December 17: William Llyod Garrison and Maria Stewart, Prophetic Witnesses, 1879

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

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About this commemoration

William Lloyd Garrison was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, in
1805. His father, a sailor, had abandoned the family when he was five
years old. His experience of poverty at a young age awakened in him
a religious zeal for justice and a hatred for slavery. After working on a
Quaker periodical in Baltimore, Garrison returned to Boston and, with
the help of the black community, started his own antislavery paper,
The Liberator.

His proclamation of purpose in the first issue became famous around
the country: “On [the subject of slavery] I do not wish to think, or
speak, or write, with moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is
on fire to give a moderate alarm … but urge me not to use moderation
in a cause like the present.”

The Liberator came to be the dominant voice in the abolitionist movement demanding immediate emancipation without compensation to slave owners. Garrison invoked the ire and rage of people all over the country, particularly in slaveholding states. In 1835 an angry mob attacked Garrison who was jailed for his own safety.

In what was a radical policy for the time, Garrison opened up his columns to black and female writers. Among those to respond to his call was Maria W. Stewart, a freeborn African-American woman who showed up at his office in 1831 with several essays that were published in The Liberator.

Born in Hartford, Connecticut, Stewart was orphaned at the age of five and grew up in the home of a white minister. She married James W. Stewart, a successful shipping outfitter, but was widowed just three years later. Soon after she experienced a religious conversion and responded with her vigorous antislavery advocacy. Her efforts called
upon African Americans in the south to rise up against slavery and for northern blacks to resist racial restrictions. When her speaking career ended after three years, she became a schoolteacher and then Head Matron of Freedom’s Hospital in Washington D.C., which was later to become Howard University.

Collects

I God, in whose service alone is perfect freedom: We offer
thanks for thy prophets William Lloyd Garrison and Maria
Stewart, who testified that we are made not by the color
of our skin but by the principle formed in our soul. Fill us,
like them, with the hope and determination to break every
chain of enslavement, that bondage and ignorance may melt
like wax before flames, and we may build that community
of justice and love which is founded on Jesus Christ our
cornerstone; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and
reigneth, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

II God, in whose service alone is perfect freedom: We thank
you for your prophets William Lloyd Garrison and Maria
Stewart, who testified that we are made not by the color
of our skin but by the principle formed in our soul. Fill
us, like them, with the hope and determination to break
every chain of enslavement, that bondage and ignorance
may melt like wax before flames, and we may build that
community of justice and love which is founded on Jesus
Christ our cornerstone; who with you and the Holy Spirit
lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Lessons

Wisdom 10:9–14

1 John 2:28–3:3

Mark 5:25–34

Psalm

82

Preface of God the Son

Text from Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

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We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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15 Responses to December 17: William Llyod Garrison and Maria Stewart, Prophetic Witnesses, 1879

  1. Philip Wainwright says:

    The bio suggests that it was his childhood poverty rather than his faith that led Garrison to his abolitionism—‘religious zeal’ sounds more metaphorical than actual. His entry in the American National Biography does better: ‘Key to this doctrine [ie immedite emancipation] was the recognition that enslavement was an abomination in God’s sight demanding immediate repentance on the part of the enslaver, opposition to slavery by all right-thinking Christians, and immediate liberation of all those held captive.’ Something along those lines, especially if they can be his own words, is called for.

    In the collect, ‘made… by the principle formed in our soul’ seems too vague to be useful.

    • Philip Wainwright says:

      Garrison was also part of Prudence Crandall’s bio on September 3rd. Might make better sense to combine his commemoration with hers.

  2. Michael Hartney says:

    Title. Both Garrison and Stewart died in 1879, or is one date missing?

    Collect. This collect reads and prays very well.

    Hebrew reading: Should this be titled the ‘Wisdom of Solomon’?
    Gospel: Is this the right Gospel for them? The woman with a hemorrhage?

    Bio. They both need ‘who are they’ and ‘why are they important’ statements. And, they need ‘He/She died in …’ statements.
    5th paragraph: Stewart was born in what year? African Americans is used in this bio without a hyphen. This is not consistent with other bios? Should the ‘s’ in South be capitalized in this usage? i.e.: ‘Her efforts called upon African Americans in the South to rise up …’

  3. Cynthia Gilliatt says:

    In first paragraph,” His father, a sailor, had abandoned his family when he was five years old” needs recasting.

    The logic of it as written means the father abandoned them when he, the father, was five years old.

    Change to “His father, a sailor, abandoned the family when Garrison was five years old.”

  4. Cynthia Gilliatt says:

    I agree with Michael that “the South” should not be capitoized, any more then “the West.” Living as I do in the Shenadoah Valley of Virginia [born in St. Louis, thank you], I read in the local paper’s letters to the editor many iterations of ‘the come-heres don’t understand about the South,'”as if it were indeed a sovreign nation.

    I would like to see more detail about both persons’ religious faith and/or affiliation. Garrison worked for a Quaker periodical, and Steward is said to have had a religious conversion. Is there any more substance to be added here?

    • Michael Hartney says:

      Actually Cynthia I was arguing that the South be capitalized. 😦 And I know all of the reasons you cite. But as a one time student of The University of the South – born in Massachusetts of Yankee parents – I still think that in this usage that South should be capitalized.

  5. John LaVoe says:

    THE COLLECT:
    .
    II “God, in whose service alone is perfect freedom: We thank you for your prophets William Lloyd Garrison and Maria Stewart,…” (So far so good.)
    .
    “…who testified that we are made not by the color of our skin but by the principle formed in our soul.”
    (What principle would that be, humanitarianism, equanimity, meliorism, utilitarianism, enlightened self interest? Tell me when we get to the part about God, or Christ, or the baptismal covenant, or the gospel, or something essentially Christian. I think this is so vague and open ended as to be worthless as part of this collect. )
    (Secondly, the phrase, “we are made” (with no object) is ambiguous to the nth degree – made WHAT? Made human, made moral, made Christian, made better, made more civilized, made more principled, made WHAT? “Made” (all by itself) just amounts to an admission that we don’t know a good word to use here instead.)
    .
    “… Fill us, like them, with the hope and determination to break every chain of enslavement,… (This part is admirable.)
    .
    “… that bondage and ignorance may melt like wax before flames,…”
    (I believe in miracles and I admire poetry, but as an “in order that” clause, this bit of hyperbole doesn’t seem to envision anything real. Instead it’s like closing our eyes, wrinkling our nose, and telling God, “make it go away.” It’s an exercise in pure passivity for those praying (instead of shared responsibility with God), and a contradiction to the preceding clause.)
    .
    “… and we may build that community of justice and love which is founded on Jesus Christ our cornerstone; …”
    (If this isn’t the blueprint of the hubris assumed in Babel’s tower: “let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven.” Evil isn’t that simple to eradicate, and while Christian faith gives us a foretaste of post-resurrection perfection, it isn’t a one-sided human project simply “founded” on Jesus Christ but engineered by “Humanity, Inc.” that makes sinful recalcitrance go away on cue. This clause expresses the self-deluded naiveté of pre World War I idealism.
    .
    “who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”
    (The collect needs some work.)
    .
    Suggestion: (add words in square brackets [ ], omit those in angle brackets .)
    .
    “… Fill us, like them, with the hope and determination to break every chain of enslavement,…
    “… that [with the leading of your Holy Spirit] [your people may overcome] bondage and ignorance
    “… and [help you in] build[ing] that community of justice and love which is [made possible only through the merits of] Jesus Christ our [redeemer] ; …”

    • John LaVoe says:

      The “suggestion” (above) can be read as it is printed. The angle brackets didn’t come out. Fortunately, neither did the words IN the angle brackets. The omissions are, — well — omitted. (Who wudda thunk it?)

  6. Michael Hartney says:

    Odd, isn’t it that none of noticed the mispelling of Lloyd’s first name in the title of the bio replicated above.

  7. Joan R. Gundersen says:

    The material on Maria Stewart is very disappointing. Maria is known not only for her statements on race, but her public speaking on women’s rights BEFORE the Seneca Fall Convention was even a glimmer in white feminist’s eyes. You have made her a subordinate follower of Garrison. Her speaking career began before she met Garrison and she published her works again in a separate volume after she moved to New York. This is the SECOND time Holy Women, Holy Men has stripped away the activities of a black woman to speak for women (the other is Anna Cooper). In both cases, the women were nominated by the Episcopal Women’s History Project (others may also have suggested them) and in both cases the statements/prayers we submitted acknowledged Stewart and Cooper’s substantial contributions to women’s rights. Stewart also spent the years after the Civil War organizing an Episcopal Sunday School which taught basic literacy to more than 100 at a time in the District of Columbia.

  8. Nigel Renton says:

    Line 1, first paragraph: insert “on December 13” after “Massachusetts”.

    Line 1, fifth paragraph: insert “in 1803” after “born”. I cannot find the actual date.

  9. Brent says:

    I wonder how Garrison, et alia, would have treated that “other” ‘peculiar institution’ (i.e., abortion).

    Brent, next time we need your first and last name. Thanks.
    The SCLM editor

  10. Pegram Johnson III says:

    In terms of usage south is a direction, South as in the South is a place; similarly, west is a direction, the West is a place. I think this is pretty standard and doesn’t involve politics.

    • Charles Fogarty says:

      You are correct about the usage of West and South, Pegram. I do think residents of particular areas of the US do see their regions as distinct from the rest of the country, and remember, many people in the South do see Dixie as a separate nation.

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