When Lydia Sigourney pointed out, in 1837, that Christianity has brought dignity to the woman, while other faith systems have often left women degraded, she was ahead of her time.
Gratitude for the religion of Jesus Christ should inspire an unwavering zeal. Beside the high hope of salvation, which we share in common with all who embrace the Gospel, our obligations to it, as a sex, are peculiar and deep. It has broken down the vassalage, which was enforced even in the most polished heathen climes. Its humility hath persuaded men to give honor to “the weaker vessel.” … The brutality with which she is still treated in pagan lands, and the miseries which make her life a burden cause her to deplore the birth of a female infant, with the same unnatural grief that the ancient Transi cherished, who according to Herodotus, “assembled to weep when a child entered the world, on account of the evils of that existence into which he was ushered; while they celebrated funerals with joy, because the deceased was released from all human calamities.” That policy, which, for ages, regarded women as toys of fancy for a moment, and then slaves forever, “hewers of wood, and drawers of water,” so vile as to be shut from the consecrated temple on earth, and so devoid of soul as to be incapable of an entrance into Heaven, is “abolished by Him, who hath made both one, and broken down the middle wall of partition between us.”
Here Jacqi Gough tells the true story of a friend, a contemporary story that illustrates just how on target Lydia Sigourney was 176 years ago!
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My name is Kisha Madawauki. When I was a child my parents moved to the United States seeking a new beginning. They hoped a new environment would make a difference in our poverty, in their abusive marriage, in their alcoholism, and in my education and success.
I had little reason to anticipate any good. At the age of five, I already understood that abusing women was normal. A female had little or no value except pleasing men whenever, wherever, and however they desired. Yet the thought of moving to the great country of America brought hope to my young, naïve heart.
But the move to America brought worse instead of better. Our little family settled in a major city in the Midwest, in the section of that city where violence, crime, prostitution and drug addiction was common. The surrounding culture brought more stress into our home. We had no money, few friends, and seemingly no opportunity for success. My parents’ alcoholism continued. No longer simply physical abused, I was now sexually abused by any man who wandered into our house.
My childhood and teen years were filled with atrocities. I lost all hope. I believed the lie that “I am only a woman; things can never change.” My value was reduced to two measures: my performance for pleasure-seeking men, and the welfare check that increased as my children increased. I became a lonely, miserable, and hopeless woman.
But renewed hope was born one summer day in 2002. On that day I began a lifelong journey of true womanhood as God intended.
The day began as any other, with abusive words that cut my heart, accusations decorated with curses, followed by blows. The physical attack left me cut and bleeding, black and blue, but the words were no less hurtful. The bruises would slowly disappear, but the hurts in my heart from ugly, hateful words never seemed to heal.
As I stumbled across the room, I saw my two little daughters watching with fear, as they listened and felt the hate gushing out of their daddy’s soul like water from a geyser. Their desperate cries, “Stop, daddy!” only fueled the evil fire in his heart.
Though only minutes, it seemed like hours before his anger was satisfied. With a few choice words and a slam of the door he was gone, joining his drug-addicted friends waiting outside. I could hear the laughter as the gang walked away. I knew he was telling of my stupidity and his victory. He always “won”; I was left belittled and ashamed.
I put my hand on the wall and slowly sank to the floor, my whimpering little girls beside me. I sat in the mess of broken alcohol bottles, dirty plates, and food scraps, wondering how I would survive. What future was there for my daughters? The cockroaches crawling along the cupboard seemed to have more value than we three female human beings.
I thought about the past. From childhood I had been entangled in the spider web of lies, sexual enticements, and foolish decisions. I had come to believe that a woman was only an instrument of pleasure in the hands of a man, just another toy. When the toy lost its intrigue, its value was lost, dignity stolen and purpose waned. My little girls wrapped their tiny arms around mine. Only their presence kept me from driving a knife into my aching heart.
In this dark, desperate moment, I cried out for help … and my feeble cry was heard. In the dark loneliness, God brought to my mind the kind face of my grandmother. Her gentle instruction and good night prayers flowed into my memory. “Honey, always remember God loves you. You are unique, made in His image to be a woman unto His purpose.” A glimmer of hope, a tiny trickle of expectation broke through the doom.
Questions raced like horses through my mind. “Could this God of love redeem my life from destruction? Was it too late? Is it possible to bring wholeness into my broken world? Could this pain heal? Could my daughters escape the shame that had gripped me?” I held them tightly. Hope began to grow in my heart. It seemed to fill the room. I began to relax. My girls saw the smile come over my face and began again to hope for the first time in months.
A few days later, I attended a women’s gathering. I had never experienced such a setting. I was hearing things that reminded me of my grandmother: “A woman is created in God’s image, created to celebrate her feminine virtues, not for shame. Her divine design purposed to complement the man rather than to be controlled.”
I drank in every word. My heart was being nourished. The Savior was giving me a new understanding of my life as a woman. Confidence and assurance began to well up within my soul. I stood straighter, smiled wider and hoped more deeply.
I knew there would be difficulties, and growth pains. I knew storms would come. But now I had an anchor. I had found hope for my life and that of my girls. I would learn how to fulfill my role as a woman, as a mother. I would teach my children with loving words. I would set an example. I would make my house, regardless of its external poverty, a home with the riches only found in womanhood.
I was set free to be who God created me to be: a woman.
Jacqi Gough serves as AMO International Director of Training, discipling others to implement the AMO Program in their ministry or school. Jacqi and her husband spent 12 years traveling in Europe training young people in drama and music. She earned her Master’s degree in education from Luther Rice University and has taught for 40 years at multiple levels. Jacqi has traveled throughout the world as a conference speaker and consultant for Christian schools. She has been married 39 years and lives with her husband in Alton, New Hampshire.
This post is the sixth in a series on maternal feminism.