Today (1st March 2014) is an historic day in the Anglican Church of Australia as the Revd Dr Sarah McNeil is consecrated as the 11th Bishop of Grafton in New South Wales, the first ever female diocesan bishop in Australia. This joyful occasion is also accompanied this year by celebrations of two decades of female ordination in the Church of England, whilst new steps in female leadership are also being taken in churches of many denominations across the world. There are also continued advances (albeit slow and mixed) in women’s status more widely throughout the world. It is good therefore to remember those who have gone before and, in the words of the first wave feminist Olive Schreiner, ‘made a track to the water’s edge’. This enables us to place these advances in historical perspective: not as a wholly new thing but as part of a long journey. It helps us recognise our debt to those who came before us and strengthens us for the continued journey. For as Ada Nield Chew, a great first-wave working-class English feminist, once said of the struggle for women’s emancipation ”tis a long row to hoe’.
This blog has been created to help mark the occasion of the historic Grafton consecration, and for the 20th anniversary of the first female priestly ordinations in England (on 12 March). It will seek to include a daily post each day of Lent (beginning on 5 March), focusing on one (or possibly more) different first wave Christian feminist(s), exploring the issues faced then and their contemporary challenge today, together with prayers for each day and its theme. Other posts will explore aspects of Christian feminism, from its origins and first-wave character to later and contemporary features.