Sisters of the Light
In the summer of 1992 Rachel had a sense of impending change and being familiar with several Wampanoags she spoke to Mother Bear with whom she was developing a friendship from their work with Cape Codders Against Racism. She also spoke with her about her sense of impending radical shift. As it happened, she was having similar feelings. We decided to start a women’s multi-cultural spiritual group. She suggested we call ourselves Sisters of the Light because the Wampanoags are known as the People of the First Light and Quakers as the children of the Light. We started meeting monthly on the new moon. Our gatherings are informal with no set agenda. This group helped me I feel confident that we will also be able to be available to meet the challenges that arise during the turbulent and painful birthing time of the truly new world.
We laughed. We sighed. We offered prayers.
Periodically, in various places around Cape Cod, the Sisters of the Light presents the stories of six women from Cape Cod history, Dove (Nancy Eldredge) portrays the story of Princess Scargo. Little Doe (Jessie) presents the story of Matilda Simmons, a Wampanoag from 1920’s, Rachel spoke as a Quaker woman from the 1600’s and abolitionist Quaker, Lucretia Mott. Priscilla Allen, Katherine Stillman portrays a Methodist woman from Wellfleet in the 1800’s, Cynthia Gross, Sandy Spencer represents her great aunt and Mother Bear represents her great aunt Mary Moody.
(Just before people are really settled from intermission, Lucretia Mott stride in with stately vigor)
“Well Friend Susan, how do yo think it is going so far?
Yes I agree they are most passive neither a yea nor nay has passed their lips even at my most fiery words. And I agree that it seems rather like a Quaker Meeting out there. However I would argue with you regarding the passivity of Quakers. Just ten years before my birth on Nantucket, my family refused to participate in the revolutionary war conflict yet they could hardly be described as passive. In fact a weighty member of their community Roach said in response to the repeated charged of treason that were leveled against them from both sides. And don’t forget that these were very trying times and a real test of their Quaker ideals and convictions. for the island could grow little of what it needed and relied on the whaling industry but most of the whaling ships were seized and the good Quakers put into horrid prison ships. Especially in the winter of 1780 most of the island was very very near starvation and only but frugal sharing of very meager rationed supplies stored by the wealthier Friends did they survive.
Well Susan time to go back out there I guess and see if this time I might stir them up.
(Gives speeches turns around after each facing a different part of the audience)
(In loud assertive voice)
I am aware of the place I stand; I know there are many who will not allow anything to be said in behalf of the slave. But I believe it to be my duty to plead the cause of the poor and of the oppressed whether they will hear or whether they will forbear. I have long believed that an obedience to Christian duty required more mouths should be opened upon this subject. Yet I do not regard this as an evil resting upon a particular part of the country, but ”we are all verily guilty concerning our brother,” the manufacturers of the north, the consumers of various commodities of southern productions, are implicated in this matter, while the sweets of this system are found upon our tables, we are partakers of other men’s sins. What would this nation be, of what could not this country boast, if she were free of this enormous system of injustice!
—Unitarian Church, Washington, D . C ., I843
“The extreme cases which may be brought to demand corporal punishment are like the extreme cases brought to nullify so many other arguments. The reasons such extreme cases occur, is I believe, because parents are not prepared. They overlook the fact that a child, like all human beings, has inalienable rights. It is the master that is not prepared for emancipation.”
Lucretia Mott; New England Non Resistance Convention, 1839
We meet with a few individuals who hold the opinion that if less assistance were given to the poor, their energies would rally and they would make greater efforts to help themselves. The object of our institution is to aid those whose circumstances prevent their earning a subsistence in any other way, such as the aged, the sick and the infirm, and widows with families of small children, who have no other dependence for support. Friends Weekly Intelligencer 12-8-1849
(gradually voice and posture soften)
Too long have wrongs and oppression existed without an acknowledged wrongdoer and oppressor. It was not until the slave holder was told ”Thou art the man,” that a healthy agitation was brought about. Woman is told the fault is in herself, in too willingly submitting to her inferior condition, but like the slave, she is pressed down by laws in the making of which she has no voice, and crushed by customs that have grown out of such laws. She cannot rise therefore, while thus trampled in the dust. The oppressor does not see himself in that light until the oppressed cry for deliverance. —Woman’s Rights Meeting, West Chester, Pa., 1852
Well Susan time to go up there and see if I can get them to ponder the consequences and implications of oppression.
(Goes up with slightly less energy)
Resolved: that as the poor slave’s ˇ˜alleged” contentment with his servile and cruel bondage only proves the depths of his enslavement, so the assertion of woman that she has all the rights she wants, only proves how far the restrictions and disabilities to which she has been subjected have rendered her insensible to the blessings of true liberty. —Womans’ Rights Convention, New York, I856
Any great change can expect opposition because it shakes the very foundation of privilege.
—Womans’ Rights Convention, New York, I856
We are all guilty of the blood of our brother. The crime is national. We are all involved in it; and how can we go forth and profess to believe the faith of the Son of God, with all these great wrongs and evils clinging to us, and we upholding them? Have we nothing to do with it? Everyone has a responsibility in it. We are called to bear our testimony against sin, of whatever form, in whatever way presented. And how are we doing it? By partaking of the fruits of the slave’s toil. Our garments are all stained with the blood of the slave. Sermon, Yardleyville, PA 1858
The native Indians of our forests have their worship, and having witnessed some of their strawberry festivals and dances, and religious operations, I have thought that there was, perhaps as much reasonableness and rational worship in it as passing around the little bread and wine, or I might name, perhaps some of the peculiarities of our own people [Quakers], for all sections, all denominations have their tendency to worship in the letter rather than in the spirit—with an outward rather than an inward salvation . —Friends Meeting House, 15th Street, New York, 11 – 11-1866
(Comes in stooped over)
Ah, Susan I think I am done for this evening. But listen they are calling for you. Susan B. Anthony, Susan B. Anthony. It’s your turn now my girl, it’s time for a younger Quaker women to courageously speak the truth to the ordinary citizens as well as the power. I know you will be wonderful, go on now and I will go listen to you from the back.
Goes out with Sandy’s cane