Reprinted from A Lamp in Every Corner: Our Unitarian Universalist Storybook by Janeen K. Grohsmeyer (Boston: Unitarian Universalist Association, 2004).
Little girls ought to be quiet," Said one lady in town. "Little girls ought not to make themselves heard." But
did. She had a voice, and she was going to use it, every day.
When Olympia Brown was a teenager, young women weren't supposed to go to college. Young women weren't supposed to leave home to go off and learn complicated things. But
did; she did all those things and more. Olympia left home and went to
. She went to class and studied and learned all kinds of complicated things.
"Young women ought not to be in college, "said one professor at that school. "But since they are here, they must read their reports. Young women ought not to give speeches from memory, like the men." But
did. When it was her turn to present her report, she rolled up the papers in her hand and said each and every word, loud and clear. Olympia Brown had a voice, and she was going to use it, every day.
When Olympia Brown was in college, women weren't supposed to wear pants. Women weren't supposed to wear anything except very long dresses that came all the way down to their toes. But
did. She wore dresses that came down only past her knees, and under them, she dared to wear pants! "Bloomers" the pants were called, after Amelia Bloomer, the woman who had created them a few years before.
"Women ought not to show their ankles in public!" exclaimed some of the men. "And women certainly ought not to wear pants!" But
did. She wore her bloomers every day, no matter how much the men sneered.
was finished with college, women weren't supposed to be ministers. Women never stood up in front of a congregation and talked about God. But
did; she did all those things and more. Olympia graduated from the
at St. Lawrence University in 1863, and she was ordained as a Universalist minister in June of that year, the second woman ever to be officially ordained by that church. She became the Reverend Olympia Brown.
"Women ought not to speak in public," said a minister at that time. "Women ought not to take the pulpit or discuss the nature of God." But the Reverend Olympia Brown did. During the next thirty-five years, she was a minister in five different congregations, and she visited other congregations, too. She took the pulpit in every single one, and she spoke on the nature of God and love, and she did an excellent job. Olympia Brown had a voice, and she used it, every day.
When Olympia Brown was born, women weren't allowed to vote. Women weren't allowed to have any say in who was elected president or senator or mayor of the town. But
had something to say about that.
had a lot to say about that.
She traveled all over the state of
in a horse and buggy, giving speeches to convince people that women deserved the right to vote. She wrote hundreds of letters. She spoke to the representatives and senators in Congress. She marched in parades.
and her friends worked hard to get women the right to vote. Olympia Brown had a voice, and she used it every day... every day for over fifty years.
And finally, when Olympia Brown was old, women were allowed to vote. In November of 1920, when
was eighty-five years old, she voted for the very first time.
Olympia had always had a voice, and she'd used it to make sure that she--and all the other women in the
--had a vote as well.
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Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.
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