Monday, April 7, 2014

Rev. Anna Howard Shaw, M.D.: a feminist pioneer in the interfaith movement.

When the Rev. Anna Howard Shaw, M.D., preached in May 1893 at an event held during the Chicago World’s Fair, she broke new ground. She did not participate in the first World’s Parliament of Religions held four months later, but her powerful sermon anticipated the Parliament’s inclusive, multi-faith outreach. In retrospect, it might be said that Shaw set the stage for the Parliament. At a time when it was considered improper if not scandalous for women to speak in public, she and the many women who addressed overflow audiences in May at the World’s Congress of Representative Women courageously challenged cultural norms. It is a story that’s been forgotten or ignored, and suggests that Shaw be celebrated as a feminist pioneer in the interfaith movement.

Anna Howard Shaw was an impressive woman – the first ordained female in the Methodist Church in the United States. Born in 1847, she graduated in 1873 from Albion College, then attended the Boston University School of Theology, where she was graduated in 1876, the only woman in her class. To pay her expenses through college and university, she preached and lectured in the cause of women’s suffrage. After serving two Methodist churches in Massachusetts, Shaw made history in 1880 when she was ordained by the Methodist Protestant Church. She earned an M.D. in 1886 from Boston University. Shaw met Susan B. Anthony in 1888 and, from that year until Anthony’s death in 1906, the two were rarely separated. At the request of “Aunt Susan,” Shaw delivered the closing address at her funeral and pronounced the final words at her Rochester grave. Rev. Shaw died at age 72 in July 1919, not living to see women win the right to vote the following summer.

Read the rest on The Interfaith Observer

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