• Carol Barron

Women’s History Month

This article was first published in eMessenger in March 2021.

March is Women's history month, so let’s make history or herstory!

Looking back to Susanna Wesley, who many people regard as the Mother of Methodism. She must have been quite a woman as she never preached, never published a book, and never founded a church. However here are some of the things she did do:

  • She married at 19

  • She birthed 19 children

  • She grieved for nine of those children who died as infants

  • Four of the nine children who died were twins

  • Her husband was often absent so during this time she was a solo mother and kept the parish going

  • Her husband left her for over a year because of a minor dispute

  • Her family home burnt down - twice

  • She had great organisational skills and set time aside to spend exclusively with each of her children – something we are teaching parents to do today.

  • She was the mother of the dynamic duo: John & Charles Wesley– those two sons who founded a radical Christian movement.

Did you know that two Methodist women started Mother’s Day? In the late 1860s Ann Jarvis established mother’s clubs to support mothers and children. Ann lived in a coal mining town in West Virginia. She talked to mothers about hydration, sanitation and nutrition. When the Civil War came she established a field hospital and recruited nurses. After the war, Anne formed friendship clubs to promote reconciliation.

Ann Jarvis was convinced that women, and especially mothers, should work for peace because they saw the ravages of war in their husbands and sons. This clear focus meant their voices would be powerful and this was the start of the idea for Mother’s Day.

Ann died in 1905, before Mother’s Day was recognised but her daughter Anna Jarvis carried on her mother’s legacy and in May 1908 Anna organised the first official Mother’s Day celebration at Andrew’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia. This is now the site of the International Mother's Day Shrine.

Martha Kent, Clark Kent’s adoptive mother, raised her son Methodist. While growing up in Smallville, Kansas, Clark, aka Superman, attended the local Methodist church every Sunday with his mother until he turned 14 years old. The Kents were loving parents and instilled Clark with a strong moral compass. Clark’s Superman costume was created by Martha out of the blankets inside the rocket that crashed on Earth. Martha was obviously creative, into upcycling and could sew. It is said Martha taught Superman patience and compassion and always encouraged him to be the best person he could be. Martha was not stressed or overwhelmed when she realised her adopted son was gifted. She encouraged him to use his superpowers to fight for the good of humanity.

It struck me when I read a message from Connexional Office that the three people that signed this were all women. Tara Tautari, General Secretary; Trudy Downes, Health and Safety Coordinator; Sarah Andrews, Accountant. The Connexional Office has many other great capable women serving Methodism with the skills and experience.

Then I thought about our Methodist Missions here in Aotearoa New Zealand. We have:

  • Lifewise, in Auckland, which is led by Jo Denvir

  • Siaola, Vahefonua Methodist Mission Tonga, which is led by Kathleen Tuai-Ta’ufo’ou

  • Methodist City Action in Hamilton, which is led by Dr Maxine Campbell

  • Palmerston North Methodist City Action which is led by Kim Penny

  • Christchurch Methodist Mission which is led by Jill Hawkey

  • Methodist Mission Southern, in Dunedin, which is led by Laura Black.

Our last presidential team was all female with the Rev Setaita Kinahoi Veikune as President, and Nicola Teague Grundy as Vice President.

So, as it is Women’s History Month, how about we take the time to celebrate and acknowledge the contributions of these women in Methodism in Aotearoa New Zealand?

I encourage you to take a few minutes to send one of these women, or another Methodist woman you know, a message, by phone, by text, by email, in person, or via Skype, ZOOM or facebook. Take the time during March to let them know you appreciate them and the work they do.

Let’s make history herstory and celebrate the women in our churches, our Parishes, our Missions and our lives.

If you would like more information about how you can support the Methodist Alliance, or the Methodist Missions, please check out their websites or contact me.

Carol Barron, Methodist Alliance National Coordinator

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