8/23/20  Three Reflections on Suffrage

Call To Worship

Welcome to this morning, this day, and this opportunity to be together in community—which is a time of joy, comfort, and sometimes challenges.

This Unitarian Universalist congregation is a place where we come to learn more about being human.

We’re not here because we’ve figured out life’s questions, or because we think we’ve got it right.

We come here to learn more about being in relationship together: how to listen, how to forgive,

how to be vulnerable, and how to create trust and compassion in one another.

Let us move into worship, willing to be authentic with each other, honest within ourselves, and opening to connection in all its forms.


Prelude:   Minuet from Suite in D Minor by Elizabeth Jacquet De La Guerre (1665-1729), performed by Anna Kojovic-Frodel


Chalice Lighting by Rev. Maureen Killoran
In this free church, we come together without creed, focusing instead on the core values of justice, equity and compassion…
Of mutual acceptance of our diverse ways of being, as we seek to connect ourselves more fully with the unfolding truths of life and of our world.
We come together in shared conviction that all people deserve a voice in matters that concern them, and that it is up to each of us to protect the rights of all—particularly those who, for whatever reason, have long been held in silence.
We come together in the stubborn belief that community is possible and that peace is more than a dream.
We commit together to affirm in our actions as well as our words, the inherent worth and dignity of every human being.
We come together in awareness of our interdependence with all humanity, and with the wider web of existence, for that too is part of what is meant by “we.”
In this free church, we come together without creed, believing that the way we live in the world bears testament to the value of our beliefs.
We light this chalice as a beacon of hope for who have gathered here this day. For all who have ever walked through our doors, for those who may yet find this spiritual home, and for those whose paths will never come our way.
For all this, and for all those things we dare to hope and dream, we kindle our chalice flame this day.


Gesture of Friendship 



Reflection  by Jeanne Arnold

Each of us reflects the era we’ve live in.

I grew up among strong, independent, liberal-thinking women, Women’s Trade Union women who made it through WW II with husbands, like my father, in the service. I was also raised free of racism and bigotry.

Those women were feminists even if they didn’t know that. They had the vote, but after the war, did they have equality?

I didn’t know that word Feminist either, but in eighth grade I protested when dog training classes at our Lakeview gym had priority over girls’ basketball. I wrote a letter to the editor about it and we then got a fair amount of time in the gym for girls games.

My battles for equality diminished until I became a high school English teacher in Clintonville WI and men teachers were given a ‘head of family’ bonus. My salary was $3,000 and an extra $200 was significant. I had a husband and didn’t think anything about it until a single woman teacher told me she was taking care of her mother and was “head of her family’ but that didn’t count.

A few years later I taught Army dependents in a high school in Frankfurt Germany. Husband Harry was a lieutenant there. Men and women teachers had a rank. It didn’t matter about gender.

Racine’s excellent school system hired both Harry and me, but I had to quit because I was pregnant. And with motherhood came a depressing loss of my equality. I truly love my children, but in contrast to my fortunate life bopping around Europe and being treated as an equal among faculty and friends, suddenly I became subordinate when this church and my volunteering in our religious education program became the primary source of feeling equal again.

However, just before one Mother’s Day, when I came upstairs from Sunday School classes, some fellow asked to do Coffee Hour. I said, “I don’t do Coffee Hour, but I will usher and take the collection.” I was the first woman to do that.

My husband did not want me to resume a career and in time I did, but getting equal pay was my issue when I fell in love with another Sunday school teacher, a woman, I changed my lifestyle and then joined another subordinate group, the lesbian culture.

Even Betty Friedan and feminists wanted to ignore the support and energy of lesbians calling them ‘the Lavender Menace,”

Undaunted, almost like our foremothers who struggled in the battle for equality, I more than survived.

Yet my lost income based on my gender and my orientation affects me every day in my retirement income and security.

Now and again we must look to our foremothers for the determination and ethical principles and secure equality for all.

Thank you


Musical Reflection:  Piece Romantique Op. 9 No. 1  Ceile Chamindade (1857-1944), performed by Anna Kojovic-Frodel



Reflection  by Lisa Scott Ptacek

I am the daughter of a remarkable woman.

My adolescent years, my years of awakening to the world, were during the Women’s Movement of the 70s.
I am a daughter, whose mothers, those women who influenced me, and I count among them Jeanne Arnold, Betty Brenneman, and Arlene Butterworth, were influenced by the writings of Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, leaders of what is called the 2nd Wave of Feminism
My adolescence was experienced at a time in history when women were boldly, fiercely claiming their right to self-determination.

These were the women who wanted their daughters to be free to choose their own path in life.
To work at a paying job, or to choose not to work (outside the home that is, because work inside the home is hard work indeed, but without a paycheck or an end to the working day), to choose to have children or not, and when.

When I was 23, I returned to Racine to help my father run his used auto part business with my sisters. In the 80s, because of what went before, we were perfectly comfortable in asserting our right to enter into a male-dominated industry, and to be judged by our demonstrated abilities.

In my 30s, we sold the family business and I focused on raising a family.
Like Jeanne, on becoming a mother, I felt a sudden loss of power and influence.
I worked to regain some measure of feeling of competence by volunteering –excessively. I wonder if this loss of sense of self is partly connected to my era.
I hope that young mothers today do not experience this trade off of self-esteem and sense of position in community when they choose to have children.

I am grateful to have been a young woman in the 70s and 80s. I was privileged to be raised in this liberal community and to be affirmed as a person of worth. In the women’s spirituality movement of the 80s, with the UU Cakes for the Queen of Heaven curriculum, and Barb and Jeanne’s Full Moon Group and Women Spirit fairs, I learned reverence and gratitude for the women who went before me. I was raised believing that my voice mattered – because they fought to make it so.

The Preamble to the Constitution; (We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.)

the 15th Amendment granting suffrage to men of all races and color;

the 19th Amendment giving the vote to women;

The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 – these are all expressions of the ideal.

They did not immediately fulfil their promise. History and experience show us there were many failures, many turns in the road, and many unexpected challenges.

On this anniversary of the 19th Amendment, we pay tribute to the women who fought in the face of terror and oppression. We owe them a great debt.
The work is not done.
The Equal Rights Amendment is long overdue.

The 15th Amendment
The right of citizens of the US to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the US or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude

The 19th Amendment
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.


Message For All Ages:  Lillian’s Right To Vote by Johah Winter


Children’s blessing  by Ellie Sommer





Centering Words:  Affirmation of Hope by  Loretta Williams

We, bearers of the dream, affirm that a new vision of hope is emerging.
We pledge to work for that community in which justice will be actively present.
We affirm that there is struggle yet ahead.
Yet we know that in the struggle is the hope for the future.
We affirm that we are co-creators of the future, not passive pawns.
And we stand united in affirmation of our hope and vision of a just and inclusive society.
We affirm the unity of all persons:
We affirm brotherhood and sisterhood that allows us to touch upon each other’s humanity.
We affirm a unity that opens our eyes, ears, and hearts to see the different but common forms of oppression, suffering, and pain.
Yet we are one in the image of God, and we celebrate our hopes for human unity.
Within ourselves and within the gathered community, we will discover the strength not to hide in indifference.
Affirming that hope, publicly expressed, energizes and enables us to move forward. Together we pledge action to transcend barriers — be they racial, political, economic, social, or religious.
We pledge to make our tomorrows become our todays.


Musical Reflection:  Freedom Highway by Rhiannon Giddens


Reflection by  Jen Simpkins

Today we are acknowledging the one hundred year anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment which granted women the right to vote, and I’ll admit that my own personal feelings about this celebration are a little conflicted. Like most of our checkered history in the United States, saying that women have now had the right to vote for one hundred years is a somewhat rosy oversimplification. To be clear, the only women that have had the right to vote for one hundred years are white women.

What is harder to acknowledge is that the white leaders of the women’s suffrage movement aligned with white supremacist values in order to advance their agenda. White women suffragists were adamant that white women deserved the right to vote before Black or immigrant men and many of them spoke out against the 15th amendment allowing all men the right to vote if it meant that Black men received voting rights before white women. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of the most well-known suffragists of her time is quoted as saying “We educated, virtuous white women are more worthy of the vote”, Susan B. Anthony is quoted as saying “I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ask for the ballot for the Negro and not for the woman” and our own namesake, Olympia Brown at a county fair in 1888 said, “we make the daughters of America subject to the serfs and slaves from the old world… we are the first people to try the experiment of enfranchising ignorance, drunkenness and all forms of vice, and subordinating intelligence, patriotism, religion.”

These are troubling statements that emphasize the innocence, virtue, and fragility of white women at the expense of dangerous, uneducated, and criminal Black men, and it is even more troubling when you understand that the suffrage movement was birthed out of the abolition movement, so these types of racist characterizations would hardly be unfamiliar to those that were employing them. It is especially egregious because in July 1848, at the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls New York, Frederick Douglass gave a rousing speech in support of universal voting rights and women’s suffrage, without which the resolution calling for votes for women may not have passed. The characterization of Black men as ignorant, drunk, and peddlers of vice was a staggering betrayal of the man who helped launch the women’s suffrage movement.

To say that these beliefs were merely standard for their time would fail to acknowledge women like Julia Ward Howe and Lucy Stone, white women who were both abolitionists and suffragists, that supported the 15th amendment and an incremental path towards universal suffrage with votes for Black men coming before women. More importantly, it would fail to acknowledge the existence and contributions of Black women that were actively involved in the suffrage movement, like Ida B. Wells, who, when asked by Alice Paul to march at the back of a suffragist procession in 1913 so as not to offend racist southern women said, “either I go with you, or not at all.” It denies the work of Sojourner Truth who campaigned for abolition and suffrage for women and the formerly enslaved and gave a famous speech in 1851 demanding to be recognized as a woman and not simply as Black. It ignores Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, who in 1866 at a National Women’s Rights Convention gave a speech entitled, We Are All Bound Up Together, calling for unity between white women and Black women and for them to seek suffrage together.

Now I want you to understand that my purpose here is not to take away from the passage of the 19th amendment or those that brought it about or to suggest that a woman must be flawless if she is to be honored, but to say that in honoring the achievements of anyone, we must also wrestle with their flaws and their complexity, because in doing so, we have the opportunity to wrestle with our own.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Olympia Brown aren’t the only ones who have sided with white supremacy to advance their own agendas, the truth is that if we have white skin in America, we probably have too. Aligning with white supremacy gives us the power to shape our lives in ways that privilege ourselves and our families. We see this in the 62 percent of white men that voted for Donald Trump, and the 47 percent of white women, because they thought that whatever racist policies he brought with him to the White House, he wouldn’t be a danger to them. We see this in the level of school segregation that is comparable now to when Brown vs. Board of Education was decided, which leaves white school districts and white children well-resourced and minority school districts crumbling and minority children under served. We see this in the zoning of our villages and our cities, which restrict low income housing to protect the property values of white suburban homeowners.

The power that white supremacy offers is seductive. It was seductive to the white suffragists, and it is seductive now. It gives white people and our children an undeserved leg up, and in a world and an economy that seems to have fewer and fewer winners, and more and more people struggling to make ends meet, it can feel advantageous to accept the privilege that white supremacy offers.

As Unitarian Universalists, we need to be prophetic visionaries that are able to dream bigger than the scarcity thinking that white supremacy thrives on. We have been taught by a white supremacist society that there is only so much opportunity to go around, there is only so much money for education, that there are only so many good neighborhoods, there are only so many jobs so we need to take what we can get.

Friends, we are called by our faith to dream bigger than that. We need to know that if we have schools where Black children are thriving, all of our children will be thriving, that if Black neighborhoods are flourishing that all of our neighborhoods will be flourishing, that if Black people have opportunity than all of us have opportunity, that when Black Lives Matter, all lives will matter, and when Black people have the vote, all of us will have the vote.

We can’t believe the myth of scarcity, because that leads us to accept white supremacy as something that is necessary to achieve our ends. The suffragists believed the myth of scarcity, and so they fought for the voting rights of women like themselves, white, educated, middle and upper class women. The consequences of their focus on securing the vote for white women was that many women were granted the right to vote in name only. It wasn’t until 1952 that people with Asian ancestry were allowed to become citizens of the United States and as such became eligible to vote. It wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed that all Native American women had the right to vote or that Black women were safely able to exercise their right to vote. It wasn’t until 1975 that voting materials were made available in languages other than English, which allowed Latinos and other minorities to vote in their native languages. To this day, the 4.1 million mostly Black and brown US citizens in Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and the US Virgin Islands cannot vote in Presidential elections and have no voting representation in Congress, the consequences of which we saw play out disastrously in the US response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. To this day, 4 million US citizens with past felony convictions, a disproportionate number of whom are Black, cannot vote and after the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby County vs. Holder struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act, voting rights are increasingly under attack due to targeted voter suppression techniques like voter ID requirements, purging of the voting rolls, and shuttering of polling locations.

Today we need to sit with the knowledge that only some women are celebrating 100 years of voting rights and other women had to wait decades for their own opportunity to go to the polls, and our country is worse for that. In 2020, we are honoring 100 years of voting rights, and 68 years, and 55 years, and 45 years, and we commit to work for those that are still waiting. I hope that we can learn from the mistakes, and the wisdom of those who have gone before us, I hope we can understand like Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, that We Are All Bound Up Together, and as we chart our path through the world, we chart it with a prophetic vision so strong that if we are asked to leave other people behind us on the way, we will remember Ida B. Wells and demand that we will go together, or not at all.


Extinguishing the Chalice by Jen Simpkins

We leave this service today with the knowledge that our failures can be as instructive as our successes. We leave it with the fervent hope that our children will see where we dropped the ball and they will pick it up and carry it further than we could imagine. We leave today with the conviction that beloved community is not only possible but within our reach. We leave today ready to fight for that beloved community, out in the world and in ourselves. We extinguish this chalice flame, but the fire and the light go on in you. This service has ended, but your service begins again. Peace, and unrest.


Postlude:  Finding Balance  Michele McLaughlin (1974- ) performed by Anna Kojovic-Frodel