Document 10: Excerpts from Elizabeth Farians, "NOW Papers on Women and Religion," self-published pamphlet, c. 1971-72. 4 pp.
Elizabeth Farians was a radical feminist theologian and the first head of the National Organization for Women's Taskforce on Women and Religion. Along with her friend Mary Daly and other radical feminists from a variety of religious traditions, Farians offered a systematic critique of sexism in institutional religion in the late 1960s and the early 1970s. Unlike the Deaconess Movement and the sisters of NCAN, Farians and other radical Catholic feminists did not make church renewal a goal equal to that of women's liberation. Farians was the first Catholic feminist to organize acts of public protest, several of which are described here. Farians also tried to organize all Catholic feminists under one umbrella organization for the purpose of lobbying the Roman Catholic hierarchy. By the early 1970s, Farians was ambivalent about her continued allegiance to Catholicism. After several frustrating years of fighting institutional Catholic sexism, Farians chose to leave the Catholic feminist movement and the church, a choice many other radical feminists advocated at this time.
How NOW Got Religion
It all happened in a bar at the railroad station in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Betty Friedan had just given an address on women at the University of Bridgeport. Dr. Elizabeth Farians was a professor of theology at Bridgeport's Sacred Heart University. The two Bettys had planned to meet after the talk, and so over a "baptismal" drink they connived on how to get the NOW Board to adopt a task force on religion.
The October 1966 organizing conference of the National Organization for Women had not included such a task force but while Betty Friedan was busy founding NOW, Betty Farians had been busy founding the Ecumenical Task Force on Women and Religion. As soon as the national news releases about NOW were out in November 1966, Betty Farians contacted Betty Friedan.
The Bridgeport meeting was arranged and Betty Friedan invited Betty Farians to attend the second NOW Board meeting in Chicago, February, 1967. There "Women and Religion" was added to the NOW list of task forces, making seven in all. Also, Dr. Farians was elected to the NOW Board of Directors.
The story is being told for the sake of herstory and also to point out new directions for the women's movement in religion. At first the task was to raise the issue of religion both among feminists and in religious institutions. The secularists of NOW had discounted religion and had not included it in their planning. For feminists in general religion was irrelevant and for the women in religion feminism was irreverent. It became the job of the NOW Task Force on Women and Religion to point out that one of the root causes of the oppression of women is religion.
The NOW Task Force on Religion hammered away at its theme especially in the media. Now the point has been made. There is beginning to be a movement on women and of women in organized religion and feminists themselves are finding out through bitter experience how powerful is the church. Religion is being challenged.
Easter Bonnet Rebellion
Full equality for women in truly equal partnership with men
National Organization for Women
2849 North Hoekett St.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53211
April 6, 1969
Contact: Nancy Kosterman 332-6337
To All News Media for immediate release.
The outmoded and discriminatory practice of women wearing head coverings at the liturgical services was the target of a protest by the NATIONAL ORGANIZATION for WOMEN on Easter morning at St. John de Nepomuc Catholic Church.
Mary Ann Lupa, member of the state steering committee of N.O.W. explained that the veiling of women historically symbolizes their subjugation. Dismissing the traditional biblical arguments, she pointed out that authors of scripture spoke from their historical context concluding that women are inferior human beings.
This erroneous view of women is responsible for the subservient role of women in the churches.
Nancy Kosterman said, "Women of all churches will not continue to tolerate second class status. Women are tired of doing all the menial tasks within their churches and having no voice in policies or worship".
Easter, the season of new life, was chosen a spokeswomen said to dramatize the womens' rejection of their old position of inferiority in the churches and to testify to their new life of equality.
She added that Saint John's was an appropriate place for women to declare this new life in response to an incident that occurred last Sunday.
A woman was publicly admonished from the pulpit by the celebrant of the service for the sin of not covering her head. She was told her presence was not wanted if she rejected this symbol of subjection.
N.O.W. urged all women to resolve that as of now to join in this first action of the "National Unveiling" of all women in all churches throughout the nation.
FOR INFORMATION CONTACT:
ECUMENICAL TASK FORCE ON WOMEN
AND RELIGION, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION
FOR WOMEN 312-465-8630
PINK AND ASH
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
A GROUP OF WOMEN FROM THE ECUMENICAL TASK FORCE ON WOMEN AND RELIGION OF THE NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN (NOW) HELD A LITURGICAL CEREMONY HERE TODAY. THEY BURNED PART OF THE NEWLY RELEASED ROMAN MISSAL (PARAGRAPH SIXTY-SIX) WHICH RESTRICTS THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN TO BE LECTORS (READERS) AT THE CATHOLIC MASS. ACCORDING TO THE NEW INSTRUCTION WOMEN MAY READ ONLY IF A MAN IS NOT AVAILABLE AND EVEN THEN WOMEN MUST STAND OUTSIDE THE PRESBYTERIUM (THE AREA NEAR THE ALTAR). WHILE PERFORMING THE SAME FUNCTION MEN STAND INSIDE THE SANCTUARY. THE WOMEN CONSIDER THE RULING DISCRIMINATORY AND INSULTING TO AMERICAN WOMEN. AFTER THEY HAD BURNED THE MISSAL THEY CAREFULLY GATHERED THE ASHES AND SENT THEM TOGETHER WITH THE FOLLOWING MESSAGE TO JOHN CARDINAL DEARDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE AMERICAN BISHOPS, WHO IS IN SAN FRANCISCO MEETING WITH THE BISHOPS. THE PACKAGE WAS TIED WITH PINK RIBBON AND SIGNED: WOMAN.
PINK AND ASH
THE COLOR OF OUR CASTE IS PINK
BUT THE COLOR OF OUR MOOD IS ASH.
WE HAVE BURNT YOUR SACRED BOOKS
YOUR LATEST OPPRESSIVE WORDS.
WE ARE SICK WITH YOUR POMP AND MALE PEROGATIVE
WE ARE WEARY OF YOUR CALLOUS STANCE TOWARD WOMEN IN THE
YOU HAVE RAPED US OF OUR RIGHTS
AND PREACHED THAT IT WAS IN THE NAME OF GOD.
THESE ARE THE ASHES OF YOUR CANONS
OF YOUR INSTRUCTION SIXTY-SIX.
THE COLOR OF OUR CASTE IS PINK
BUT THE COLOR OF OUR MOOD IS ASH.
Opening Statement by Elizabeth Farians, Ph.D.
NOW Ecumenical Task Force on Women and Religion
Press Conference at the National Conference of Catholic Bishops
April 28, 1971, 2 PM Sheraton-Cadillac Hotel, Detroit, Michigan
The Catholic Church is a sexist institution. As a result it is also racist and war mongering. It is unchristian in the worst sense of the word. It has identified with the rich, the wealthy and the powerful. It is not the servant: It is the master.
It would be difficult to distinguish between the Church and the pentagon. Both are examples of an over-masculinized culture in which the so-called male characteristics have dominated. Assertiveness, arrogance and authoritarianism, pomp, power, and privilege are its characteristics. Masculinization has run wild in the Church because of the exclusion of the so-called "feminine" principle. The result is the monster that the Church is today.
The people of God have tried in vain to penetrate this monster, this battleship, this skyscraper made of steel. But the overmasculinized males are not able to hear. The barrier is too great. Their skin is like leather, they cannot feel and they are blinded by their own power. Because of their overmasculinization the so-called "feminine" principle has been suppressed and women have been oppressed.
We have come here today after years of trying to deal with the bishops — to say that WE WILL BE SILENT NO LONGER. Two years ago we presented a proposal to the bishops aimed at beginning to stop discrimination against women by the Church. It got no where. Last year we presented another proposal to the bishops. We asked to speak to them. We offered to work with them to begin to solve the destructive sexism of the Church. But they are unable to know that women exist as persons ready and able to serve the people of God and the world with every gift of the spirit.
Because of the sex equals sin syndrome which permeates the church and the almost total identification of women with this, women have been excluded from meaningful participation in the Church. Women want to participate fully in the Church in all its aspects — leadership, decision making as well as helping the poor. Women want to be able to serve as priests and as deacons. They want to be on theological commissions as theologians. Women want their God-given rights of personhood restored.
This sexism which pervades the Church must be dealt with. It is destroying the Church and the men and women in the Church. We want the bishops to listen to us, to women, and to meet with us so that together we can begin to make the Church whole and holy.
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