Could it be that the complementarian notion of “biblical womanhood” (especially the claim that women’s distinct personhood makes no room for women as teachers and leaders of men) is a recent, Western perspective?
Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the sons of Israel came to her for judgment. (Judges 4:4–5, NASB)
Margaret Fell, known to many as the “Mother of Quakerism,” is arguably one of the most fascinating figures in Western religious history. Though frequently overlooked by historians, Margaret Fell played a germinal role in the development of the Friends (Quaker) movement, and her life presents a compelling picture of the power of faith and the cost of discipleship.
After languishing in obscurity for many years, the work of Phoebe Palmer (1807-1874) has been rediscovered by church historians and scholars. Palmer was a widely-recognized religious figure in her day—a woman whose concern for the holy life enabled her to transcend the limitations of both gender and denominational affiliation.
The nineteenth-century secular women’s movement paved the way in many countries for more women’s education, writing, and publishing. The church also benefited by this escalation of women in leadership; many Christian hymnbooks printed material by women for the first time.
This is the centenary year marking the death on October 12 of Cecil Frances Alexander, one of the greatest women hymn writers. Her funeral in Londonderry attracted a great crowd from all of Great Britain to pay tribute to this noble woman.
In his book, Women Composers and Hymnists, Gene Claghorn lists 356 women hymn text writers who are North American. A few of the most outstanding are Julia Ward Howe (“Battle Hymn of the Republic”), Annie Sherwood Hawks (“I Need Thee Every Hour”), Mary Ann Thomson (“O Zion Haste”), Katherine Lee Bates (“America, the Beautiful”), Mary Lathbury (“Break Thou the Bread of Life”), and Margaret Clarkson (“So Send I You”).