Our Mugs & Muffins Meet-up for March was a celebration of International Women's Day, which is observed on March 8th, and we selected the theme #PressForProgress as our focus.
Many groups or countries select their own theme for the day, including the UN, Canada, and the InternationalWomensDay.com organization, the latter's theme as the one we've selected (which is not to be taken as an endorsement of the organization).
For information purposes, the themes chosen this year by Canada’s Status of Women is #MyFeminism, and by the UN, it's: "Time is Now: Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women’s Lives".
Why should we, as Christian women, be involved in any activities or celebrations for International Women's Day?
To quote Crosswalk, a Christian online magazine, “As Christians though, Women’s History Month is a time to celebrate the women who came before us, defying tradition and sometimes risking their lives to impact Christianity today.“1
Furthermore, the Bible has something to say about equality & justice. Read what the prophet, Isaiah had to say in Isaiah 58:6-7.
Our discussion at Mugs & Muffins focused on six Christian women who have #PressedForProgress long before it was a hashtag or slang. Here they are:
Cher Wang came from a wealthy Taiwanese family and is the Co-founder and Chair of HTC, a consumer electronics, high-tech company. Her company is one of the top three smart-phone and tablet providers in the world, besides Samsung and Apple.
Growing up in a wealthy and well-known family, Wang has never hid under the umbrella of the family business; she started a legendary new page in Taiwanese high-tech world with her partners and claims that her success is all God's grace; known by the world to be "the wealthiest woman in Taiwan" who is always in simple athletic attire, she does not chase after brand names, and is very content in being simple and free.
She is very vocal about her faith, never afraid to discuss the ups and downs and struggles of living out her faith, "I followed my family in my belief in God and attended Sunday school and Sunday services. I got baptized at 13 years old, because I was touched during a retreat, but did not continue in the pursuit of faith. I left alone to the United States for education when I was 15 or 16 years old, and you could say that I gradually left God." She said bashfully, "I might have gone to church on Sundays, but I was mostly late, or left early, and I mostly made up stories. I knew that I needed to pray before bed, that it was important to study the scriptures, but I never seriously read the Bible through even once. You could say that my life was not really transformed."
"In this path of faith, He has let me experience a little bit of blessings at first, then gave me some trials and tribulations, and then let me experience His miraculous guidance and works; in these ups and downs/gives and takes, my faith has gradually grown. And on this day, the bigger the trials, the stronger my faith becomes and the greater the joy that comes after experiencing God. I know how intricate His intentions are and feel that I need to grasp onto His words every day," she said firmly.
Gladys Aylward (1902-1970) was a simple British woman who wanted to go to China as a missionary, but she was told that women could only serve as teachers or nurses—and she was neither. So, without official backing she used her life savings to buy a one-way ticket to China. She knew about an elderly missionary woman in China who was looking for someone to replace her but when Gladys finally did arrive in China, she was told that the missionary had moved to another village, a two-day mule ride into the mountains. So, Gladys hired a mule driver to take her there.
In China, Gladys worked first as a “foot inspector” removing bandages from the feet of Chinese girls as they used to believe it would keep their feet from growing big. After doing such a good job as the foot inspector, she was asked to calm down some prisoners who were rioting. After successfully doing that, they referred to her as the “Virtuous One”. Gladys went on to work with orphans where she rescued over 100 girls. Her work was captured in the 1958 film The Inn of the Sixth Happiness—a film that Aylward hated because it glamorized her very simple life.
Jennifer Wiseman was a senior project scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope and became the director of the Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion for the American Association of the Advancement of Science. This organization encourages communication She is active in the science and faith dialogue, and enjoys giving talks to congregations, youth groups, civic groups, and science enthusiasts on the excitement of science.
“My scientific education did not cause me to doubt what the Bible says regarding God’s authoritative involvement in creation, but I started reading a lot more, particularly books by scientists who were Christians about how they reconciled their understanding of Scripture with what they had learned scientifically about the details of nature. Some of these scientists also came to our Christian fellowship groups on campus, and it was a terrific help to me as a student to see these models of excellent scientists who were followers of Jesus Christ. I saw their reverence for Scripture and God along with their love for studying the natural world fitting together in a beautiful mosaic.
Even though I don’t experience an ultimate conflict between science and my Christian faith, I still have many unanswered questions. . . What was God doing in all those ages before these familiar parts of our world existed? . . . Was God just waiting for humans to come around? Why didn’t he create all of this instantly and just get to the point?”
Mae Jemison was the first African-American woman to be admitted into the NASA astronaut training program and the first African-American woman in space. During her eight days in space, Jemison conducted experiments on weightlessness and motion sickness on the crew and herself. In all, she spent more than 190 hours in space before returning to Earth on September 20, 1992. Following her historic flight, Jemison noted that society should recognize how much both women and members of other minority groups can contribute if given the opportunity. She is also a physician, engineer, educator, and entrepreneur.
After leaving the astronaut corps in March 1993, Jemison accepted a teaching fellowship at Dartmouth. She also established the Jemison Group, a company that seeks to research, develop and market advanced technologies and currently works on the 100 Year Starship Project which she says is “pursuing an extraordinary tomorrow to create a better world today.”
Known as the “Mother of the Modern-Day Civil Rights Movement,” Rosa Parks was a seamstress and civil rights activist who became famous for her refusal to obey a bus driver’s demand that she give up her seat to a white male. Her arrest for civil disobedience triggered the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which launched one of its organizers, Martin Luther King, Jr, to the forefront of history.
In her book Quiet Strength, Parks says this about how God helped her the fateful day she refused to give up her seat. "I felt the Lord would give me the strength to endure whatever I had to face. God did away with all my fear...It was time for someone to stand up--or, in my case, sit down. I refused to move."
Born into slavery in New York, Sojourner Truth escaped with her infant daughter and went on to become an abolitionist and women’s rights activist. In 1843, Isabella (her birth name) sensed God calling her to adopt the name "Sojourner" and travel the country sharing the gospel and her testimony. Her children were horrified at the idea, worried that a poor, illiterate former slave would not survive as a travelling speaker. Besides, women weren't supposed to speak publicly during this era, let alone former slaves. But Sojourner reassured her family that if, as she believed, the calling was from God, then He would protect her.
Sojourner was not intimidated by convention or authority. She learned to manipulate establishment institutions to effect reforms. During her lifetime she brought, and won, three lawsuits. This was very unusual for a woman, especially for an illiterate ex-slave. She retrieved her son, who had been sold illegally from New York State into slavery in Alabama. She also won a slander suit in New York City and a personal injury case after she was injured in a street car incident in Washington. D.C. She is best known for her speech on racial inequalities entitled, “Ain’t I a Woman?” which she gave at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in 1851.
Empowered by her religious faith, the former slave worked tirelessly for many years to transform national attitudes and institutions. According to Nell Painter, Princeton professor and Truth biographer, "No other woman who had gone through the ordeal of slavery managed to survive with sufficient strength, poise and self-confidence to become a public presence over the long term."
Some photos from Saturday's Mugs & Muffins Meet-up: