A number of years ago, I was stunned to discover that the compulsory history books and classes in my public school system ignored or wrongly attributed to men the significant accomplishments of women. Apparently a number of others noted this discrepancy too. Celebrated in March each year, Women’s History Month was organized over 30 years ago to highlight the contributions of women in history and today.
In view of this year’s theme, Women Inspiring Innovation, I’ve selected three who were 19th century contemporaries of deep faith whose lives are still having an impact today. All traced the beginnings of their work to first finding an abiding faith in a God that is all good. This fueled a personal conviction of spiritual self-worth. It lead them to effective, ground breaking innovation in a broad spectrum of areas including liberty and health as well as the disciplines of nursing and journalism.
Harriet Tubman, though born into slavery, became a key operative in what is known as the Underground Railroad. Christianity Today records that Harriet attributed her record of success in leading over 300 fellow slaves to freedom to the fact that, “she would listen carefully to the voice of God as she led slaves north, and she would only go where she felt God was leading her.”
The National Women’s History Museum writes that Tubman also became a respected guerrilla operative for the Union Army, waging unconventional warfare against a variety of targets behind enemy lines. In addition to her role as a scout and spy, Tubman was respected as an able and caring nurse. At a time when more men were dying from infection and disease than from actual combat, Tubman’s healing methods were welcomed in military camps and hospitals by both black and white Union soldiers.
Florence Nightingale left her privileged British upbringing to become a reformer in the field of public health and a founder of modern nursing. Like Tubman, she became noted through out her life for an innovative approach that led to success in the challenges she faced. In her groundbreaking book, Notes on Nursing(1860) she observed, “Healing, like all physical phenomena, is a lawful process. It is regulated by nature, that is the expression or manifestation of God. Through careful observation, nursing must discover the laws of healing, such as the need for proper nourishment, ventilation, cleanliness, and quiet, and thus be able to cooperate consciously in the restorative process.”
Mary Baker Eddy held her Bible close throughout difficulties that included the death of her first husband, chronic illness that caused the loss of custody of her only child, abandonment by her second husband, and destitution. Recovery from a fall her doctor deemed fatal occurred after reading one of Jesus’ healings. It became what she described as, “the falling apple that led me to discover how to be well myself, and how to make others so."
This discovery led her to put her ideas about the nature of God and how to be well in her major work Science & Health: With Key to The Scriptures (1875). She went on to charter the Church of Christ, Scientist, established “to commemorate the word and works of our Master, which should reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing.” Years later Eddy launched The Christian Science Monitor, a leading international newspaper, the recipient to date of seven Pulitzer Prizes.
Hail to Women’s History Month and to learning more of Women Inspiring Innovation!