Inspiration from the Past

Inspiration from the Past

May Memorial Unitarian Universalist Society in Syracuse, New York, May 29, 1994

Characters needed:

Katie – young teen

Abigail Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, Julia Ward Howe, Clara Barton, Elizabeth Blackwell, Beatrix Potter,

Scene opens with the characters sitting in a quilting circle working and talking. Off to the side Katie lies on her bed writing in her diary.

Katie: Dear Diary, today in school I wore pants for the first time and boys were teasing me. I didn’t think it was fair. I wish I was a boy. In science class Mr. Smith made me and all the girls leave the room while he and the boys dissected a frog because he thought we would be grossed out. But I would not be. I thought it would be interesting.

(stretch and look out the window) It looks like a storm is coming. (lie down on the bed to go to sleep)

Women: It looks like she needs our help. Why don’t we go try to help her? (One by one they go to talk to Katie in her room, as noted by the parts below.)

Abigail Adams: Hello, I’m Abigail Adams. Oh, Katie, I understand your frustration with your science teacher. Learning about animals is a part of your education. He had no right to be sexist and make you and the rest of the girls leave the room. I was a supporter of education for women as well as being a Unitarian Universalist. I grew up in a lively intelligent family in New England. You are lucky. In my time girls didn’t attend school because we were supposed to learn how to cook, sew and take care of children. Luckily my father, a New England Minister, believed in education for girls too and he taught me reading, writing and to read in French and English. It was this upbringing at home that later led me to believe in education for all, including women and girls. My husband, John Adams, the second President of the United States, believed as I did, that every child should be educated. While he was in office I urged him to pass equal rights laws for women and slaves. The stories you have learned about me came from letters I wrote to my husband. Because they were preserved, children learn about my concern for education. Remember me, Katie, and remember this: Never let anyone stand in the way of your learning.

Katie: She’s like a past Hillary Clinton!

Susan B. Anthony: Hello, I am Susan B. Anthony.

Katie: Yeah right, and I’m Queen Elizabeth!!

Susan: Well, I am, and don’t be impertinent.

Katie: Well then, where did you come from?

Susan: I have come to help you fight this struggle.

Katie: How did you know about that?

Susan: I know more about you than you know about yourself.

Katie: Like what!? (challenging)

Susan: Like your history. I am going to tell you about my life. When I was growing up girls were allowed to go to school but they were not allowed to learn the same things as the boys. My teacher wouldn’t let me learn long-division. So I went home and complained to my father and he pulled all of my brothers and sisters out of school and sent for a tutor to come and teach us EVERYTHING. If I had been born a few years earlier I wouldn’t have been able to go to high school. I went to Deborah Moulson’s Female Seminary. When my father went bankrupt we had to sell our house, our furniture, and many of our clothes so we would have enough to eat. But we still needed money so I began to teach school. I was paid $2.50 a week, but if I had been a man I would have been paid $10.00 a week for the same amount of time. That is one of the reasons I started speaking out for women’s rights. In some places where I went to speak people threw rotten eggs at me. I joined the Unitarian Church in Rochester, New York and was a member for 50 years because of their support of my work and my beliefs. It wasn’t really expected to have women be able to vote, and it didn’t happen until after I was dead. Well, now I have to get back to my quilting. Good bye.

Katie: She sure speaks up for herself and is sure of what she wants!

Lucy Stone: Hello, Katie. Don’t ever want to be someone you aren’t. I did not, and here are things I accomplished in my life. My name is Lucy Stone. I was born on a farm outside of West Brookfield, Massachusetts on August 13, 1818 as a Unitarian. When I was 16 I began to teach school. I got a dollar a week and I was impressed because my salary was almost as much as a man’s. When I was 25 I began college at Oberlin College in Ohio. In 1847 I was the first Massachusetts woman to get a college degree. I was an abolitionist leader and I lectured for the American Anti-Slavery Society. But I ran into trouble wanting so speak for women’s rights also. So I decided to speak for women’s rights on weekdays and anti-slavery on weekends. In 1869 I founded a newspaper and created my own journal called Women’s Journal, which lasted 47 years. Mary Livermore was an Editor for 2 years and then Henry Blackwell worked with me after 1893. In 1875 I married Henry, and you know what I did? I kept my own name, Lucy Stone. At my request, I was cremated, the first woman cremated in New England.

Katie: She made her own decisions, even how her body would be handled after she died.

Julia Ward Howe: Hello, I’m Julia Ward Howe. I was the founder of Mother’s Day and I wrote “The Battle Hymn Of the Republic,” which the soldiers sang in the Civil War. It was first published in 1862, but it did not become popular until 1864 when it became the song of the war. If people are teasing on you because you feel differently about some things or because you are Unitarian instead of some other religion, you shouldn’t take it. When I wrote my song many people teased me about it. Lots of people in my time felt that women should just stay home and cook, clean, sew and take care of children. I felt that women should be able to have an education and do what they wished. So my advise to you is simply to ignore the teasing and do what you think is best. Farewell.

Katie: Too bad she was teased like I was in school the other day.

Clara Barton: Don’t feel sorry for yourself, Katie, just because you are a girl. My name is Clara Barton. I was born on Christmas Day and was raised a Universalist. I had four older siblings and they taught me sewing, reading, writing and arithmetic. At 17 I started teaching and soon became the Principal of my own free school. I lived during the Civil War and when I heard that wounded and dying men were left on the battlefield with no food or medication, I immediately took action. I opened my own warehouse, trained my own nurses, and soon became known as the Angel of The Battlefield. I brought food and medical attention to all those soldiers who had been wounded during the war. After the war I went back to teaching and many people frowned upon me in my time because women weren’t supposed to teach. I founded the American Red Cross as a result of my work.

Katie: What would we be without our nurses?! They are so caring.

Elizabeth Blackwell: Hello, my name is Elizabeth Blackwell. I was the first woman to become a medical doctor. I was born in 1821. I grew up in a caring, happy family. I knew early on that I wanted to be a doctor. As soon as I was old enough, I started applying to medical schools. I was turned down by school after school to which I applied. Only my love and great excitement for my work kept me going trying to find a college that would accept me. Finally I was accepted by Geneva Medical college in Central New York. Little did I know I was accepted as a joke. When I graduated I worked at the Philadelphia Hospital. There I discovered the importance of hygiene in medicine. I, after studying further, founded the New York Infirmary for Women and Children. I was joined there by my sister, Dr. Emily Blackwell. I later founded a medical college for women so they could finally have a good education in the field of medicine.

Katie: Maybe someday I’ll become a doctor!

Beatrix Potter: Hello, My name is Beatrix Potter. I was a very lonely little girl and my imagination became my best friend. I used to watch the animals in my yard as they played among themselves. I began to name them and make them my friends. You will probably recognize them as Squirrel Nutkin, Jenny Wren, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle the hedgehog and my rabbit friends, Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-Tail and Peter. I wrote stories about them that were found by a publisher in 1902. He liked them very much and published them so that you can read them today. Children must like them because in 85 years over 20 million copies of Peter Rabbit alone have been sold. I married very late in life and never wrote again. Maybe it was because I was happy in my real life and didn’t need the imaginary world any more. I hope you can be happy in your real life and still have the gift of imagination. People say I was a British Unitarian who gave the gift of imagination to children of the world. What do you think you will give to the world?

Katie: Boy, Cottontail was one of my favorite books.

Fanny Farmer: Hello, my name is Fanny Farmer. I was born on March 23, 1857. When I was 8 years old one thing puzzled me: Our family cook’s food always came out sweeter or saltier than my mother’s food. I noticed that Cook had very big, plump hands and Mother, in contrast, had very small, fine hands. This made Cook’s pinches, dollops, and handfuls bigger that Mother’s. I remembered this and when I grew up I made standard measures like teaspoons, tablespoons and cups. But it was a rocky road to adulthood. When I was 17 I suffered an attack of paralysis, probably Polio, which kept me from attending college as I had planned. Fortunately, when I was 28 my health improved sufficiently and I was able to enroll in the Boston School of Cooking. After my graduation in 1889 I was appointed assistant to the Principal whom I succeeded in 1891. I wrote six cookbooks. Three of them are, The Boston School of Cooking Cookbook, Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescing, and A New Book of Cookery. I also taught nutrition at Harvard Medical School and wrote a monthly magazine column.

Katie: Gee, I wish I could have some of that candy now!

Malvina Reynolds: Hello, My name is Malvina Reynolds and I was born in San Francisco in 1900. No one would offer me a job after I studied at the University of California and finished a doctoral program in Education. I think the reasons were that I was a woman, a Jew, and I spoke up for what I believed in. I did not believe it was better to keep quiet like other people did. Later, though, I did get jobs as a Social Worker, Newspaper Editor and a steel worker. I became a Unitarian in 1947. I began writing songs about injustice and warnings about war, pollution and discrimination. I gave concerts in churches. I understood teen-agers, children and adults. They all seemed to love me and my music. I died in 1977 at the age of 77. My songs are still here for you to learn and to enjoy.

Katie: I always liked that Penny song.

(The women each return to Katie and give her something to remember their messages with.)

Abigail Adams: Remember me, Abigail Adams, and how I worked for education for you and all girls. If they won’t teach you science in school, tell your parents, maybe they can help. And if you like to learn about animals, maybe these frogs will help. (give her a jar of frogs)

Susan B. Anthony: Katie, always remember to vote because you see, women have rights too! (Give her a VOTE sign)

Lucy Stone: Here is my first edition of the Woman’s Journal. I am giving it to you because when you look at it you can think about me and how I began a newspaper for women so they could say what they felt without worrying if any men would read it. Remember you can believe anything and write it down in that Diary of yours.

Julia Ward Howe: I hope that when you look at this song that I wrote you’ll remember me. Always remember your song, and do what you think is right. (give her a song book)

Clara Barton: Here, Katie, have my nurses hat. It represents hope like I had for all those wounded soldiers.

Elizabeth Blackwell: Here is a stethoscope to help you remember to stick to your dreams. You can be whatever you want to be.

Beatrix Potter: Here’s a book from me. When you look at it use your imagination and your dreams will surely come true.

Fanny Farmer: Here’s this measuring cup. When you look at it remember you can change what needs changing.

Malvina Reynolds: Here are some pennies because you like the Penny song so much.

(Katie wakes up and stretches.)

Katie:Boy what a night! I don’t know what happened, but somehow I feel stronger.


Authors of this worship service are third through sixth graders: Nana Hosmer, Linden Kimmerer, Sharon Mack, Jodie Miller, Jessie Olson, Alison Riede, Catherine Riede, Jerry Rosenberg, Laura Ryfun, Megan Wobus. Teachers who guided them are: Pam June, Suzanne Marlowe Cremedas, Lenore Holte and Peggy Ryfun. All are members of or attend May Memorial Unitarian Universalist Society in Syracuse, New York


Faces and Phases of Women (ISBN 0-9610622-0-7) 1983

National Women’s Hall of Fame

Edited by Carol N. Stallone, 76 Fall Street, Seneca Falls, NY 13148

The Universalist Story 1992

Betty Wilder

Worship Arts Clearing House, Division of Education and Social Concern, Department of Ministerial and Congregational Services, UUA, 25 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108

Unitarian Universalist Heritage

The Rev. Paul L’Herrou, author and compiler

Pacific Southwest District of the UUA, 1978-79

The series

A Stream of Living Souls I, A Stream of Living Souls II, Living in The Wind. 1986, 1987, 1989 by The Rev. Denise Tracy, Delphi Resources, Oak Park, IL