The 21st century moves onward and there can be forgotten the reason why some things in our society changed. For those who did not live in the 1930's-1970's they can have little understanding of the many social nuances that defined, limited and marginalized women in society and the church.
A recent archival news piece brought this home. In researching the life of religious educator and minister, Grace Elizabeth Garten, a news article written by Marguerite Macklin (possibly with the Oklahoma Record Journal or the Oklahoma City Times) reflects the tenor of the times.
Garten, who had a degree from Oklahoma City University had done post graduate work at Union Theological Seminary and at Garrett Biblical College at Northwestern had contemplated missionary work to India but was held back by health issues but "her associates urged to go into the ministry, in fact she, at one time, was a licensed girl pastor representing Oklahoma, Missouri and Iowa."
She had worked in Oklahoma City Public Schools, worked with Oklahoma Council of Churches to establish weekly Bible schools held in city churches. School children were exempted from school at certain hours to go to these church schools.
"Licensed girl pastor"; can there be any more nullifying way to phrase the person or the work? In the time in which this article was published a grown woman was still a "girl." She was the eternal child always in need of supervision and control by male leaders. She was never a leader except in approved realms of working with children, caring fields or the home. Women were, in this time period, seldom mentioned by their first names but only as "Mrs." Their identity was engulfed and submerged into one half of the marriage partnership. A single woman was similarly challenged to be seen as an equal or peer with others working in the same fields.
Women's groups in churches were often the result of men who felt women had nothing to contribute outside of "women's work." Men would do the "important" things because they had the mental capacity and inclination to do those more challenges things like making decisions, planning, or managing funds. As a result, women's groups often became the most impressively organized groups in a church, raising and managing vast sums, and making plans that often equaled the work of many major corporations in their diversity and complexity. In a word, they often left the men in their dust, caps in hand and scratching their heads, trying to figure out what storm had just blown past them in their decision making, male dominated, and managing male world.
Given the power, leadership. influence, will and vision of women in such settings, can you imagine what might have been done for the total corporate Church had men and women worked together all along?