I have done. My only brother I have
sent to the camp with my prayers and blessings. I hope he will not disgrace me;
I am confident he will behave with honor, and emulate the great examples he has
before him; and had I twenty sons and brothers they should go. I have
retrenched every superfluous expense in my table and family; tea I have not
drunk since last Christmas, nor bought a new cap or gown since your defeat at
Lexington; and what I never did before, have learned to knit, and am now making
stockings of American wool for my servants; and this way do I throw in my mite
to the public good. I know this — that as free I can die but once; but as a
slave I shall not be worthy of life. I have the pleasure to assure you that
these are the sentiments of all my sister Americans. They have sacrificed
assemblies, parties of pleasure, tea drinking and finery, to that great spirit
of patriotism that actuates all degrees of people throughout this extensive
continent. If these are the sentiments of females, what must glow in the
breasts of our husbands, brothers, and sons! They are as with one heart
determined to die or be free. It is not a quibble in politics, a science which
few understand, that we are contending for; it is this plain truth, which the
most ignorant peasant knows, and is clear to the weakest capacity — that no man
has a right to take their money without their consent. You say you are no
politician. Oh, sir, it requires no Machiavelian head to discover this tyranny
and oppression. It is written with a sunbeam. Every one will see and know it,
because it will make every one feel; and we shall be unworthy of the blessings
of Heaven if we ever submit to it. . . . Heaven seems to smile on us; for in
the memory of man, never were known such quantities of flax, and sheep without
number. We are making powder fast, and do not want for ammunition.”22

A Good Lady and Her Two Sons

The following story is from Annals of the American
Revolution by Jedidiah Morse.

The female part of our citizens contributed their full
proportion in every period, towards the accomplishment of the revolution. They
wrought in their own way, and with great effect. An anecdote which we have just
seen in one of our newspapers, will explain what I mean.

A good lady — we knew her when she had grown old — in 1775,
lived on the sea-board, about a day’s march from Boston, where the British army
then was. By some unaccountable accident, a rumour was spread, in town and
country, in and about there, that the Regulars were on a full march for the
place, and would probably arrive in three hours at farthest. This was after the
battle of Lexington, and all, as might be well supposed, was in sad confusion —
some were boiling with rage and full of fight, some with fear and confusion,
some hiding their treasures, and others flying for life. In this wild moment,
when most people, in some way or other, were frightened from their property,
our heroine, who had two sons, one about nineteen years of age, and the other
about sixteen, was seen by our informant, preparing them to discharge their
duty.

This lady had a vision for the cause of liberty and had
imparted this to her sons as well. Now, as the cause entered a phase where a
greater commitment was required, she was ready to send them to the battle.

The eldest she was able to equip in fine style — she took her
husband’s fowling-piece, “made for duck or plover,” (the good man being absent
on a coasting voyage to Virginia) and with it the powder horn and shot bag; but
the lad thinking the duck and goose shot not quite the size to kill regulars,
his mother took a chisel, cut up her pewter spoons, and hammered them into
slugs, and put them into his bag, and he set off in great earnest, but thought
he would call one moment and see the parson, who said well done, my brave boy —
God preserve you — and on he went in the way of his duty. The youngest was
importunate for his equipments, but his mother could find nothing to arm him
with but an old rusty sword; the boy seemed rather unwilling to risk himself
with this alone, but lingered in the street, in a state of hesitation, when his
mother thus upbraided him. “You John H*****, what will your father say if he
hears that a child of his is afraid to meet the British, go along; beg or
borrow a gun, or you will find one, child — some coward, I dare say, will be
running away, then take his gun and march forward, and if you come back and I
hear you have not behaved like a man, I shall carry the blush of shame on my
face to the grave.” She then shut the door, wiped the tear from her eye, and
waited the issue; the boy joined the march. Such a woman could not have cowards
for her sons.

Instances of refined and delicate pride and affection
occurred, at that period, every day, in different places, and in fact this
disposition and feeling was then so common, that it now operates as one great
cause of our not having more facts of this kind recorded. What few there are
remembered should not be lost. Nothing great or glorious was ever achieved
which woman did not act in, advise, or consent to.23

Making Your Life Count

“Dear God, guide me. Make my life count.” A love of God, an
understanding of His purpose, a love of learning, a heart to nourish and teach
and a burning desire to fulfill God’s plan — these are the characteristics you
should cultivate to make your life count.

We can see these qualities in Susannah Wesley, Sarah
Edwards, Abigail Adams and others. If God has put a desire in your heart, no
matter what the nature, don’t let it die out, but seek to fan the flames and be
responsible to fulfill your duties where God has you.

Katherine Lee Bates

Katherine Lee Bates was a woman who had a burning desire to
leave a permanent legacy. She wrote poems and stories from the time she was a
young girl. She stated, “If I could only write a poem people would remember
after I was dead, I would consider my life had been worth living. That’s my
dream, to write something worthwhile, something that will live after me.”

All through college and her rise as a teacher, then full
professor and head of the English Department of a college for women, her life’s
dream was always burning in her heart. It burned for over two decades. When she
was 34 years old Katherine Lee Bates did write those words that would live
after her. It was atop Pike’s Peak looking out over the mountains, fields, and
sky that she felt love for her country such as she had never had before and the
words came to her:

O beautiful for spacious skies

For amber waves of grain

For purple mountain majesties

Above the fruited plain!

America, America!

God shed His grace on thee,

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea.

 

To Godly women in America: the role you play in advancing
liberty, nations, and God’s  Kingdom may
be one of renown, as a Harriet Beecher Stowe, or it may be one of support, as a
Sarah Edwards, or it may be one where your children become great leaders, as
with Susanna Wesley or Abigail Adams, or it may be one where you fulfill God’s
plan by overcoming adversity, as Pamela Cunningham. It is most likely that history
will never take notice of the role you play, but the impact you have is
immeasurable, for you are the shapers of the generations to come, you are the
preservers of the happiness and freedom of our nation, you are the creators of
a new generation. Without you our nation will surely perish, but with you we
can have the greatest hopes for the future fortunes of our country and the
advancement of God’s truth and liberty throughout the nations.

Most of the problems society faces today have their solution
in the homes, for here is where a new generation is being formed. We need a
generation of great men and women and children who will not be the “creatures”
of our age, but the “creators” of it.

Women — as those that form the character of the next
generation, as transmitters and preservers of liberty, as teachers of the human
race, as co-managers of the homes, as providers of education, health, and
welfare — will play a central role in creating a new age, one where God is
glorified and His liberty extends to all.

 

End Notes

  1. The Christian History of the American Revolution,
    Consider and Ponder, Verna M. Hall, compiler, San Francisco: Foundation for
    American Christian Education, 1976, p. 74.
  2. Daniel Webster, “Remarks to the Ladies of Richmond,
    October 5, 1840,” The Works of Daniel Webster, Boston: Little, Brown, &
    Co., 1854, 2:107-108.
  3. Nobel Deeds of American Women, J. Clement, editor,
    Boston: Lee & Shepherd, 1851, pp. 48-49.
  4. Hall, p. 605.
  5. Hall, p. 607, quoting from Life, Administration and Times
    of John Quincy Adams by John Robert Irelan, 1887, pp. 20-22.
  6. Adams read through Rollins Ancient History when he was
    10. His mother began reading it to him a few years before. See Hall, p. 605 for
    Rollins view of history.
  7. John Quincy Adams, “An Oration Delivered before the
    Inhabitants of the Town of Newburyport
    at their Request on the Sixty-First Anniversary of the Declaration of
    Independence, July 4, 1837” (Newburyport: Charles Whipple, 1837).
  8. John T. Faris, Historic Shrines of America, New York:
    George H. Doran Co., 1918, p. 49.
  9. William J. Petersen, Martin Luther Had a Wife, Wheaton,
    Ill.:  House Publishers, p. 87.
  10. Ibid., p. 82-83.
  11. Mrs. Mercy Otis Warren, History of the Rise Progress and
    Termination of the American Revolution, Indianapolis: reprinted by Liberty
    Classics, 1988, p. xvii.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Ibid., p. xxi.
  14. Noble Deeds of American Women, pp. 202-203.
  15. Ibid.
  16. Lydia H. Sigourney, Letters to Young Ladies (1852), quoted
    in Christian History of the Constitution of the United States of America,
    compiled by Verna M. Hall, San Francisco: Foundation for American Christian
    Education, 1980, p. 410.
  17. “Remarks to the Ladies of Richmond, October 5, 1840,”
    The Works of Daniel Webster, 2:105-108.
  18. William J. Petersen, Harriet Beecher Stowe Had a
    Husband, Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 1983, p. 134.
  19. Ibid., p. 131.
  20. Elswyth Thane, Mount Vernon Is Ours, The Story of Its
    Preservation, New York: Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, 1966, p. 3.
  21. The Poems of Phillis Wheatley, Julian D. Mason, Jr.,
    editor, Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1989 , p. 53.
  22. The Women of the American Revolution, by Elizabeth F.
    Ellet, 1849, in Hall, Consider and Ponder, p. 74.
  23. Jedidiah Morse, Annals of the American Revolution, Port
    Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1968. Reprint of original, first published in
    1824, p. 233.