Women Who Made Their Mark on America
There are so many days, weeks, and months set aside to honor individuals, professions and people groups it is getting hard to keep up. (I’m waiting for Redneck Appreciation Day so I and others can finally get the honor we deserve! From duct tape ingenuity to monster trucks, we should get more recognition.) In all seriousness, however, I want to mention March being Women’s History Month, as no group is more deserving of some genuine appreciation than our lady heroes. After all, I have lived in a household of women much of my adult life with my wife, Ceci, and daughters, Sarah and Hannah. Every month is women’s history month to me! I know just how important they are. I also know how much they contribute to the cause of Christ, and that many have had a significant role in making America the great nation it is.
I want to look back at the stories of three American female heroes. We may not even be “The United States of America” without women like these, who made such impacts on this nation. President Jimmy Carter designated March as Women’s History Month with this statement:
“From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first American Indian families who befriended them, men and women have worked together to build this nation. Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.”1
Prudence Cummings Wright – Running to the Battle
“When the Philistine moved closer in order to attack, David quickly ran toward the opposing battle line to attack the Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:48 GWT)
Traditionally, men go off to fight wars and the women are left at home to “tend the home fires.” Of course, in our day this has changed somewhat. Enemies sometimes try to encroach on unprotected women and children when men are at war. That is what happened in the Revolutionary War when Prudence took action. Her husband and other men from Pepperell, MA, responded early to the revolutionary call, leaving their homes unprotected, but seemingly out of the way of British troops. Prudence had the foresight to gather the women and form them into a militia “just in case.” She trained them to shoot and use other weapons they had access to, in the event they had to protect themselves.2
In April 1775, the British were discovered to be headed to Jewett’s Bridge near their town. Prudence gathered her women’s militia at the bridge and fought the British army, “captured several soldiers, and intercepted vital dispatches regarding troop movements.”3 Just as David ran to the battle, Prudence led her women’s militia to do the same. She turned the enemy back at the gate! Prudence was bad news!
Ann Morgan “Nancy” Hart – A type of Jael
In Judges 4:17-22 we have the story of Jael. She pretended to be a friend of Sisera, an enemy of Israel. The Bible tells us she met him at the door of her tent, invited him in, and hid him there. He trusted her and, asking her to stand as a watch for him, he slept. Then, “when Sisera had fallen sound asleep from exhaustion, Jael, Heber’s wife, took a tent peg and walked quietly toward him with a hammer in her hand. She hammered the tent peg through his temples into the ground. So Sisera died,” (verse 21).
There is a real life Jael in our history. She was considered a fearless woman and a rebel by the British. Like many women, she was a formidable foe to those that sought to harm her family. I once heard a female friend call this a “she-bear anointing”.
Battlefields.org lets us know that she was notorious for attacking the enemy – on more than one occasion. She once dressed like a “crazy man,” wandering through British camps to procure information for the Patriots. Her children once discovered a British soldier spying on their family, so she doused him with the boiling water she was about to use for making her family’s soap.4
She is most famous, however, for this story:
“According to local legend, six British soldiers entered the Hart home to question Nancy about assisting a Patriot in escaping from the Redcoats. The soldiers then demanded that Nancy feed them; displaying unusual hospitality, Nancy agreed to host them. With help from her 12-year old daughter, Sukey, Hart succeeded in discreetly removing several of the soldiers’ muskets from the stack they had formed in the corner of the room. She had passed two of the firearms to her daughter Sukey through a gap in the wall, before the soldiers noticed. Nancy instructed the soldiers to remain where they were, and when one of them rose to approach her, she shot him dead and wounded one of the others before taking the remaining four men hostage. The Harts and their neighbors decided to hang the [remaining] soldiers from a nearby tree.”5 She, too, was bad!
Dr. Mary Edwards Walker – the ONLY female recipient of the Medal of Honor
Dr. Walker was the first female recipient of the U.S. Medal of Honor, still remaining the only female recipient. Mary was an extraordinary person, making her impact during the Civil War. The National Parks Service website describes her as “an American feminist, suffragist, suspected spy, prisoner of war, and surgeon.”6
Mary was a nonconformist who advanced healthcare in many areas throughout her life. She exemplifies Joshua 1:9 (ESV), “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Dr. Walker was the only woman in her class at Syracuse Medical College, where she graduated with honors as a medical doctor. The fact that she was a female in her chosen field would prove to be a constant challenge throughout her life. In practice with her husband, she was often ridiculed and dismissed as an invalid doctor. When Mary enlisted in the Civil War as a surgeon, she was offered the position of a nurse. She took it, but operated as an unpaid field surgeon when the opportunity allowed, often crossing battle lines and performing surgeries on civilians, as well. Mary ended her time in the service as a prisoner of war. Her wounds from that experience prevented her from continuing to practice medicine.7
A recommendation for a commission to validate Dr. Walker’s service in the Civil War was brought before President Andrew Johnson. It was deemed not legal to commission her, because she was a female. However, due to her extraordinary service to the nation, in lieu of a commission, President Johnson awarded Mary the National Medal of Honor. Ironically, her receipt of this was also considered illegal, on the grounds that she was not commissioned: therefore, it was historically ignored. Not until 1977 would Dr. Walker become an acknowledged recipient of the Medal—the only female to ever receive it to this day.8
Dr. Walker went on to be a leader in the temperance movement and in the fight for women’s rights to vote. She became a member of the Women’s Suffrage Bureau in Washington, D.C., and worked on a constitutional amendment to that effect. Mary died in 1919, one year before the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave women the right to vote.9
So I say to you young ladies, use your God-given abilities. You have the power to leave your mark on the world, to make a difference. From the stay at home mom, to the woman in government, you are extremely important. Let your fingerprints be on the next great breakthrough, an innovative creation, or perhaps the cure for cancer. As moms, or even a teacher, shape the lives and minds of children, who will be the next history makers. Be one who helps strengthen our nation, or even the world, and represents well the One whom we serve – King Jesus.
“Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.” (Proverbs 31: 30-31, 25 NASB)
Pray with me:
Father, thank You for the women You put in our nation’s storyline. May we no longer ignore the contributions they have made in helping us become the great nation we are. We acknowledge the courage, ingenuity, passion, strength, and tenacity women have displayed. They have come alongside their male counterparts, showing us how to build and grow a nation that honors You.
Lord, raise up more women like Jael, Prudence Wright, Nancy Hart, and Dr. Walker. Teach us the lessons of history they exemplify.
Prudence’s story teaches us to run to the battle, as David did. Male or female, we are not meant to sit in our homes and worry about the enemy’s encroachment. Your Holy Spirit can empower us with boldness to confront him wherever he tries to “cross bridges” into our homes, cities, states, and nation. We must remain on the offense, not pull out of society and hide in self-protection!
Nancy Hart’s story shows us how to outwit and corner the enemy. Grant us unusual opportunities to directly confront our enemies. We need the right words and actions at the exact right time, to end corruption and move the nation toward righteousness and justice.
Dr. Walker’s story moves us to persevere no matter how we are treated by those around us. As followers of Jesus, it should not matter to us if we are ridiculed, especially for the sake of the gospel. We have a nation to save and we must throw all of our gifts and talents toward that end. To You be the glory, Lord! You will be honored in America, and we will make sure women are not forgotten for their role in the turnaround. We pray these things in Your name, Amen.
We decree that godly women of great intellect, strength, and courage, are being raised up in our nation. We will honor them.