Women of the West

Women of the West
Created by Dorothy Emerson and Christine Jaronski
Unitarian Universalist Women’s Heritage Society Worship Service
Unitarian Universalist General Assembly, June 28, 1999, Salt Lake City, Utah

Opening Words: Mary C. Ward Granniss Webster Billings (1824-1904)
God of Mercy! God of Love!
Thou enthroned all worlds above.
Bless us as we meet today,
While we sing and while we pray!
May Thy grace with us abide;
May our lives Thy wisdom guide;
And these hours of worship be
Helps to raise our souls to Thee!

God of Goodness! God of Grace!
Filling all creation’s space:
High above; yet near to all
Who in truth, upon Thee call;—
Be Thy gracious presence near;
Be Thy Holy Spirit here; May we each with heart and voice,
In Thy Truth and Love rejoice.
From “Fifty Years Ago in Texas”, Christian Leader, November 28, 1936

These words, written by the Rev. Mary C. Billings, were the opening hymn of the first Universalist Association gathering in Texas, held in September, 1886, in Meridian. Mary’s third husband was the first Texas State Missionary sent there to bring the good news of Universalism to Texas. A life-long Universalist born in Connecticut, Mary was well-known to Universalists through her contributions to Ladies’ Repository, Rose of Sharon, Lily of the Valley, and other denominational publications. She was licensed to preach in 1886 and ordained in 1892.

Chalice Lighting
We light our chalice today in honor of women of the West who, like Mary Billings, showed great courage in bringing the good news of Universalism and Unitarianism wherever their life paths led. We would do well to do likewise.
Please join in our chalice lighting words—the motto of the Unitarian Universalist Women’s Heritage Society—which you will find printed in your program:
The flame of our heritage lights the way to our future.

Opening Hymn: Ada Choate Burpee Bowles (1836-1928)
The words of our opening hymn were written by Ada Choate Burpee Bowles, Universalist minister who was born in Massachusetts, but came to California with her minister-husband to spread the good news of Universalism on the west coast. While in San Francisco, she edited a regular newspaper column on women’s suffrage and was president of the San Francisco Woman’s Suffrage Society.

This stirring hymn was first sung at the World Congress of Representative Women, held in Chicago in 1893. Let’s sing “Rise Up! Rise Up! 0 Woman.”

Moving Westward
Like Mary Billings and Ada Bowles, many women from the East moved West during the 19th century. After each of the stories of Unitarian and Universalist women of the West we will be sharing in this service, we invite you to join in the call and response you will find printed in your program. The leader will say: “By following her example,” and you will respond: we can fulfill our promise to help one another.

Mary Phelps Austin Holley (1784-1846)
Mary Phelps Austin Holley was born in Connecticut. After her minister- husband died at sea, she and her young son moved to Texas to be near her relatives, including her cousin, Stephen F. Austin, who was instrumental in founding the city that bears his name. In the early 1830s, she wrote a book, Texas: Observations Historical, Geographical and Descriptive, examining in detail all aspects of life in Texas, including social conditions, political and diplomatic issues, and the cultural milieu. This book was thought to have greatly encouraged settlers to move to Texas and is still considered one of the most reliable sources of information on Texas in that era.

One of her favorite places in Texas was Galveston Bay, on the Gulf of Mexico. There she found her faith renewed, despite the loss and turmoil of her life. In this poem, she shows us how connecting with nature can give us strength to overcome tragedy and find new meaning in life.
I love the, sea; I could embrace thee, and
My cares forget. In thy wide bosom there is
Room for miseries like mine. Alone
I should not be, for in thy depths is one,
To whom my faith was pledged. Oh, what a world
Of trials have been mine. What swells of anguish,
What billowy cares were left for me, widowed,
To buffet and to stem, since the blue waters
Closed on him so mourned, so loved…

What wealth is treasured in the sea! What loves
Within the mermaids’ coral caverns sleep!
What mysteries lie hid from mortal ken or aim!
Rapt thought, bewildered, lost, in mazy wanderings
‘Mongst the infinity of waters—peopled all,
And filled with untold wonders, soars above
To lighter elements; and, rushing through
Illimitable space, hung with night’s starry lamps— Guides to the mariner through trackless, devious ways:
Worlds upon worlds—seeks the creating and
Sustaining cause—The Hand Divine.
From the poem “Oh, how I love the sea”, The San Luis Advocate, March 2, 1841

Mary Austin Holley shows us how to turn tragedy into beauty, that faith will lead us on to find new ways to utilize our abilities and make something of our lives.
Leader: By following her example,
Response: We can fulfill our promise to help one another.

Georgiana Bruce Kirby (1818-1887
Georgiana Bruce Kirby, born in difficult circumstances in England, eventually found work in Boston, Massachusetts, educated herself, and became part of various reform movements fermenting there in the mid-l9th century. For three years she participated in the socialist utopian community of Brook Farm. There Margaret Fuller introduced her to Eliza Farnham, with whom Georgiana worked on prison reform. Later the two traveled west to share a 200-acre farm Eliza had inherited. Then both women married, and Georgiana’s life in Santa Cruz, California, continued in a more traditional fashion.

Pregnant with her first child, Georgiana began a journal in which she described the hardships she faced as a woman isolated on a farm, missing the daily interactions that so enriched her earlier life. In this segment, she acknowledged the importance of women’s friendships.
I am not sure that anything whatever could relieve or comfort me under my present very depressing condition of health, but if anything could it would be a congenial female companion with whom I could chat and be merry— sympathize and advise. The being alone all day from eight in the morning to seven at night ensures a too great seriousness. There is nothing to call out any other faculties of mind, fancy, imagination, affection, mirthfulness, nothing in fact to kindle or excite a worthy spirit life. . . . Every good woman needs a companion of her own sex, no matter how numerous or valuable her male acquaintances, no matter how close the union between herself and her husband; if she have a genial, loving nature, the want of a female friend is felt as a sad void.
From Georgiana: Feminist Reformer of the West, Santa Cruz County Historical Trust, 1987

Georgiana’s courage in facing the hardships of her life, her ongoing commitment to social reform, and her faith in the strength and support of women, led her to record her thoughts, so that her children and those who came after might know what life was like for women in the West.
Leader: By following her example,
Response: We can fulfill our promise to help one another.

Augusta Louise Pierce Tabor (1833-1895)
Augusta Louise Pierce Tabor, born in Maine, came west to Kansas Territory shortly after her marriage. Later, after she and her husband had made a fortune in the Colorado gold mines, he divorced her to marry a younger woman. Their story is retold in an American opera, “The Ballad of Baby Doe.” Augusta turned her personal tragedy to triumph by founding the Pioneer Ladies Aid Society, an organization that offered friendship and financial assistance to women who had accompanied their men into mining camps and were later left alone by death, desertion, or divorce.

Augusta’s name is contained on many pages of the files and records of the Unitarian Church in Denver. She was active on all kinds of committees. She freely offered her mansion for teas and festivals, and these always proved very popular and were effective money raisers One minister admitted that this particular group was the most earnest, the most devoted and the most self- sacrificing band of women he had ever known. Without their resolution and their persistent endeavors, the Unitarian Church might not have survived.

In an interview conducted in 1884, Augusta gave this picture of what it was like on the move westward:
What I endured on the plains only those that crossed in ‘59 know. There was no station until we got to within 80 miles of Denver—no road a good part of the way. I was weak and feeble, having nearly shaken myself to death with fever and ague in Kansas. .. . I had to cook for all our party and I did not find it a pleasure. Sometimes the wind would blow furiously and it is not very pleasant to cook over a camp fire in a wind storm when that fire is made of buffalo chips and every gust of wind would carry them over the barren prairie. By the time I would get them gathered together, another puff (and so on, lasting three or four days).
Every Sunday we rested, if rested it could be called. The men would go hunting, while I would cook, wash and iron, which kept me employed all day. My baby was teething and was sick all the way across, which with my other work, made it hard for me.
From Augusta Tabor: A Pioneering Woman, by Betty Moynihan, Cordillera Press, 1988

Augusta Tabor was a woman who survived. She survived the move westward, and she survived divorce. With the strength of her survival she helped other women and a Unitarian church survive as well.
Leader: By following her example,
Response: We can fulfill our promise to help one another.

An inevitable result of the move westward by European Americans was encroachment upon the homelands of indigenous people. Although some of our women clearly felt entitled to the lands they settled, others were aware of the injustice caused by the settlement of native lands by outsiders.

Helen Marie Fiske Hunt Jackson (1830-1855)
Helen Maria Fiske Hunt Jackson was one of those who recognized the injustice and used her power as a writer to raise consciousness about the destruction of native lands and culture. Born in Massachusetts, she was pushed her into writing as a career by the death of her husband and infant son and the support of several Unitarian ministers. She soon became a celebrity as a poet and journalist.

Because of chronic illness, she moved to Colorado in her late 30s. There she became outraged at the plight of indigenous people and published a document called A Century of Dishonor, which she had bound with blood-red covers and sent to government officials and members of Congress. Appointed to review the needs of the Mission Indians in California, she decided to utilize fiction to launch a crusade to help native people. Her novel, Ramona, about the tottering Spanish society and the Indians victimized by gringo usurpers, has gone through over three hundred editions. Three movies have been based on it; and in Hemet, California, there is an annual pageant to reenact it. Here is a selection from A Century of Dishonor:
There is not among these three hundred bands of Indians one which has not suffered cruelly at the hands either of the Government or of white settlers. These Indians found themselves of a sudden surrounded by and caught up in the great influx of gold-seeking settlers, as helpless creatures on a shore are caught up in a tidal wave.. . . The tale of the wrongs, the oppressions, the murders of the Pacific-slope Indians in the last thirty years would be a volume by itself, and is too monstrous to be believed.
It makes little difference, however, where one opens the record of the history of the Indians; every page and every year has its dark stain. The story of one tribe is the story of all, varied only by differences of time and place; but neither time nor place makes any difference in the main facts… . [T]he United States Government breaks its promises now as deftly as then, and with an added ingenuity from long practice.
From A Century of Dishonor, Harpers, 1881

Helen Hunt Jackson shows us how we can put the talents we have to use in the struggle for justice for all who are oppressed by the systems of society and government under which we live and benefit.
Leader: By following her example,
Response: We can fulfill our promise to help one another.

Sarah Pratt Carr (1850-1935)
Although Sarah Pratt Carr was born in Maine, her family moved to California when she was an infant and she spent the rest of her life in the West. Because of her father’s job building railroads, Sarah grew up in a number of different frontier settlements and saw first-hand the treatment of Chinese workers and the conflicts between settlers and Indians. Under the guidance of the Oakland minister, the Rev. Charles Wendte, Sarah prepared for Unitarian ministry and was ordained. She organized and served churches in the San Joaquin Valley, spreading the good news of Unitarianism to newly developing communities. Later, after she moved to Seattle, she wrote the libretto for an opera for which her daughter, Mary Carr Moore, composed the music. Narcissa, or The Cost of Empire told the story of the conquest of the West, with equal sympathy for the missionaries, immigrant settlers, and indigenous people caught in the terrible clash of cultures.
In a poem entitled “Heritage,” Sarah affirmed the importance of the past as a source for our unfolding lives.
• . . within your soul
Lie sleeping, all unguess’d
The secrets of the past,
Dim visions half confess’d
Of other lives and other hearts
That died to live anew,
The sum of all that’s been,
The Past’s bequest to you.
The life of future years
From all the past unfolds.
Each day from deep within
New truths the soul beholds.
And there’s no bound’ry set
To cage your fiery soul;
God’s kingdom is your field,
Perfection is your goal.
From the poem “Heritage”, Pacific Unitarian, May 1894

Sarah Pratt Carr put her Unitarian principles into action by sharing her faith with others by founding new congregations and by examining the complexities of acting justly in a changing world. Throughout her life she recognized that we are our brother’s and sister’s keepers, that our lives are inextricably bound together.
Leader: By following her example,
Response: We can fulfill our promise to help one another.

Like Sarah Pratt Carr, Mary Billings, and Ada Bowles, women ministers found opportunities in the West that were lacking in the more established churches of the East.

Florence Ellen Kollock Crooker (1848-1925)
Florence Ellen Kollock Crooker was born in a log house in Wisconsin and grew up reading Universalist journals and discussing them with her father. Upon the advice of Mary Livermore, she attended St. Lawrence University and was ordained in 1877. She served a variety of congregations all over the country for over 40 years in what we would now call extension ministry. Her expertise in reviving churches and helping them to develop strong leadership led to her call to Throop Church in Pasadena, California, where she got the church out of debt and made it a self-sustaining organization. The financial secretary stated: “She, a woman, showed our prosperous businessmen how to do church business successfully.”

As President of the Women’s Ministerial Conference, she was often asked to explain why women should be ministers. Here is one response she gave in a newspaper article.
The question is sometimes asked: “Why should there be women ministers?”
The answer is plain: “For the same good reasons that there is a male ministry.”
To the mother, sister and daughter she carries with her a peculiar favor and irresistible influence of the authority of a high priestess, and through this she leads and guides, she comforts and consoles, and thus the community and individual comes to realize “Why a woman minister.”
Is their ministry acceptable?
The reply to this is geographical. Acceptable, yes, from the Mississippi Valley West to the Pacific coast.
Let New England speak for herself.
From an article “Why Women Ministers?”, Sunday Post, January 11, 1914

Florence Kollock Crooker refused to believe that there was anything women couldn’t do, once the barriers were removed. She worked throughout her life to pave the way for women to follow their true callings.
Leader: By following her example,
Response: We can fulfill our promise to help one another.

Mila Frances Tupper Maynard (1864-1926)
Mila Frances Tupper Maynard, born in Iowa, was nurtured and fostered in her ministry by her sister, the Rev. Eliza Tupper Wilkes, who was first ordained as a Universalist and then became a Unitarian. Mila served congregations in Indiana and Michigan, where she met her future husband, who apparently left a troubled marriage to follow her and become ordained himself. Together they served churches in Nevada and Utah. During their ministry in Salt Lake City, the First Unitarian Church grew to over 350 members,

Much of Mila’s later career was devoted to writing and lecturing in behalf of social and economic justice. She eventually became part of the Christian Socialist movement. Here is what she had to say about family values:
The family is the great object lesson whereby is revealed the divine truth that we are all brothers and sisters in a common family. The day is dawning when men will awaken to what this means as never before. .. . It is woman’s privilege to help mightily in bringing the world to feel this.
From an article in Transactions, 1891, National Council of Women of the United States

Did I say that the most important thing … was to care for child development? It was a mistake. The most important thing is to work for better conditions for labor so that all may have a chance to be human and rear the human child tenderly and wisely.
From an article in California Social Democrat, May 17, 1913

Mila Tupper Maynard was relentless in her pursuit of truth and justice. In her ministry and through her writing and teaching, she touched the lives of many and did her part to make a better world.
Leader: By following her example,
Response: We can fulfill our promise to help one another.

An underlying theme in all of these women’s lives and work was the struggle for the advancement of women. Essential to that struggle was the movement to gain the right for women to vote and the development of excellence in higher education for women.

SONG—”I’m Going to Vote, John,” by Mary Can Moore (1873-1957)
Mary Louise Carr Moore, daughter of Unitarian minister Sarah Pratt Carr, became a major composer of her time. Early in her career she added her musical talents to the suffrage cause by composing a group of six songs in support of the 1896 campaign for a suffrage amendment to the state constitution in California. Only one of them survives, and we’ve adapted it for group singing.

Aurelia Isabel Henry Reinhardt (1877-1948)
Aurelia Isabel Henry Reinhardt, a native Californian, was invited to become president of Mills College when it was in a very shaky condition and no better- known educator would have taken the risk. Through nearly 30 years of leadership, she built the school into a women’s liberal arts college for women with a worldwide reputation. She was also a lay preacher at the Unitarian Church in Oakland and served on the first Commission on Appraisal, helping to heal a major denominational split with her essay on worship. She lectured and wrote extensively on education for women and on peace, suffrage, and other issues of the day. Here is a sampling of her thoughts on women and on education and religion.
Yesterday’s woman was expected to have individual interests, caring for the brightness of the hearth fire and the comforts of the family group. Today she has inherited the community and the community’s welfare. .. . Civics, religion and education have become her field of activity. She is homemaker and citizen.
Mjlls Quarterly, 1917
Religion and education meet in their responsibility to make possible the abundant life—the terms are intellectual and spiritual, rather than material. Humane living is assured only to those. . . who have disciplined themselves to choose and who have the ardor to strive for the excellent “with heart and soul and mind.”
Address at Ohio State University, 1940

Aurelia Henry Reinhardt took advantage of an opportunity that was offered to her and proved to be more successful than anyone could have expected. Her leadership in women’s education and in the Unitarian movement helped those who knew her and beyond. May we remember her willingness to risk the next time an opportunity comes our way.
Leader: By following her example,
Response: We can fulfill our promise to help one another.

Women of the West encountered nature in more direct ways than did many of those who lived in long-established communities. Perhaps it is this interdependence with nature that has led some of our more contemporary western women to their deep relationships and concern for the natural environment and for the fate of the earth.

Eleanor Silver Dowding Keeping (1903-1991)
Eleanor Silver Dowding Keeping, known as Silver, was born in England and came to Western Canada at the age of six. Although partially deaf from the age of 12, she managed to earn a Master of Science degree in botany and become an instructor and lecturer in that subject at the University of Alberta, one of the first women to teach in a field other than home economics or nursing. On an expedition to study the ecology of Alberta, she became fascinated with fungus and went on later to complete her PhD in mycology. For 20 years she investigated medically important fungi and worked to interest physicians and public health workers in the importance of medical mycology.

Silver and her husband were founding members of the Unitarian Church in Edmonton. For many years, bits of prose and poetry appeared in the church newsletter under the title “Silverisms.” Here is a sample of her writing, from a piece called “A Creed for Agnostics”:
Instead of considering the communication of nuclear material between microorganisms, let us now consider the communication of words between one brain and another, or of thought within a single brain.

I have always felt that brains were meant to be picked. If one of you should cry, “That woman stole my words! There are laws of copyright against that sort of thing! I will sue!” I could reply, “And where did you get those words in the first place?” Through communication, each of us becomes enriched. No one loses, we all gain. We can no longer say, “I am not my brother’s keeper.’

I am my brother and my sister. I am part of all that I have met. Communication is the tie that binds. Since we are all in this thing together, it is not necessary for any of us to feel lonely or afraid.
From Silverisms: Selected Writings of F. Silver Keeping, published by the Unitarian Church of Edmonton, 1991

Silver Keeping integrated her scientific knowledge and her Unitarian faith in ways that enriched all those who knew her. She understood deeply the connections among diverse strands of the web of life.
Leader: By following her example,
Response: We can fulfill our promise to help one another.

Billie Rose King Wright (1922-1987)
Billie Rose King Wright, born in Mississippi, was ordained in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1971. She and her minister-husband went as a research team for the National Endowment for the Humanities, to study value formation among indigenous people one hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle. They fell in love with wilderness living and returned to their 12 by 12 foot cabin on a mountain lake again and again over the next two decades. They also established a wilderness retreat in the Sierra Ancha Mountains in Arizona. In her journal of their first year in the Alaskan wilderness, Billie writes:
[The values of the inland Eskimos] were indecipherable viewed from a non-native perspective. These elusive values were most striking in that special relationship to the environment which is the basis of the Eskimo’s rare and remarkable selfhood.
We became keenly aware of this relationship, sensing its life-sustaining importance in the Nunamiut hierarchy of values. But we knew, too, the difficulty of translating, without loss or distortion, concepts which are so lacking in our own technologized culture…..
Many have written of the importance of the wild—Thoreau, Muir, Leopold, Marshall, the Indian and Eskimo poets and storytellers. If in sharing this very personal inner-outer world of mine with you I have communicated the urgent necessity to cherish and protect this last remnant of what is and always has been the best of our planet, then it will have been worth the uneasiness I feel in agreeing to publish my journals. My concern is that in writing, lovingly, caringly, of wilderness I may be doing the wilderness, and perhaps you, a great disservice.
From Four Seasons North: A Journal of Life in the Alaskan Wilderness, (1973; Sierra Club edition, 1991)

Billie Wright’s personal journey of self-reliance and inner harmony led her to the wilderness of Alaska and Arizona. There she came to know intimately and to trust implicitly the teachings of the land and the natural world. May we have the courage to encounter the wilderness of our lives and to learn the lessons nature has to teach us.
Leader: By following her example,
Response: We can fulfill our promise to help one another.

SONG—Malvina Reynolds (1900-1978)
Our closing song is by Malvina Reynolds, one of the most outspoken songwriters on the crucial topics of the 1960s and 70s. A native Californian, Malvina turned to songwriting after earning a PhD in English Literature and having a full career as a mother and newspaperwoman. Active in the Berkeley Unitarian Fellowship, she was at first too shy to perform her own songs and gave them to fellow Unitarian Pete Seeger and others to sing.

Finally, in her 60s, she began to perform publicly, explaining that her cracked and crotchety voice was to be expected—”with all the fallout in the atmosphere.” This song was originally about nuclear fallout, but it applies as well to acid rain. As we face the crucial environmental Issues of today, we would do well to consider:
“What Have They Done to the Rain?”

CLOSING WORDS—Mary C. Billings
We hope these stories and words of Women of the West will provide nourishment and inspiration for all our lives. We, too, have stories to live, words to share, lives to complete.

We end this service where we began, with the words of the closing hymn Mary Billings wrote for the first gathering of the Universalist Association in Texas:
While again Thy name addressing:
Spirit* now to Thee we pray,
Give us all a parting blessing,
That shall help us on life’s way.
Guide us ever
May we never
From Thy righteous precepts stray.

Thanks, 0 God! to Thee we render,
For Thy never failing care;
For Thy constant love, so tender;
For Thy grace that all may share.
And may gladness
Banish sadness
Fill our hearts with praise and prayer.
From “Fifty Years Ago in Texas”, Christian Leader, November 28, 1936
*Original says “Father!”

And now, as we extinguish this chalice, this symbol of the promise we share as Unitarian Universalists, may its light go with us to illuminate our journeys. May the flame of our heritage light the way through whatever present challenges we face to the future fulfillment of our dreams. Amen. Blessed Be.


This service was created by Dorothy Emerson and Christine Jaronski, and edited by Donna Clifford. Resources were provided by David Johnson, the Unitarian Church of Edmonton, the Boston Athenaeum, the Unitarian Universalist Collection at Andover-Harvard Library, and the library of the Unitarian Universalist Women’s Heritage Society.

The song, “I’m Going to Vote, John,” is available in a collection of songs by Mary Carr Moore. Cost is $27.50, plus $6.75 postage.
Order from Hildegard Publishing Company
Box 332, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
Phone: 610-649–8649

womenwest1 What have they done to the rain sheet music