God’s Thought of Woman
September 1893, Woman’s Building, World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago IL
God’s thought of woman is a subject that has engaged the attention of the prophet, the theologian, the poet and philosopher all along the ages. Sometimes, unconsciously to themselves, have they betrayed the fact that they were not clear in their minds as to the Divine intent concerning her mission apart from wifehood and motherhood. All concede, sage and seer, that as a class God’s thought of her was that of queen of the home, but not all the wise (?) think of her as equal to the king, whose happiness and sorrow, prosperity and adversity, she must share to the full half; not so in her right to govern and direct in the affairs of that home, not only in relation to its internal workings, but in those things outside the home which make for its weal or its woe. Her right to a voice in deciding what institution of learning her son may choose for his alma mater may or may not be questioned; but her right to decide as to what will imperil his safety out side of the home is supposed to be a matter entirely beyond her right to consider. She may insist that the ever-present saloon and its twin evil, the brothel, threaten at every turn the moral integrity of her loved subjects, who from the nature of things can not be always within “woman’s kingdom” (the home); they must go beyond her declared jurisdiction. She may, and does, in thousands of instances, see the son, husband and daughter exposed, directly or indirectly, to influences having their origin in one or both of the above-named sinks of iniquity; but she may not, as a rule, protest with the slightest degree of effectiveness, because of the disabilities imposed upon her through man’s thought of woman! Not so God’s thought of her, as we read His thought in history, both sacred and profane. The first reveals to us His exalted purpose concerning her when He said: “It is not good that the man should be alone, I will make him an helpmeet for him, and they shall be one flesh;” not two, distinct and separate in life, but one. Adam acknowledged her power to lead, and did obeisance to her judgment when he followed her in the great transgression. It is nowhere intimated that God does not expect her to share man’s responsibilities of church and state; on the contrary it is most clearly implied, by numerous examples given in His Word, that God designed woman should be man’s helpmate in all the avenues of life. It can not be said of every man that he is expected to assume or permitted to assume responsibilities, or give any attention to affairs which involve governmental questions and responsibilities, or questions of state. The great mass go not beyond that which is needful to the welfare of the body and interests most commonplace in their nature; still, man sits the solitary in families as regards rulership (in most instances, both of the family and in church and state); he sits the solitary often when in that home treads with queenly step a woman born to lead and think on matters that concern the welfare of the world, whose gifts, if utilized in the direction which God designed, would be the balance-wheel to that man, would supplement his power in a way that would broaden his capacity and influence beyond his power to think or compute. As it is, he is as a [Page 814] bird with one wing, never soaring to the diviner heights because he ignores the balancing power divinely provided.
Who can estimate today the potency for the uplifting of the race, the purifying of nations, the better organization of state and municipal governments, the lifting up and purifying of that typical paradise, the home where woman’s full right to be a helpmate for man is fully recognized. Some women are, through gifts, graces and providential surroundings, eminently fitted to be helpmates, and were they recognized as such the world would then have its full complement of power and would rapidly solve many of the social questions and other problems which today vex and perplex the most astute minds. God is waiting for the world to recognize His thought of woman before His edict shall go forth that is to free the world of much of its thralldom, much of its sorrow and mourning, before its moral mists shall be cleared away.
The world must learn to estimate His thought of her when He said: “Male and female created He them, and blessed them.” As the world is now, woman as a class is largely cursed, not blessed. This is not God’s plan, for wherever His love and guidance holds sway she is blessed equally with man. God has no other thought for mankind than that they shall be blessed. What right have we to divorce from being blessed man’s helpmate, when God in His Word declares His purpose to bless her equally when male and female created He them, and blessed them, in the day when they were created.
He made clear His designs concerning her as a helpmate outside of the home when he called Deborah to be a poet, a prophetess, a judge and a warrior. Where is the man combining in his person and work all this versatility of talent and variety of office? It has been stated by high authority that Deborah was the only person in the nation, amid its millions, that could save the people at that time. She could decide the law cases of the people as judge, and sing the national songs as a poet, yet man in general denies woman’s right to express at the ballot-box that God-given power that would, when added to that of good men, free our world from its greatest evil and the home of its deadliest foe, viz., the liquor traffic. What a shame that our race should be thus bound, simply because we are not willing that God’s thought of woman should enter into the management of the world’s affairs, and thus make it possible for His Kingdom to come, and His love to “reign where’er the sun doth his successive journeys run.”
In the days of Josiah, the king, Huldah, the prophetess, who was also a wife, received a message from the king, a deputation of the high priests and princes of the nation, to inquire of the Lord concerning his people, she being the only one, judging from the sacred narrative, who was qualified to expound the Word of the Lord, and reveal the message of Jehovah to his people.
Queen Esther fasts and prays, lifts up her heart to God and her hand to the scepter of the king; turns the sword of the foe to his own destruction and saves her people, and puts the blush to King Saul, who failed to obey the command of God against Amalek.
First in the “Fall,” God’s greatest thought of her seems to have been when he made her the mother of redeemed humanity through the incarnate Son. The gentile world was looking forward to this event when Virgil wrote to Pollio, the consul, concerning his expectation of the golden age in connection with the birth of the long-expected Messiah. It would seem as if this divinely exalted relation to humanity’s weal should forever settle the question of woman’s right as an equal factor with man in the development of the social, political and religious life of the human race. In mythology woman is high in distinction, although Jupiter sits enthroned in the heavens as supreme; by his side sits Juno, the mother of gods and goddesses. In idolatrous worship woman has a most exalted position; hence, great was Diana of the Ephesians.
In personifying the church prophecy makes mention of her in the most exalted terms: ” Rejoice greatly, O, Daughter of Zion! Shout, O, Daughter of Jerusalem! [Page 815] Behold, thy king cometh unto thee.” In his apocaliptic visions, John beholds the church as a “woman clothed as the sun, the moon beneath her feet, and a crown of twelve stars upon her head.” (Rev. 12.) Surely, this is an indication of her mission and power among the nations of the earth.
Her power is clearly set forth in history, sacred and profane. Scarce had the head of Samson rested in the lap of Delilah when he was shorn of his strength and delivered to his enemies.
Cleopatra wielded great power over Cæsar, Antony, Egypt, Pompey and Rome.
In the patriotic and moral reforms of the age a most striking example is that of Joan of Arc, whose power for conquest ceased not until she delivered France from the English.
Many books might be written in defense of God’s unmistakable thought and design for woman as an equal factor with man in power and responsibility, varying but rarely in methods of application, with that class of women whom God providentially endows, and through this endowment calls to special work outside the home, just as he endows a special class of men whose mission is to lead and direct through pulpit and press, legislation and government, the advance of mankind.
Woman, whoever thou art, see to it that thou art true to thy call, be it in the home, at the editor’s desk, on the rostrum, in the sacred desk, for in the fullness of time most surely coming He shall place thee beside thy brother in sharing with him the untangling and settling of governmental affairs. Be faithful to thy trust; hide not thy talent in a napkin, though it deprive thee of the queenship of home with its subjects so sweet and tender. God’s thought of woman is superior to thine.
Source: “God’s Thought of Woman,” Riggs, Anna Rankin, in The Congress of Women: Held in the Woman’s Building, World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, U. S. A., 1893, Ed. Eagle, Mary Kavanaugh Oldham (Chicago: Monarch Book Company), 1894, pp. 813-815.