As we look to the future of women, the past offers a map.
As a missiologist, I read the #MeToo movement through the lens of world history. When I scroll through news stories about sexual violence and abuse against women, and as I listen to my students and friends speak about their experiences of harassment and abuse, I hear echoes of the past. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the people who suffered the most were women, children, and the poor, and in the 21st century, the people who suffer the most are still women, children, and the poor.
The contemporary global church, then, is facing a significant decision: How are we going to respond to the continuing abuses against women in the church and in society at large?
As we consider our involvement, Christian activists who came before us can teach us some valuable lessons. The fiery female evangelists and missionaries of the 19th century, in particular, have always captured my attention. Women like Sojourner Truth, Pandita Ramabai, Amy Carmichael, and Shi Meiyu inspire me to follow Jesus with courage, passion, and zeal. During a time period when women were praised for their delicate manners, petite frames, and soft-spoken dispositions, these women’s fearless dedication to social justice and equity was anything but polite. They understood that following Jesus included participating in God’s active love for the voiceless and marginalized.
Although these four women lived during the same time period, they came from diverse socio-cultural backgrounds, worked in different countries, and had distinct ministries and professional callings.
Despite these differences, each reformer shared four key characteristics in common:
First, they were women of prayer.
Prayer is a consistent motif in the stories of these remarkable women. It informed …