“Materialistic education,” warned a writer for the Watchman-Examiner in 1921, has been the cause of a “moral letdown in the habits of women,” including “immodest dress, improper dancing, frequenting immoral plays, and indulging in smoking, gambling, swearing, and joy-riding.” The same fear was mirrored in a 1928 issue of the Bible Champion. It predicted that because of evolution “we are at the present time on the verge of a moral breakdown among women.”…the widespread appeal of the antievolutionary movement rested, to a significant degree, on its defense of Victorian gender roles and domestic conventions because gender issues were such a central part of popular antievolution rhetoric.
DeBerg, p. 138-9
The evolutionary theory seems more a post-hoc explanation to justify irresponsible male behavior and a dual sexual standard (Bergman, 1996) .
Some creationists have pointed to evolution as responsible for women’s straying from the societal roles that God intended for them. What was the proper role of women in society?
The role of women in society is a complex issue and all societies have struggled with this issue. As far as I know, there is no society in which gender roles were so ideal that it is considered as the example that all other societies should follow. One could argue that one does an injustice to an ancient culture when you judge them by modern standards. I agree. If, however, science teachers are expected to treat the Bible as a book in which the Creator of the Universe disclosed infallible details concerning the natural world, questions concerning gender can appropriately referred to the Bible. How were women treated in the Bible? Were they equal to men?
In the following Biblical passages, I have used the Vulgate (in blue) and King James Version (in yellow) since these were in use for centuries (in contrast to most modern translations) and this chapter addresses the treatment of women in the historical past.
In the Bible there are laws which single out women only (for example, for suspicion of adultery).
12 Speak to the children of
13 Shall have slept with another man, and her husband cannot discover it, but the adultery is secret, and cannot be proved by witnesses, because she was not found in the adultery:
14 If the spirit of jealousy stir up the husband against his wife, who either is defiled, or is charged with false suspicion,
15 He shall bring her to the priest, and shall offer an oblation for her, the tenth part of a measure of barley meal: he shall not pour oil thereon, nor put frank- incense upon it: because it is a sacrifice of jealousy, and an oblation searching out adultery.
16 The priest therefore shall offer it, and set it before the Lord.
17 And he shall take holy water in an earthen vessel, and he shall cast a little earth of the pavement of the tabernacle into it.
18 And when the woman shall stand before the Lord, he shall uncover her head, and shall, put on her hands the sacrifice of remembrance, and the oblation of jealousy: and he himself shall hold the most bitter waters, whereon he hath heaped curses with execration.
19 And he shall adjure her, and shall say: If another man hath not slept with thee, and if thou be not defiled by forsaking thy husband's bed, these most bitter waters, on which I have heaped curses, shall not hurt thee.
20 But if thou hast gone aside from thy husband, and art defiled, and hast lain with another man:
21 These curses shall light upon thee: The Lord make thee a curse, and an example for all among his people: may he make thy thigh to rot, and may thy belly swell and burst asunder.
22 Let the cursed waters enter into thy belly, and may thy womb swell and thy thigh rot. And the woman shall answer, Amen, amen.
12 Speak unto the children of
13 And a man lie with her carnally, and it be hid from the eyes of her husband, and be kept close, and she be defiled, and there be no witness against her, neither
she be taken with the manner;
14 And the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be defiled: or if the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his
wife, and she be not defiled:
15 Then shall the man bring his wife unto the priest, and he shall bring her offering for her, the tenth part of an ephah of barley meal; he shall pour no oil upon it, nor
put frankincense thereon; for it is an offering of jealousy, an offering of memorial, bringing iniquity to remembrance.
16 And the priest shall bring her near, and set her before the LORD:
17 And the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel; and of the dust that is in the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water:
18 And the priest shall set the woman before the LORD, and uncover the woman's head, and put the offering of memorial in her hands, which is the jealousy
offering: and the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that causeth the curse:
19 And the priest shall charge her by an oath, and say unto the woman, If no man have lain with thee, and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness with another
instead of thy husband, be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse:
20 But if thou hast gone aside to another instead of thy husband, and if thou be defiled, and some man have lain with thee beside thine husband:
21 Then the priest shall charge the woman with an oath of cursing, and the priest shall say unto the woman, The LORD make thee a curse and an oath among thy
people, when the LORD doth make thy thigh to rot, and thy belly to swell;
22 And this water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels, to make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot: And the woman shall say, Amen, amen.
Women who possess an inheritance should marry a man of her tribe; as a result her husband controls her inheritance.
8 And all women shall take husbands of the same tribe: that the inheritance may remain in the families,
And every daughter, that possesseth an
inheritance in any tribe of the children of
If a man rapes a woman, he must pay a fine and marry the woman.
28 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, who is not espoused, and taking her, lie with her, and the matter come to judgment :
29 He that lay with her shall give to the father of the maid fifty sides of silver, and shall have her to wife, because he hath humbled her: he may not put her away all the days of his life.
28 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;
29 Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her
away all his days.
If a woman helps her husband in a fight by grabbing his assailant’s genitals, her hand is to be cut off.
11 If two men have words together, and one begin to fight against the other, and the other's wife willing to deliver her husband out of the hand of the stronger, shall put forth her hand, and take him by the secrets,
12 Thou shalt cut off her hand, neither shalt thou be moved with any pity in her regard.
11 When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth
forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets:
12 Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her.
20 tells the tale of how men of the Tribe of Benjamin attack a man and rape
his concubine until she is dead. All the other tribes of
10 So they sent ten thousand of the most valiant men, and commanded them, saying: Go and put the inhabitants of Jabes Galaad to the sword, with their wives and their children.
11 And this is what you shall observe: Every male, and all women that have known men, you shall kill, but the virgins you shall save.
12 And there were found of Jabes Galaad four hundred
virgins, that had not known the bed of a man, and they brought them to the
13 And they sent messengers to the children of Benjamin, that were in the rock Remmon, and commanded them to receive them in peace.
14 And the children of Benjamin came at that time, and wives were given them of the daughters of Jabes Galaad: but they found no others, whom they might give in like manner.
15 And all
16 And the ancients said: What shall we do with the rest, that have not received wives? for all the women in Benjamin are dead.
17 And we must use all care, and
provide with great diligence, that one tribe be not destroyed out of
18 For as to our own daughters we cannot give them, being bound with an oath and a curse, whereby we said: Cursed be he that shall give Benjamin any of his daughters to wife.
19 So they took counsel, and said: Behold there is a yearly solemnity of the Lord in Silo, which is situate on the north of the city of Bethel, and on the east side of the way, that goeth from Bethel to Sichem, and on the south of the town of Lebona.
20 And they commanded the children of Benjamin, and said: Go, and lie hid in the vineyards,
21 And when you shall see the daughters of Silo come out, as the custom is, to dance, come ye on a sudden out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife among them, and go into the land of Benjamin.
22 And when their fathers and their brethren shall come, and shall begin to complain against you, and to chide, we will say to them: Have pity on them for they took them not away as by the right of war or conquest, but when they asked to have them, you gave them not, and the fault was committed on your part.
23 And the children of Benjamin did, as they had been commanded: and according to their number, they carried off for themselves every man his wife of them that were dancing: and they went into their possession and built up their cities, and dwelt in them.
10 And the congregation sent thither twelve thousand men of the valiantest, and commanded them, saying, Go and smite the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead with the
edge of the sword, with the women and the children.
11 And this is the thing that ye shall do, Ye shall utterly destroy every male, and every woman that hath lain by man.
12 And they found among the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead four hundred young virgins, that had known no man by lying with any male: and they brought them unto the
13 And the whole congregation sent some to speak to the children of Benjamin that were in the rock Rimmon, and to call peaceably unto them.
14 And Benjamin came again at that time; and they gave them wives which they had saved alive of the women of Jabeshgilead: and yet so they sufficed them not.
15 And the people repented them for Benjamin,
because that the LORD had made a breach in the tribes of
16 Then the elders of the congregation said, How shall we do for wives for them that remain, seeing the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?
17 And they said, There must be an inheritance
for them that be escaped of Benjamin, that a tribe be not destroyed out of
18 Howbeit we may not give them wives of our
daughters: for the children of
19 Then they said, Behold, there is a feast of
the LORD in
20 Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards;
21 And see, and, behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the
22 And it shall be, when their fathers or their brethren come unto us to complain, that we will say unto them, Be favourable unto them for our sakes: because we
reserved not to each man his wife in the war: for ye did not give unto them at this time, that ye should be guilty.
23 And the children of Benjamin did so, and took them wives, according to their number, of them that danced, whom they caught: and they went and returned unto
their inheritance, and repaired the cities, and dwelt in them.
God is present on
15 He said to them: Be ready against the third day, and come not near your wives.
16 And now the third day was come, and the morning appeared: and behold thunders began to be heard, and lightning to flash, and a very thick cloud to cover the mount, and the noise of the trumpet sounded exceeding loud, and the people that was in the camp, feared.
15 And he said unto the people, Be ready against the third day: come not at your wives.
16 And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet
exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.
In the Bible, women are unclean after childbirth. They are unclean for a longer period if they have a daughter rather than a son.
1 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
2 Speak to the children of
3 And on the eighth day the infant shall be circumcised:
4 But she shall remain three and thirty days in the blood of her purification. She shall touch no holy thing, neither shall she enter into the sanctuary, until the days of her purification be fulfilled.
5 But if she shall bear a maid child, she shall be unclean two weeks, according to the custom of her monthly courses, and she shall remain in the blood of her purification sixty-six days.
6 And when the days of her purification are expired, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring to the door of the tabernacle of the testimony, a lamb of a year old for a holocaust, and a young pigeon or a turtle for sin, and shall deliver them to the priest:
7 Who shall offer them before the Lord, and shall pray for her, and so she shall be cleansed from the issue of her blood. This is the law for her that beareth a man child or a maid child.
8 And if her hand find not sufficiency, and she is not able to offer a lamb, she shall take two turtles, or two young pigeons, one for a holocaust, and another for sin: and the priest shall pray for her, and so she shall be cleansed.
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Speak unto the children of
the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean.
3 And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.
4 And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her
purifying be fulfilled.
5 But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days.
6 And when the days of her purifying are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a
turtledove, for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest:
7 Who shall offer it before the LORD, and make an atonement for her; and she shall be cleansed from the issue of her blood. This is the law for her that hath born a
male or a female.
8 And if she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons; the one for the burnt offering, and the other for a sin offering: and the
priest shall make an atonement for her, and she shall be clean.
The issue of menstruation has confused cultures of the past. It is, after all, the only time when the loss of blood is not a sign of a biological problem. It is linked to reproduction, but not in ways obvious enough for many cultures to discern. It occurs at fairly regular intervals and may even have served as the most primitive form of calendar, informing ancient cultures of the passage of the seasons. For ancient Jews, menstruating women were considered unclean and men were prohibited from having sexual relations with women who are menstruating. (Note that this command lies in between the commands not to commit incest and not to commit adultery.) The same command is repeated in Leviticus 20.
18 Thou shalt not take thy wife's sister for a harlot, to rival her, neither shalt thou discover her nakedness, while she is yet living.
19 Thou shalt not approach to a woman having her flowers, neither shalt thou uncover her nakedness.
20 Thou shalt not lie with thy neighbour's wife, nor be defiled with mingling of seed.
18 Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time.
19 Also thou shalt not approach unto a woman to uncover her nakedness, as long as she is put apart for her uncleanness.
20 Moreover thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour's wife, to defile thyself with her.
18 If any man lie with a woman in her flowers, and uncover her nakedness, and she open the fountain of her blood, both shall be destroyed out of the midst of their people.
18 And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness, and shall uncover her nakedness; he hath discovered her fountain, and she hath uncovered the fountain of her blood: and both of them shall be cut off from among
The Bible treats infertility as a deliberate divine decision and often a reflection of woman’s worthiness.
1 And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die.
2 And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?
18 For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham's wife.
1 Samuel 1
5 But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the LORD had shut up her womb.
6 And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the LORD had shut up her womb.
7 And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, so she provoked her;
therefore she wept, and did not eat.
II Sam 6
21 And David said unto Michal,
It was before the LORD, which chose me before thy father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the
22 And I will yet be more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own sight: and of the maidservants which thou hast spoken of, of them shall I be had in honour.
23 Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death.
Many have interpreted the above passages literally to mean that divine punishment or the absence of divine favor was the cause of infertility in women.
The rabbis had a saying that God reserves to himself four keys, which he will entrust not even to the angels: the key of rain, the key of the grave, the key of fruitfulness, and the key of barrenness. It was the sign of one set of above angels when Christ was seen with the keys of Hell and Death, or when he delivered the keys of heaven to Peter—still thrust down the backs of protestant children to cure a nosebleed.
So too, although the power to procreate is naturally implanted in men, yet God would have it accounted to his special favor that he leaves some in barrenness, but graces others with offspring “for fruit of the womb is his gift” (Ps. 127: 3 p.).
Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion., p. 206
David exclaims that infants still nursing at their mothers’ breasts are eloquent enough to celebrate God’s glory, for immediately on coming forth from the womb, they find food prepared for them by his heavenly care. Indeed, this is in general true, provided what experience plainly demonstrates does not escape our eyes and senses, that some mothers have full and abundant breasts but others’ are almost dry, as God wills to feed one more liberally, but another more meagerly.
Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion., p. 200-1
1 Timothy 2
11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
1 Corinthians 14
34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.
mentioned in the previous chapter, these passages by
Man is the recognized guardian of things and the natural protector of life, liberty, and property. Women from their very nature are intended to be protected….Man to blaze the way and direct the sterner things of life, of a political and military nature, and woman to mould the social, moral, and educational conduct of the home, administer the agencies of mercy, such as the Red Cross, and remain “as the weaker vessel” unto the stronger as spoken of in the first Epistle General of Saint Paul (3-7).
In First Corinthians (11:1-10) the Great Apostle Paul says: “But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ: and the head of every woman is man…”
In his First Epistle to Timothy (-12), when speaking of the application of laws, he says: “let women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over man, but to be in silence…..”
Here is a direct admonition commanding women not to usurp authority over man in the application of laws.
And in his Epistle to the Ephesians (-4) tis said: “For the husband is the head of the wife…”
We search the Scripture for Divine guidance in all things. How strange it would be if its teachings did not apply to Woman Suffrage.
In the face of these divine teachings it is believed by many that equal suffrage for women is contrary to the natural order of things.
The Subjugation of Man through Woman Suffrage. , p. 8-9
MicFilm HQ 1121.H67 reel 952; University at
Some Extrabiblical writings do not depict women in a positive light.
"Woe to you who love intimacy with womankind and polluted intercourse with them! Woe to you in the grip of the powers of your body, for they will
afflict you! Woe to you in the grip of the forces of the evil demons! Woe to you who beguile your limbs with fire! Who is it that will rain a refreshing
dew on you to extinguish the mass of fire from you along with your burning? Who is it that will cause the sun to shine upon you to disperse the darkness
in you and hide the darkness and polluted water?
The Book of Thomas The Contender Writing To the Perfect
The Gnostic Library: The Nag Hammadi Library
Flee, therefore, fornication, my children, and command your wives and your daughters, that they adorn not their heads and faces to deceive the mind: because every woman who useth these wiles hath been reserved for eternal punishment. For thus they allured the Watchers who were before the flood; for as these continually beheld them, they lusted after them, and they conceived the act in their mind; for they changed themselves into the shape of men, and appeared to them when they were with their husbands. And the women lusting in their minds after their forms, gave birth to giants, for the Watchers appeared to them as reaching even unto heaven.
Testament of Reuben, Ch. 2: 17-19; from the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, from Press
Beware, therefore, of fornication; and if you wish to be pure in mind, guard your senses from every woman.
Testament of Reuben, Ch.2: 20; from the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, from Press
Judas said, "You have told us this out of the mind of truth. When we pray, how should we pray?" The Lord said, "Pray in the place where there is no woman." Matthew said, "'Pray in the place where there is no woman,' he tells us, meaning 'Destroy the works of womanhood,' not because there is any other manner of birth, but because they will cease giving birth." Mary said, "They will never be obliterated." The Lord said, "Who knows that they will not dissolve and ... [2 lines missing]?" Judas said to Matthew, "The works of womanhood will dissolve [...] the governors will [...]. Thus will we become prepared for them." The Lord said, "Right. For do they see you? Do they see those who receive you? Now behold! A true Word is coming forth from the Father to the abyss, in silence with a flash of lightning, giving birth. Do they see it or overpower it? But you are even more aware of the path, this one, before either angel or authority has [...] Rather, it belongs to the Father and the Son, because they are both a single [...]. And you will go via the path which you have known. Even if the governors become huge, they will not be able to reach it. But listen - I tell you that it is difficult even for me to reach it!"
Mary said to the Lord, "When the works [...] which dissolve a work."
The Lord said,
"Right. For you know [...] if I dissolve [...] will go to his place."
[The Dialogue] of the Savior
Wise men of old gave the soul a feminine name. Indeed she is female in her nature as well. She even has her womb. …As long as she was alone with the father, she was virgin and in form androgynous. But when she fell down into a body and came to this life, then she fell into the hands of many robbers. And the wanton creatures passed her from one to another and [...] her. Some made use of her by force, while others did so by seducing her with a gift. In short, they defiled her, and she [...] her virginity.
The Exegesis on the Soul
I am Christ, the Son of Man, the one from you who is among you. I am despised for your sake, in order that you yourselves may forget the difference. And do not become female, lest you give birth to evil and (its) brothers: jealousy and division, anger and wrath, fear and a divided heart, and empty, non-existent desire. But I am an ineffable mystery to you.
The Second Treatise of the Great Seth
The Gnostic Library: The Nag Hammadi Library
After he rose from
the dead, his twelve disciples and seven women continued to be his followers,
and went to
The Sophia (Wisdom) of Jesus Christ.
The Gnostic Library: The Nag Hammadi Library
For evil are women, my children; and since they have no power or strength over man, they use wiles by outward attractions, that they may draw him to themselves. And whom they cannot bewitch by outward attractions, him they overcome by craft. For moreover, concerning them, the angel of the Lord told me, and taught me, that women are overcome by the spirit of fornication more than men, and in their heart they plot against men; and by means of their adornment they deceive first their minds, and by the glance of the eye they instill their poison, and then through the acomplished act they take them captive. For a woman cannot force a man openly, but by a harlot’s bearing she beguiles him. Flee therefore, fornication, my children, and command your wives and your daughters, that they adorn not their heads and their faces to deceive the mind: because every woman who useth these wiles hat been reserved for eternal punishment. For thus they allured the Watchers who were before the flood; for as these continually beheld them, they lusted after them, and they conceived the act in their mind; for they changed themselves into the shape of men, and appeared to them when they were with their husbands. And the women lusting in their minds after their forms, gave birth to giants, for th eWatchers appeared to them as reaching even unto heaven.
Testament of Reuben (from the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, from Ruether, p. 93
A man may not lay
with a woman in the city of the
4Q270 Frag.. 9 Col. 2. 12
Early Jewish writers did not always depict women in a positive light. Philo argued that both men and women had separate spheres in which they were meant to operate.
For just as the man shows himself in activity and the woman in passivity, so the province of the mind is activity, and that of the perceptive sense passivity, as in woman.
--Philo, Allegorical Interpretation II, 38
Men could not contest with women, nor women with men, the functions which fitly belong to the other sex. If women should affect the practices of men, or men attempt those of women, they will in each case be held to belie their sex and win an ill name thereby. And some virtues and excellences nature has so discriminated, that not even long practice could make them common property. To sow and beget belongs to the man and is his peculiar excellence, and no woman could attain it. And welfare in child-bearing is a good thing belonging to women, but the nature of man admits not of it…The female offspring of the soul is vice and passion, that emasculating influence that affects us in each of our pursuits. The male offspring is health of soul and virtue by which we are stimulated and strengthened. Of these the men’s quarters must be dedicated wholly to God, the women’s quarters must be set to our own account, and therefore we have the command “all that openeth the womb, the males to the Lord”.
--Philo, The Sacrifices of Cain and Abel, 100-3
Philo felt that just men fathered sons while unjust men would father daughters.
…the spiritual offspring of the unjust is never in any case male: the offspring of men whose thoughts are unmanly, nerveless and emasculate they are by nature female. Such do not plant a tree of virtue whose fruit must needs be true born and excellent, only trees of vice and passions whose off-shoots are female. This is why we are told that these men begat daughters, while none of them is said to have begat a son. For since just Noah who follows the right, the perfect and truly masculine reason begets males, the injustice of the multitude appears as the parent of females only…
--Philo, On the Giants, 4-12
Quest from Genesis
20…But in a figurative sense, man is a symbol of mind, and his side is a single sense-faculty. And the sense-perception of a very changeable reason is symbolized by woman…Inasmuch as the moulding of the male is more perfect than, and double, that of the female, it requires only half the time, namely forty days; whereas the imperfect woman, who is, so to speak, a half-section of man [referring to Genesis in which woman was made from the rib of one side of man], requires twice as many days, namely eighty. So that there is a change in the doubling of the time of man’s nature (or natural growth), in accordance with the peculiarity of woman….
--Philo, Questions from Genesis, Book 1
Philo felt that women were not equal in honor to men and that the masculine soul was more noble than the female soul. He argued that Satan appeared first to Eve since women were more “accustomed to being deceived”
27. Why was not woman, like other animals and man, also formed from earth, instead of the side of man? First, because woman is not equal in honor with man. Second, because she is not equal in age, but younger. Wherefore those who take wives who have passed their prime are to be criticized for destroying the laws of nature. Third, he wishes that man should take care of woman as of a very necessary part of him; but woman, in return, should serve him as a whole….
--Philo, Questions from Genesis, Book 1
The soul has, as it were, a dwelling, partly men’s quarters, partly women’s quarters. Now for the men there is a place where properly dwell the masculine thoughts [these are] wise, sound, just, prudent, pious, filled with freedom and boldness, and kin to wisdom. And the women’s quarters are a place where women’s opinions go about and dwell being followers of the female sex. And the female sex is irrational and akin to bestial passions, fear, sorrow, pleasure, and desire from which ensue incurable weakness and indescribable diseases.
Philo, from Ruether, p. 126
33. Why does the serpent speak to the woman and not to the man? …And woman is more accustomed to being deceived than man. …Accordingly, since in old age the serpent casts off his skin from the top of his head to his tail, by casting it, he reproaches man, for he has exchanged death for immortality…
--Philo, Questions from Genesis, Book 1
Women were advised to cover themselves, avoid the use of makeup, and warned against talking back to their husbands.
52. If you walk in the way, cover your head with your robe, and with your
purity. This will save you from the staring of evil people. Do not put make up
on your face, because no part of you needs it. Let your face always look down,
and you are covered all around.
53. A free woman shall not let her hair down in the Church. She shall not
leave her Children with baby sitters, she shall not cease the service of her
household, and she shall not talk back to her husband.
Pages From Church History
Awlaad Al-Assal (1200 AD)
The Laws Concerning Laymen
Early Christian writers did not always depict women in a positive light. Kissing a woman was declared as a mortal sin.
7. Seventhly, that to kiss a woman is a mortal sin since nature does not incline one to it, but
the act of intercourse is not a sin, especially in time of temptation, since it is an inclination of nature.
Women were told to cover themselves by the early church fathers to prevent their beauty from being a distraction during church services.
For that style of dress is grave, and protects from being gazed at. And she will never fall, who puts before her eyes modesty and her shawl; nor will she invite another to fall into sin by uncovering her face. For this is the wish of the Word (I Cor. 11:5), since it is becoming for her to pray veiled (Paed. 3, 11)
Clement of Alexandra, from Ruether, p. 102
Many of the early Church leaders felt that women were “a necessary evil” , “the devil’s gateway”, worse than “the poisons of vipers”, “defective and misbegotten”,
Then, as to the manner in which the Early Fathers honored woman, one has but to reflect how gravely they discussed the question of her having a soul, and finally concluded that she died like a dog; or to recall St. Chrysostom’s description of her as “a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, a domestic peril, a deadly fascination, and a painted ill”…Then there is the declaration of St. Gregory the Great that “woman has the poison of the asp, and the malice of a dragon.”; of St. Jerome, whose eulogy of woman as “the gate of the devil, the road of iniquity, the dart of the scorpion…St. Bernard, also, apostrophized her as “the organ of the Devil,” whilst St. John Damascene contented himself with the comparatively mild description of “the daughter of falsehood, a sentinel of Hell, the enemy of Peace”….
Aldred, 1907, p. 23-4
“In pains and anxieties dost thou bear (children), woman; and toward thine husband (is) thy inclination, and he lords it over thee.” And do you not know that you are (each) an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil’s gateway; you are the unsealer of that (forbidden) tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert—that is, death—even the Son of God had to die.
Tertullian, from Ruether, p. 105
…that the iniquity of women surpasses all iniquities which are in the world, and that there is no wrath greater than the wrath of a woman, that the poisons of vipers and dragons are healthier and less harmful for men than familiarity with women…wanting to provide our descendants with things necessary for the well-being of their souls as well as their bodies, we shall receive under no condition any more sisters for the increase of our perdition, but rather we shall avoid accepting them as if poisonous beasts.
13th century quote from Ruether, p. 242-3
St. Thomas Aquinas; Summa Theologica, Book I
Q. 92, 1st Article
Reply Obj. 1: As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active power in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness according to the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from defect in the active power, or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence, such as that of a south wind, which is moist, as the Philosopher believes.
--St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica
Many blamed women for Eve’s temptation, the birth of Cain, and the outcomes of other biblical stories.
Let no one say that Eve conceived nothing in her womb at the devil’s word. The devil’s word was the seed for her so that afterward she should give birth as an outcast and bring forth in sorrow. In fact she gave birth to a devil who murdered his brother…
Tertullian from Ruether, p. 105
Satan’s cleverness is perceived also in this, that he attacks the weak part of the human nature, Even the woman, not Adam the man. Although both were created equally righteous, nevertheless Adam had some advantage over Eve. Just as in all the rest of nature the strength of the male surpasses that of the other sex, so also in the perfect nature the male somewhat excelled the female….Satan, therefore, directs his attack on Eve as the weaker part and puts her valor to the test, for he sees that she is so dependent on her husband that she thinks she cannot sin.
Martin Luther, Commentaries on Genesis, Vol. 1, p. 151
I am Eve, the wife of noble Adam; it was I who violated Jesus in the past; it was I who robbed my children of heaven; it is I by right who should have been crucified…It was I who plucked the apple; …there would be no hell, there would be no grief, there would be no terror but for me.
--medieval poet, from Lerner, p. 142
Men were told to hate and be ashamed of the conjugal and sexual aspects of their wives.
A good Christian is found in one and the same woman to love the creature of God whom he desires to be transformed and renewed, but to hate in her the corruptible and mortal conjugal connection, sexual intercourse and all that pertains to her as a wife.
Augustine, from Ruether, p. 161
In honor husband and wife are joined in public before the congregation; but when they are alone, they come together with a feeling of the utmost shame. I am not speaking now about the hideousness inherent in our flesh, namely, the bestial desire and lust.
Martin Luther, Commentaries on Genesis, Vol. 1, p. 118
Some stated that women were not made in the image of God.
A woman on the other hand should not have [jurisdictional] power…because she is not made in the image of God; rather man is the image and glory of God and woman ought to be subject to man and, as it were, like his servant, since man is the head of the woman and not the other way about.
I fail to see what use woman can be to man if one excludes the function of bearing children.
Eve gains her importance in this discussion of sexual reproduction because, as Augustine makes clear, she was created as an aid for begetting children. After all, Augustine argues, if God had intended to create as an aid either for work or companionship, clearly a man would have been preferable: “But if the woman was not made for the man as a helper in begetting children, for what purpose was she created as a helper? She was not to till the soil with him since there was not yet any such toil to make help necessary. If there were such a need, a male helper would have been preferable. The same thing could be said of the comfort of another’s presence if, perhaps, Adam wearied of solitude. How much more agreeable for companionship and conversation in a life shared together would be two male friends rather than a man and a woman.
--Robbins,1988, p. 153
It was argued that women were inferior to men and therefore prohibited from ruling over men.
But Moses wanted to point out in a special way that the other part of humanity, the woman, was created by a unique counsel of God in order to show that this sex, too, is suited for the kind of life which Adam was expecting and that this sex was to be useful for procreation. Hence it follows that if the woman had not been deceived by the serpent and had not sinned, she would have been the equal of Adam in all respects. For the punishment, that she is now subjected to the man, was imposed on her after sin and because of sin, just as the other hardships and dangers were: travail, pain, and countless other vexations. Therefore Eve was not like the woman of today; her state was far better and more excellent, and she was in no respect inferior to Adam, whether you count the qualities of the body or those of the mind.
Martin Luther, Commentaries on Genesis, Vol. 1, p. 115
The law of God ordains the woman to be in subjection and not to rule; which is clear from the writings of both the Old and the New Testament.
Knox, Vol. 3, p 222
The Small Catechism
You husbands, live considerately with your wives, bestowing honor on the woman as the weaker sex…
Martin Luther p. 494
True it is indeed, that Nature hath proposed to her self to bestow on man, besides the faculties convenient for his species, those also which are proper to his sex, to wit, the active virtue in order to generation and heat and drought to serve as instruments to that virtue, as she hath bestowed on the woman the passive power, and cold and moisture, to perform the function of the maternal cause. But all the inclinations consequent to those qualities, as confidence or fearfulness, liberality or avarice, etc. are onely dispositions framed in the soul, without her knowledge, and beside, or against her intention. …For a man who should not be courageous, or a woman who should not be timorous, would be guilty of the same imperfection as a lion that should not be fearful and a hare that should not be courageous.
de la Chambre , 1665, p. 14-5
Witch-hunters explained why the innate deficiencies in women predisposed them to witchcraft and surrender to Satan.
I said above that the sex is to be taken into consideration; for, other things being equal, greater faith is to be placed in the revelations of men. The feminine sex is more foolish, and more apt to mistake natural or demoniacal suggestions for ones of Divine origin. Women, too, are of a more humid and viscous nature, more easily influenced to perceive various phantoms, and slower and more loath to resist such impulses. Therefore women are quicker to imagine, but men are less obstinate in holding to their imaginings; and since women have less power of reasoning and less wisdom, it is easier for the devil to delude them with false and deceptive apparitions. Further, since women are lascivious, luxurious and avaricious in their manner of life….
Guazzo, Compendium Maleficarum p. 137
Human obscenity is a great delight to an evil spirit. All female workers of harmful magic are slaves to Venus and there is not a virgin among them, just as there are none among Calvinists and other haters of celibacy. Hence it appears that there is a close link between magic, heresy, and lust.
As is discussed elsewhere, Catholic and Protestant churches sanctioned men who would strip women and search for physical signs that they were witches.
In June 1591 at Iesi, a village a mile distant from Bridisi, the Judge ordered a gaoler to serach Mugeta, who was charged with witchcraft. The gaoler therefore stripped her to see if he could find any devil’s mark, and at last found on her left thigh a mark like a shell. Into this he thrust his weapon with all his force, but Mugeta uttered no cry, nor could he get one drop of blood from the wound; but when he lightly pricked the place next to the mark, she roared aloud in pain, and much blood flowed from it.
Guazzo, Compendium Maleficarum p. 57
Since women were viewed as a source of temptation at best and the root of all evil at worst, many who sought to lead a holy life were advised to avoid women.
Recognizing that the wickedness of women is greater than all the other wickednesses in the world, and that there is no anger like that of women, and that the poison of asps and dragons is more curable and less dangerous to men than the familiarity of women, [we] have unanimously decreed for the safety of our souls, no less than for that of our bodies and goods, that we will on no account receive any more sisters to the increase of our perdition, but will avoid them like poisonous animals.
Abbot Conrad of Marchtal, 12th century, from Noble, p. 136
…Chrysostom, another great
champion of the [monsastic] movement, “sternly
reminded the monks that Christ had armed them to be soldiers in a noble fight,
to cast down demons and wage spiritual warfare, not to devote their days
waiting on girls.”…Martin of
Noble, p. 54
According to Cassian, one Apa Paulus “had made such progress in purity of heart in the stillness of the desert that he would not suffer, I will not say a woman’s face, but even the clothes of that sex to appear in his sight.” In his Institutes Cassian himself warned future monks that “when the Devil, with subtle cunning, has insinuated into our hearts the memory of a woman, beginning with out mother, our sisters, or certain pious women, we should as quickly as possible expel these memories for fear that, if we linger on them too long, the tempter may seize the opportunity to lead us unwittingly to think about other women.”
Noble, p. 56
Theodore was not the only young clergyman of ascetic leanings to be driven into the desert through fear of his own susceptibility to women… “The disciple of Apa Sisoes said to him, “Father, you have grown old. Let us move a little closer to the settled land.” The Old Man said, “Where there is no woman, that is where we should go.” The disciple said to him, “What other place is there that has no woman, if not the desert.?” The Old Man said to him , “Take me to the desert.”
Brown, p. 242
…Augustine moved in a monochrome, all-male world. He imposed strict codes of sexual avoidance on himself and his own clergy. He would never visit a woman unchaperoned, and did not even allow his own female relatives to enter the bishop’s palace. He expelled a young clergyman who had been found speaking with a nun “at an inappropriate hour of the day.”
Brown, p. 396
Not only were men told to isolate themselves from women, women were advised to isolate themselves from the rest of the world.
Women should study for their own sake, or, in the best case, for the education of their children as long as they are very little. It is not proper for a woman to be in charge of schools, to socialize with strange men, to speak in public, or to teach at the risk of jeopardizing their own [virtue] and chastity. The honest woman stays at home, unknown to others. In public meetings she should keep her eyes down, be silent and modest, seen but not heard.
Vives, Renaissance, from Noble, p. 174
Nicholas of Lyra likewise noted with approval the custom practiced in royal households of keeping young women of the ruling family locked up and out of sight, so that sexual temptations would be minimized.
Brundage, p. 428
Female asceticism grew out of the Christian household. It was the individual householder who was thought to benefit most directly from the piety of his virgin daughter…Such virgins had no life outside their parent’s household. They were supposed to leave its inner rooms, if at all, only to participate in the ceremonials of the local church…In the words of an Egyptian writer, “In every house of Christians, it is needful that there be a virgin, for the salvation of the whole house is that one virgin. And when wrath cometh upon the whole city, it shall not come upon the house wherein a virgin is.”
Brown, p. 263-4
The argument for the separation of the genders has continued to modern times.
False also and harmful to Christian education is the so-called method of ‘co-education.’ …There is not in nature itself, which fashions the two quite different in organism, in temperament, in ability, anything to suggest that there can be or ought to be promiscuity, and much less equality, in the training of the two sexes.
Pope Pious XI, 1929, from Noble, p. 275-6
Women who could read or who “thought alone” represented a greater potential danger.
And if radical religious women made their mark as preachers
and prophets, they also did so as martyrs, for, like their early Christian
counterparts, they often faced death for their beliefs. In
Noble, p. 191
Noble, p. 207
And one anonymous writer in
Lerner, p. 31
These women existed, women of extraordinary talent, of
genius, with the capacity and the will to excel, create and define. Isotta Nogarola, accused of incest with her brother to explain her
literary achievements; Sor Juana de la Cruz selling
her precious library at the Archbishop’s command to show her humility;..and that otherwise
unknown girl of sixteen, one Lucinda Foote, who was denied admission she sought
Lerner, p. 45
We have heard much of the emancipation of the female part of the race; it forebodes nothing but evil.
Arno Gaebelein from Bendroth, p. 68
Education for women was very much linked to religion. In general, the Protestant for Reformation sowed the seeds for educational opportunity for women. There were some exceptions, however.
The disbanding of monastic orders and their schools during the Reformation seriously affected the educational opportunities of Englishwomen. For nearly a century there was no tradition of learning for them, and upper-class girls were trained only sufficiently to compete in the marriage market—that is, to acquire “accomplishments” such as embroidery, music and singing. Jonathan Swift lamented that “not one gentleman’s daughter in a thousand can read or understand her own language or be the judge of the easiest books that are written in it….They are not so much as taught to spell in their childhood, nor can ever attain to it in their whole lives.”
Lerner, p. 33
Of course there were other factors in the denigration of women, such as an inaccurate evaluation of their “biology”. However, some of these ideas came from vitalists (discussed elsewhere) who, instead of trying to explain the body in terms of natural processes, referred to a supernatural “vital principle” which stemmed from their religious beliefs. While some argued that God had made women (and those of other races) inferior, or at least different, vitalists could argue that these differences resulted from differences in an individual’s vital principle, which stemmed from the divine.
In Enlightenment France the vitalist
Williams, p. 3-4
One of the most remarkable features of the history of Montpellier vitalism in the Enlightenment, then, is the fashion in which the creators of this medical discourse of “natural” limitations—those established by temperament, class, age, sex, region, and race…A crucial dimension of this story is…the peculiar “sensibility” of women, who…were volatile, imaginative, and similarly ill-constructed for the work of reason and science.
Williams, p. 8
The study of sensibility was as important in Roussel’s treatise as it was in other vitalist analyses: sensibility, he argued, “provides the basis” for all knowledge of the interrelations of the physical and the moral. Like children, women exhibited high sensibility; their “existence consists more in sensations than in ideas or in corporal movements.” Dominated by rapidly changing sensations, women were capricious and inconstant; they lacked interest in politics, ethics, or science; their lives were characterized by those “sweet and affectionate sentiments” so necessary to the happiness and well-being of society. Education and training could not alter the basic character of women…
Williams, p. 55
Some counted on the clergy to help them keep women in “their proper place.”
In 1620…King James called upon the clergy for aid in keeping
his female subjects in their proper place.
According to one contemporary account, “the bishop of
Noble, p. 223
In the 19th and 20th centuries, when women sought equality, many used theological arguments against them.
There is a full-fledged rebellion under way not only against the headship of man in government and church but in the home….The cultivation of the modern woman’s idea of “my individuality” is bound to be a destroyer of the home life.
1919 from DeBerg, p. 45
Fundamentalists touted motherhood as the “chief function of woman,” and the proper ambition for women is “not to be a great woman, but rather to be the mother of good men.”
DeBerg, p. 46
“I know there are those who will object…at the idea of a husband and father being a monarch in his family, whose word is law. But God has made him so...”  Against the New Woman of the 1880s, “who desires to be her husband’s equal…resents his natural place as the head of the family and affronts his innate mastery,” conservative religious leaders posited a “federal headship” of Adam over Eve because Adam (and all men) had the priority in creation, or because Adam had performed better in Eden than Eve.
DeBerg, p. 49
We are not surprised, therefore, to learn that if order and subordination are to be preserved in the government of God, she is to be officially in subjection.
1887-8 from DeBerg, p. 50
The Head of Christ is God. Man has a Head—Christ. Woman has a head—man. Wife has a head—husuband.
1910 from DeBerg, p. 50
…it is high time to…revolutionize or abolish college athletics for girls. That some of our women aspire to…mannishness is painfully evident, but we can hardly afford to facilitate this tragic transition…Evermore may we pray to be delivered from the masculine woman and the feminine man…
1910 from DeBerg, p. 55
The Christian Workers Magazine told its readers that when woman assumes: “the prerogative of power which belongs to the man and seeks to dominate the world or all of its activities, as she is doing today, she then possesses the spirit of the beast and is like an angel of light fallen from heaven.”
DeBerg, p. 58
We have been accustomed to view the woman’s rights movement as too insignificant and too absurd to deserve serious attention. But…this move is assuming proportions and manifesting a spirit some of our most thoughtful minds with no little alarm…For, in fact, the sun shines not more clearly in the heavens than this law does in the word of God…”The man,” says St. Paul, “is the head of the woman.”
--Southern Review, 1871, from Ezell, 1975, p. 230
Now let’s talk about what feminism is not. Feminism is not and never will be anything remotely connected with the World Church of the Creator…We believe that being a capable nurturing mother to White Children is the ultimate Holy “career” for any White woman to fulfill…
--church member, from Ferber, 2004, p. 103
Throughout most of history, women have not been given an equal voice in society. In the mid-1800s and early 1900s, many women began to demand this voice. When women were finally more free to have their opinions heard, it is no surprise that not all women shared the same feelings on religion, just as all men did not. Many of the women who were the pioneers of the movements to grant suffrage to women and to seek equal treatment under the law were quite critical of conservative biblical literalists.
The doctrine that woman must remain covered when in the
sacred church building shows itself in the
Gage, 1893, p. 28
At certain periods during the middle ages, conversation with
women was forbidden. During the Black
Death, the Flagellants, or Brotherhood of the Cross, were under such
interdict. In this last decade of the 19th century,
the Catholic Church still imposes
similar restrictions on certain religious houses. Early in 1892, the queen regent of
Gage, 1893, p. 29
When Innocent III completed the final destruction of sacerdotal marriage, it was not upon disobedient priests the most sever punishment fell, but innocent women and children. Effort was made to force wives to desert their husbands. Those who proved contumacious were denied Christian burial in an age when such denial was looked upon as equivalent to eternal damnation; property left such wives was confiscated to the church; they were forbidden the eucharist; churching after childbirth was denied them; they were termed harlots and their children bastards, while to their sons all office in the church was forbidden. If still contumacious they were handed over to the secular power for condign punishment, or sold as slaves for the benefit of the church…At numerous times in the history of the church women have been brought to despair by its teachings, and large numbers driven to suicide. A similar period was inaugurated by the confirmation of priestly celibacy. The wives of such men, suddenly rendered homeless and with their children classed among the vilest of earth, powerless and despairing, hundreds shortened their agonies by death at their own hands.
Gage, 1893, p. 36-7
It was not uncommon for women to be openly carried off by priests, their husbands and fathers threatened with vengeance in cases of their attempted recovery. During the height of the Inquisitorial power it was not rare for a family to be aroused in the night by an ominous knock and the cry “The Holy Fathers, open the door!”
To this dread mandate their could be but one reply, as both temporal and spiritual power lay in their hands. A husband, father, or son might thus be seized by veiled figures; or as frequently a loved wife or young daughter was dragged from her bed, her fate to remain a mystery. When young and beautiful these women were taken to replenish the Inquisitional harem; the “dry pan,” “boiling in oil,” and similar methods of torture, threatened, in order to produce compliance on the part of wretched victims. No Turkish seraglio with bow-string and sack ever exhibited as great an amount of diabolical wickedness as the prison-harems of the Inquisition.
Gage, 1893, p. 42
Among general canons we find that “No woman may approach the altar.” “A woman may not baptize without extreme necessity.”…”Woman may not receive the Eucharist in morbo suo menstruale.” At the Synod or Council of Elvira, 305 or 306, several restrictive canons were formulated against woman. Under canon 81, she was forbidden to writer in her own name to lay Christians, but only in the name of her husband. Women were not to receive letters of friendship from any one addressed only to themselves.
Gage, 1893, p. 50
During the earliest days of Christianity, women were baptized quite nude, in the presence of men, by men, their bodies being afterwards anointed with oil by the priest who had baptized them. One of the earliest schisms in the church arose from the protest of women against this indignity, their demand to be allowed to baptize those of their own sex, and the opposition of men to this demand…Nude baptism is still practiced when converts are received into the Greek church, no position or station in life excusing from it, Catharine, the first wife of Peter the Great being baptized in this primitive Christian manner. As late as the seventeenth century a work upon the “Seven Sacraments” set certain days in which female penitents were to appear entirely unclothed before the confessor in order that he might discipline them on account of their sins.
Gage, 1893, p. 93
Boston as “The Bloody Town” rivaled Salem in its persecution of women who dared express thought upon religion matters in contradiction to the Puritanic belief; women were whipped because of independent religions belief; New England showing itself as strenuous for “conformity” of religious opinion as Old England…
Gage, 1893, p. 124
Gage, 1893, p. 125
Laws were passed which could limit the free speech of women such as “A Law to Punish Babbling Women” enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia, 1662 and “A Law for the Punishment of Scolds in Massachusetts” (Gage, 1893, p. 147).
The reason given by the judge for punishing the woman, is extremely suggestive of woman’s condition under
the law. The wife
who had been sold, the innocent victim of this masculine transaction, was
sentenced to a week’s imprisonment with hard labor, while the man who sold her
and the man who bought her escaped without punishment or censure. The judge in quoting the tenth commandment,
graded the wife with the ox and the ass in the belongings of man; the decision
thus ranking her with the cattle of the stable…The selling of a wife as a cow
in the market place was by no means uncommon during the early part of the
century in England…Instances of wife sale are not uncommon in the United
States, and although the price is usually higher than that given for English
wives, reaching from three hundred to four thousand dollars, still, as low a
sum as five cents has been
recorded. A prosperous resident of
Gage, 1893, p. 148-9
The old Slavs recognized the equality of woman in household,
political, and religious matters, and not until Byzantine Christianity became
incorporated with, and part of, the civil polity of its rulers, did
Gage, 1893, p. 166
I regard the Bible as I do all the other so-called sacred books of the world. They were all produced in savage times, and, of course, contain many things that shock our sense of justice. In the days of darkness women were regarded and treated as slaves. They were allowed no voice in public affairs. Neither man nor woman were civilized, and the gods were like their worshipers. It gives me pleasure to know that women are beginning to think and are becoming dissatisfied with the religion of barbarians.
Eva Ingersoll, 1898, from Gaylor, p. xii
The woman who possesses lover for her sex, for the world, for truth, justice and right, will not hesitate to place herself upon record as opposed to falsehood, no matter under what guise of age or holiness it appears.
Matilda Joslyn Gage, 1893, from Gaylor, p. 1
Their religion and the Bible require of women everything, and give her nothing. They ask her support and her love, and repay her with contempt and oppression.
Helen Gardener, 1885, from Gaylor, p. 11
So far from woman owing what liberty she does enjoy, to the Bible and the church, they have been the greatest block in the way of her development. The vantage ground woman holds today is due to all the forces of civilization, to science, discovery, invention, rationalism, the religion of humanity chanted in the golden rule round the globe centuries before the Christian religion was known. It is not to Bibles, prayer books, catechisms, liturgies, the canon law, and church creeds and organizations, that woman owes one step of her progress, for all these alike have been hostile, and still are, to her freedom and development.
From Maine to Georgia—from the Atlantic to Missouri, they swarm like locust; and, under the name of foreign missions, home missions, Bible missions, tract societies, societies for educating pious young men, to spread the gospel, pincushion societies, …they have laid the whole country under contribution. Figures cannot calculate the amount collected by those public and private robbers…
…like a pestilence [they] cover the land; not to scatter blessings among the distressed, root out ignorance, (as somebody wisely said of them), or diffuse the lights of knowledge, to ennoble the age, or amend mankind; not to break the chains of slavery, or teach man his religious or political duties, or cultivate the arts and sciences, no; quite the reverse. Their object and their interest is to plunge mankind into ignorance, to make him a bigot, a fanatic, a hypocrite, a heathen, to hate every sect but his own (the orthodox), to shut his eyes against the truth, harden his heart against the distress of his fellow man, and purchase heaven by money…
…Do these Presbyterians, or
orthodox…think we have forgotten what use they made of power when they had
it? Do they think we have forgotten how
Anne Royall, 1829, from Gaylor, p. 27-30
It is often asserted that woman owes all the advantages of the position she occupies today to Christianity, but the facts show that the Christian Church has done nothing specifically for woman’s elevation. In the general march of civilization, she has necessarily reaped the advantage of man’s higher development, but we must not claim for Christianity all that has been achieved by science, discovery, and invention.
Men can never understand the fear of everlasting punishment that fills the souls of women and children. The orthodox religion, as drawn from the Bible and expounded by the church, is enough to drive the most imaginative and sensitive natures to despair and death. Having conversed with many young women in sanatoriums, insane asylums, and in the ordinary walks of life, suffering with religious melancholia; having witnessed the agony of young mothers in childbirth, believing they were cursed of God in their maternity…
It is that marriage is considered a defilement by the Church, and in one sect denied its priesthood. A woman, in order to be permitted to clean the floor of the ‘Holy of Holies’ in some cathedrals, must be single!
I consider the bible the most degrading book that has ever been written about women…
In the early days of woman-suffrage agitation, I saw that the greatest obstacle we had to overcome was the bible. It was hurled at us on every side. The ballot for woman was contrary to God’s holy ordinance. Woman was born to be submissive, subjective; she must be subservient to her husband in all things and at all times. These were the admonitions of pulpit and press.
It is one of the mysteries that woman, who has suffered so intensely from the rule of the church, still worships her destroyer and “licks the hand that’s raised to shed her blood.”
The clergy are, practically, the most irresponsible of all talkers.
Marian Evans, 1855, from Gaylor, p. 185
…in order to help preserve the very life of the Republic, it is imperative that women should unite upon a platform of opposition to the teaching and aim of that ever most unscrupulous enemy of freedom—the Church.
Matilda Joslyn Gage, 1890, from Gaylor, p. 211
Woman’s increasing freedom within the last hundred years is not due to the church, but to the printing press, to education, to free-thought and other forms of advancing civilization.
Matilda Joslyn Gage, 1893, from Gaylor, p. 224
Matilda Gage, speaking during a Free Thought convention held
Lerner, p. 163
Christianity has been cruel in much to the human race. It has quenched much of the sweet joy and gladness of life, it has caused the natural passions and affections of it to be held as sins; by its teaching that the body should be despised, it has brought on all the unnamable filth which was made a virtue in the monastic orders…
Ouida, 1895, from Gaylor, p. 257
Susan Wixon, 1893, from Gaylor, p. 288
In the face of a history replete with abuse, cruelty, scorn, and dogmatic insolence toward woman, the Christian church still has the audacity and impudence to declare that it has been her friend—that it has done everything for her elevation and advancement. It says that what she is today she owes to the church. A blacker falsehood was never uttered.
Susan Wixon, 1893, from Gaylor, p. 289
Women are a very small factor in the Holy Writ…The Bible estimate of woman is summed up in the words of the President of a Presbyterian Theological Seminary in his address to a class of young preachers. He said: “My Bible commands the subjection of women forever;”
Josephine Henry, 1905, from Gaylor, p. 318
The question of souls is old—we demand our bodies, now. We are tired of promises, God is deaf, and his church is our worst enemy.
Voltairine de Cleyre, 1890, from Gaylor, p. 355
Exodus and -17 declares as a law that if a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed (thus damaging the father’s property)—he (the rapist) shall marry her. (Can you imagine having to marry your rapist?!)…
Job 25:4 “How can he be clean that is born of woman?”
Leviticus 12:1-2, 5: And the Lord spake unto Moses saying: speak unto the children of Israel, saying: if a woman be delivered, “…and bear a man-child then she shall be uncleaf for seven days…But if she bear a maid-child, then she shall be unclean for two weeks…”
In 1847, a British obstetrician, Dr. Simpson, used chloroform as an anesthetic in delivering a baby. A scandal followed, and the holy men of the Church of England prohibited the use of anesthetic in childbirth, citing Genesis 3:16: “God said to woman Eve, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy pain in childbearing. In pain thou shalt bring forth children….and thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee.”
Ecclesiastes 7:26-8: “I find a woman more bitter than death; she is a snare, her heart a net, her arms are chains. No wickedness comes anywhere near the wickedness of a woman. May a sinner’s lot be hers.”
…..Moving into the Middle Ages, St. Thomas Aquinas, the well known 13th century Italian thologian, said: “Woman is defective and accidental…and misbegotten…a male gone awry…the result of some weakness in the (father’s) generative power.”
The renowned Protestant clergyman, Martin Luther said: “God created Adam lord of all living creatures, but Eve spoiled it all. “ And: “Women should remain at home, sit still, keep house and bear and bring up children.” Again: “If woman grows weary and, at last, dies from childbearing, it matters not. Let her die from bearing, she is there to do it.”
…Samuel Butler, the English poet, wrote: “The souls of women are so small that some believe they’ve none at all.”
Meg Bowman, 1988, from Gaylor, p. 530-1
The appropriate duties and influence of woman are clearly stated in the New Testament. Those duties and that influence are unobtrusive and private…We can not, therefore, but regret the mistaken conduct of those who encouraged females to bear an obtrusive and ostentatious part in measures of reform, and countenance any of that sex who so far forget themselves as to itinerate in the character lecturers and teachers.
Pastoral Letter of the General Association of
To point out that, according to the Bible code, woman is, practically, disinherited and regarded as a slave, whom man, in his divine superiority, has a right to coerce into marriage, without her consent, by means of brute force, fraud, and purchase…the fact that Leah and Rachel were considered as so much cattle to be given in wedlock to Jacob as reward for seven years service each; that in Deuteronomy 21: 10, 11, the Hebrews are advised in the name of the Lord, to force beautiful captives from among their fallen enemies—unto whom they might have a desire—to be their wives; in Judges 20, the right of the children of Benjamin to waylay the daughters of Shiloh is insisted on; in I. Timothy 2, Paul “suffers not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence…”
Aldred, 1907, p. 8
The ground work of the whole conversation in regard to suffrage is ably summed up in the following quotation from the Encyclopedia Brittanica:….Infants, minors, idiots and insane persons have everywhere been excluded on the ground that sound judgement is necessary for the exercise. Persons convicted of crimes have been excluded as a security to society and almost universally women, for reasons based on their relation to society and the opposite sex.
This is certainly clear enough to forever set at rest the well-worn cry about being classed with idiots and criminals. As well object to the ten commandments because women are mentioned in one of them in connection with the ox and the ass.
Mrs. Estelle McVickar, p. 9
Again, as contrasted with the monogamy characteristic of Greek and Roman civilization at its best, the Old Testament insists on polygamy with all its accompanying degradation and subjection of woman, the New Testament nowhere prohibiting it, and Luther, Milton, and Bishop Burnet holding that, there being no express discharge against it, it was compatible with God’s law. Not only so, but should the student turn his attention to a consideration of the scriptural basis of the polygamous teachings and practices of Mormonism…
Aldred, 1907, p. 9
How can [woman] subscribe to a theology which makes her the conscious victim of another’s will, forever subject to the triple bondage of man, priest, and the law…? How can she endure our present marriage relations by which woman’s life, health, and happiness are held so cheap that she herself feels that God has given her no charter of rights, no individuality of her own?
Antoinette Brown Blackwell’s is perhaps the most telling story about the reconceptualization of religion which accompanied and strengthened the quest for woman’s rights. An early feminist, a seminarian from Oberlin, one of the first ordained woman ministers in the country, she was a woman of strong life-long faith. But even her gentle creed precipitated a crisis of faith during her first year of ministry, and she resigned in doubt and spiritual anguish. After a time, her faith was restored, but in a new form, one which is emblematic of the liberal reformers’ stand” “My present religion is a free one; all its truths are revelations from Nature’s God to the soul; and one must be outside all sectarian pressures to speak it freely.”
The antipathy of many early fundamentalist leaders to feminism was deep, widespread, and well documented; indeed, the movement’s literature is rife with strident antifeminist pronouncements, some of them bordering on outright misogyny.
Bendroth, p. 31
The Old School wing of the Presbyterian church, which the Princetonians represented, was known for its cultural conservatism. Before the Civil War, Charles Hodge and his Princeton colleagues Archibald Alexander and Samuel Miller, referring to themselves as an “Association of Gentlemen,” not only condoned slavery from their hierarchical reading of Scripture but firmly opposed innovations in women’s sphere. Slavery, at least as an abstract state, was neither moral nor immoral, Hodge argued in 1860, but a means of promoting the “general good” of society through the imposition of righteous order. “In this country,” he reasoned, “we believe that the general good requires us to deprive the whole female sex of the right of self-government” because they are “incompetent to the proper discharge of the duties of citizenship.” According to Hodge, arguing otherwise elevated reason above the authority of Scripture.
Bendroth, p. 34-5
As Calvinists, they believed that the subordination of women was inherent in the created order. Calvin taught that Eve came from Adam’s rib as his loving subordinate, not his equal; sin did not create inequality, but only intensified its effects, transforming women’s role into an onerous burden.
Bendroth, p. 36
It was no great leap, therefore, to link emancipated women with the “apostasy of the last days.” James Brookes’s immoderate attack on “Infidelity among Women” in 1886 was the first of many diatribes against the new woman.
Bendroth, p. 47
Some feel that there can be an anti-woman bias in religious thought, even today.
The Feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.
--Robertson Fundraising letter, 1992,
But women, one little remark. Please don’t make your husbands think that in order to accept Jesus Christ, they have to submit to you, because no macho man wants to do that. They’ll submit to Jesus, but they kind of like to be the head of the household. And that’s scriptural. And that’s the way it should be.
Pat Roberston, from McCuen, p. 141
Moral Majority set out to fight those ills, and Falwell led the way with a stridency he now at least
halfway regrets. His followers loved it
when he denounced
Martz, p. 108
The women’s liberation movement, by making women believe they have to be macho, has induced tens of thousands to smoke as a sign of freedom to rebellion…
Robertson, p. 210
Participants in the African Women’s Leadership Institute
made a list of the terms used to describe feminists in their societies:
“Lesbians, Power hungry, Emotionally deprived, Sexually frustrated, ‘Bejing women’, Sexually promiscuous, Unmarriageable,
Against God’s plan, Castrators, Westernized, Witches, Women who want to have
Meredith Tax from Reed, p. 27
As the core constituency of the New Right in the 1980s, fundamentalists and their neo-evangelical cousins won a large share of public credit (or blame) for defeating the equal rights amendment.
Bendroth, p. 1
Falwell, then and now, blames “weak men” for the downfall of the American family. Any woman who is not in a subservient position to her husband is a “moral pervert”, “godless humanist”, and an “enemy of every decent society.”
Martinelli, p. 3
A woman who, either intentionally or through necessity, stands in the place of a man is wrong, “the very nature of God within her is corrupted.”…Wives remain disobedient, “because they are ignorant of Satan’s devices in their lives.”
Sumrall’s strongest warning about adultery is projected toward the Christian woman. “God says that a woman who breaks wedlock is judged like a woman who sheds blood. An adulteress is just as bad as a murderess; both of them will pay with their lives.”
There are those who would still argue that the Bible should be used to determine what is appropriate behavior for women, especially in marriage. Elizabeth Hanford, in her book Me? Obey Him? Makes just such an argument.
Here is an order of authority in the universe, and it set up like this:
God made woman to be the keeper of the home, to make a haven within its walls, a retreat from the stress, of battle, the nourisher of the children. A woman’s body is fashioned primarily for being a wife and mother.
There are many other Scriptures concerning obedience to authority; these specifically tell a wife to obey her husband.
Before we go any further, let’s consider” regardless of your idea of what the Scriptures mean, can we agree that they all say a wife should obey her husband?
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the Scriptures say a woman ought to obey her husband!
Suppose a woman feels God is leading her definitely opposite to what her husband has commanded. Who should she obey? The Scriptures say a woman must ignore her “feelings” about the will of God, and do what her husband says. She is to obey her husband as if he were God Himself. She can be as certain of God’s will, when her husband speaks, as if God had spoken audibly from Heaven!
Unless there is obedience all the time, there is no obedience any of the time. So, if you choose when to obey your husband, you are not obeying him at all.
Don’t misunderstand. I am aware that ungodly men sometimes demand things of their wives that are revolting and wrong. And you can tell me of many other cases. But the fact remains that I have never known of a case of a wife where, when a woman said to her husband, “I obey you implicitly, as if you were God, and trust you to make the right decisions for me,” then set out to do it in a loving, sweet, heart-yearning submission, that he required her to do wrong.
The overwhelming weight of the Bible testimony about a wife’s obedience is that God expects a woman to obey her husband cheerfully, immediately, and without reservation.
“It just doesn’t seem fair,” you wail. “Can’t I ever do what I want to do? Don’t I have any rights at all?” You picture yourself as a Victorian housewife, long-skirted and fully bustled, bending over a scrub bucket and string mop, pushing back a tendril of hair from your sweaty face. You picture your husband, mustachioed and glowering, standing over you with a whip. “If I do what you are saying,” you argue, “I’ll just be a plain old slave. Don’t I have any rights?”…For you don’t have any rights, no rights at all. You lost them on the day you rebelled against God.
We’ve said you have no rights—but that’s only half the story. The Christian wife has no rights, she’s a bondslave—but how wonderful are the privileges come with being a bondslave of Christ.
…a woman has the privilege of choosing which man she will obey. She needs to obey only her own husband, not every man!
Certainly you get to express an opinion—if you are asked.
For the Sake of the Children, Submit
Children are frightened and confused by conflict in the home.
God intended the union of man and wife to be inexpressibly sweet, satisfying beyond words. But the entering into that garden of mystery and wonder is through the door of a wife’s submission. There is great joy beyond that gate! For your own sake, enter in.
I am the “him” about whom the author
is speaking. With twenty-three years of
watching her life as a dedicated pastor’s wife and successful mother of seven
children….Not always has she agreed with me in everything, but she has never
“bucked” any decision I have made. Her
long hair is more than just a concession—it typifies exactly what First
Corinthians 11 says it ought…I have seen strong-willed, nagging wives changed
into sweet, submissive wives after counseling with the author….The strong Bible
message on a good wife’s position is especially needed today when women’s lib
and unisex are gaining such a following.
Unless our homes can return to the principles given in this book,
Pastor Walter Handford, Introduction
In serving God as a priest or minister, one develops a special relationship with God. In many denominations, this relationship is described with the word “sacrament”. In bringing people of the congregation closer to God, marrying newlyweds, baptizing infants, comforting those who suffer, etc. one develops a special relationship with others. Throughout most of history, the ability to share in these experiences was reserved for men only and women were prevented from serving as priests and ministers.
Women were not permitted to study for priesthood in monasteries. In order to prevent women from attempting to do so, this tale was told of a woman who made such an attempt.
In a very old life of St. Calais we read of a woman named Gunda who was enticed by the subtle Deceiver to mock the Holy Spirit. For she put on man’s clothing and tried to enter the monastery of the Saint, to test the truth of this prophecy that no woman would ever be able to enter there. But, by the just judgment of God, before she even came in sight of the closed approach to the cloisters, she was seized by the devil and driven back; and was so shamefully tormented by him that I blush to speak of it. For he thrust her head between her thighs, so that she who had tried to imprint a false kiss upon the holy threshold was forced to kiss the filthy parts of her own body; and she had to exhibit openly to all who wished to see it that sex which she tried to conceal beneath a man’s clothing.
Guazzo, Compendium Maleficarum p. 121
Martin Luther felt that God had exempted women, children, and incompetent people from the ability to serve as ministers because of their created nature.
It is, however, true that the Holy Spirit has excepted women, children, and incompetent people from this function [serving as minister]…Even nature and God’s creation makes this distinction, implying that women (much less children or fools) cannot and shall not occupy positions of sovereignty, as experience also suggests and as Moses says in Genesis 3[:16], “You shall be subject to man.”
Martin Luther On Councils and the Church p. 551-2
The right of women to speak out on matters of theology became an issue early in the history of the American colonies. In 1635, Anne Hutchinson began holding public meetings to discuss Scripture and theology. She was exiled.
Anne Hutchinson had “stepped out of [her] place,” in the
succinct phrase of Reverend Hugh Peter, of
Governor Winthrop continued, according to the transcripts that were made that day of the trial. “And you have maintained a meeting and an assembly in your house that hath been condemned by the general assembly as a thing not tolerable or comely in the sight of God nor fitting for your sex.”
--LaPlante, p. 12
It was reported that Miss Hutchinson assisted in births which resulted in monstrous miscarriages as a sign of God’s disfavor on her actions.
Miss Hutchinson being big with child, and growing toward the time of her labor as others do, she brought forth not one (as Mistress Dyer did) but (which was more strange to amazement) thirty monstrous births or thereabouts, at once; some of them bigger, some lesser, some of one shape, some of another; few of any perfect shape, none at all of them (as far as I could ever learn) of human shape. These things are so strange that I am almost loath to be the reporter of them…But see how the wisdom of God fitted this hudgement to her sin every way, for look—as she had vented misshapen opinions, so she must bring forth deformed monsters.
The Catholic Church still does not permit women to serve as priests. Many protestant denominations do allow women priests although this practice is controversial, especially among fundamentalists.
DeBerg, p. 79
[The pastor] went on to explain that the Christian school at his church would not hire a woman as principal, “because there would be male teachers who would then be required to submit to female leadership, which we believe would be outside the standard of God…In the microcosm of the family, you have tow options. If you are a single woman, then you need always to be in the context of submitting yourself to men in general. If you’re a married woman, then you need to submit yourself to the authority of your husband.
--Ingersoll, 2003, p. 18
It is much harder to function in my seminary position as a woman. Yikes! THe structure is very hieararchical… I am often ignored (the greatest insult) or simply not consulted in matters, even for which I have shouldered the greatest responsibility! I am weary right now with being a woman in this man’s world of the seminary.
--Ingersoll, 2003, p. 68
A lot of guys just avoided my classes. They would say, “Who would want to take a theology course taught by a woman anyway?”
--Ingersoll, 2003, p. 74
Bendroth, p. 121
On August 9, 1964, in Durham, North Carolina, Addie Davis was ordained to the ministry, the first Southern Baptist woman to take such a step…Davis never found a Southern church to pastor and went north. Others were entering positions on college campuses, in counseling, and in various chaplaincies in which they were unhindered by the reluctance of local Southern Baptist churches. Ten years later, the new Southern Baptist Journal began reporting regularly and disapprovingly on ordinations of women. By then, they estimated that the number had grown to fifteen. Most of the women who were ordained in the 1970s still went into nonparish ministries because so few Southern Baptist parishes would hire them.
--Ammerman, p. 91
Fundamentalists perceived that national agencies were actively promoting a cause [women in the ministry] that was plainly contradicted in scripture and they wanted it stopped. Fundamentalists argued that they did not want their Cooperative Program dollars going to support women ministers. They added that it was only fair that agencies do what the majority of Southern Baptists wanted and they were sure than 99 percent of Southern Baptists opposed women pastors. They buttressed their arguments with their own reading of scripture. When the Bible says that a pastor must be “the husband of one wife,” they claimed, it obviously rules women out. And when it says that women should be silent in church and submissive to their husbands, God’s intentions are made all the more clear. No matter how a woman feels, the Bible says she cannot really be called by God to become a pastor.
--Ammerman, p. 93
[Nancy Hastings Sehested] accepted
the 1988 call to pastor
--Ammerman, p. 94
When Christ’s role in the Eucharist is to be expressed sacramentally, there would not be this natural resemblance which must exist between Christ and his minister if the role of Christ were not taken by a man. In such a case it would be difficult to see in the minister the image of Christ. For Christ himself was and remains a man.
--Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 1977, --Wills, 2000, p. 105
Creationists who are concerned about the equality of women are to be applauded. I am not sure that saying, “Women are not treated equally and the biologists are to blame” accomplishes anything, however. At the very least, it overlooks the role that conservative religion has had in limiting the role women have been allowed to play in society for thousands of years.