Gender Roles

Baptist Women Tackle Problem

Women in the Baptist took on a multifaceted role that encompassed familial matriarchy a well as political activism.  Mrs. N. F. Mossell’s work “The Work of the Afro-American Woman” touches upon this wide array of duties of the woman. She celebrates women’s accomplishments in journalism, literature, and education, while still bringing importance to the care of her husband and the care of the home. Audrey Lawson brown, in her essay “Afro-Baptist Women’s Church and Family Roles” describes female Baptists as women of great responsibility. “Women were church founders and community founders. Women cared for the children and the elderly. Women hauled water from a spring. Women made, mended, and washed clothes and quilts. Women raised greens, tomatoes and onions. Women processed, preserved, smoked, and cooked foods on outside open fires or indoors on open hearths” (Brown). Brown ties this stong role of women to African Baptist roots, claiming that “Afro-Baptist women’s church roles in Florida reflect and transmit African-derived cultural values and social forms which are materially significant to day-to-day life” (Brown). The female gender role in the Baptist church as strong and dependable empowered Black women throughout the south, resulting in their achievements and their political activism regarding equal rights.

 

Much of women’s independent successes and achievements were made possible by the Baptist church. Women wrote on church teachings and rituals, and often their work was published and distributed to Baptists of many different congregations. The Baptist Publishing House, established by Rev. R. H. Boyd, was largely responsible for making this possible. Mossell cites the experience of one black Baptist woman in writing, “Mrs. Harvey Johnson has published two valuable Sabbath School stories, for which she has received a good round sum; they are both published and have been purchased by the American Baptist Publication Society” (Mossell 15). Because the Baptist church valued the work and teachings of women, their role as intelligent and able-minded citizens became a fundamental aspect of the female identity within the church and the black culture.

 

Evidence of the women’s movement within this time period is most apparent in their political activism and opposition to injustices against blacks. Because the Baptist church provided an institution for blacks to identify with, it served as a platform for women to spread their message and promote their cause. Higginbotham discusses women’s contributions on a day-to-day basis in Righteous Discontent. “Largely through the fund-raising efforts of women, the black church built schools, provided clothes and food to poor people, established old folks’ homes and orphanages, and made available a host of needed social welfare services” (Higginbotham 2). The women’s movement within the black church led the creation of organizations such as The Woman’s Convention within the National Baptist Convention, and the Colored Baptist’s Women’s Association, which were extremely influential in opposing to racial prejudice and other social injustices during this time period. “Baptist Women Tackle Problem” is a newspaper article demonstrating the effectiveness of such organizations in ameliorating social issues. Organized black women in the south formed a sort of “sisterhood” with those in the north in order to bring justice to many of the inequalities towards blacks. Publications and demonstrations in favor of anti-lynching laws are an example of women tackling a discriminaory societal issue (Higginbotham).

 

Exemplifying the leadership of women of the Baptist church was Ida B. Wells, an enthusiastic journalist from Mississippi who traveled the nation fighting injustice and promoting equal rights as well as rights for women. In partnership with Rev. R. Nightengaile of the Beale Street Baptist Church in Memphis, Wells began "Free Speech and Headlight", an anti-segregrationalist newspaper educating all blacks about racial injustices. As such an innovative and dynamic leader of the movement for black equality, Wells was an inspirational figure to all women to be involved in the community and work to create change. Clearly, as Wells was so greatly supported by a Baptist reverend and a Memphis congregation, the Baptist church favored the dynamic and strong role of women in society, which was projected onto all Blacks with females successes in fighting intolerance.

Ida B. Wells on Ex-President Harrison