Any great movement for change begins at the margins and only later gains momentum in the centre of things. When adopted by others, it can change its shape in some different directions. Yet it then begins to become accepted in the mainstream…
Louise Creighton (1850-1936) was a striking example of women who were initially resistant to aspects of first-wave feminism but gradually came to take a lead. Wife of Mandell Creighton, Bishop of Peterbourgh (1891-1896) and London (1896-1901), as the ‘leading woman in the the Church of England during the first two decades of the twentieth century’ (according to Brian Heeney), her conversion to women’s suffrage was a watershed moment.
Louise’s work for the women’s movement was prodigious, both in the Church and beyond. A regular speaker at Church Congresses and women’s meetings at the Pan-Anglican Congress and missionary gatherings, she was actively involved in the Mothers Union, Girls Friendly Society and other less instinctively radical women’s groups. The only female member of the Joint Committee of the Insurance Commissioners appointed in 1912, she was also three times President of the National Council of Women Workers.
Louise Creighton’s feminism grew out of Victorian piety rather than liberalism. With many women of her era, she demanded not so much ‘rights’ as ‘liberty to serve’. For her, the whole women’s cause was a movement ‘from the lower to the higher plane’ (speech to the great Albert Hall suffrage demonstration in 1914). As such, she touched the hearts of many more conservative women and brought them on-board in what now became irresistible change.
God of many faces,
We give thanks for Louise Creighton,
and for all who have changed their minds
and enabled new life to come into being.
Give us and all your people
open hearts and the strength of our convictions,
that we too may continue to discern your will
and exercise our liberty to serve.
In the name of the One who came to serve us all, Amen.