An activist promotes the interests of women wanting official positions in the church
Cincinnati, Ohio: 1880.
Cincinnati, Ohio: 1880. 6 page Autograph Letter Signed with transmittal envelope, dated May 25, 1880 and stamped May 26. Pages measuring 200 x 122mm with original horizontal foldlines. Clean and legible. Matilda Hindman of Pennsylvania was an influential leader of the women's suffrage movement in the U.S. and was particularly influential in equality campaigns taking place across Ohio, South Dakota, and Colorado from 1880-1890. Only the second woman to graduate from Ohio's Mt. Union College (in 1860), she was highly invested in promoting the interests of women in regions that could be used as strong precedent for the expansion of education, employment, and voting rights nationwide.
The present letter, to suffragist Mary Plumb Nichols of Denver, deals directly with this work -- including both Hindman's service as an AWSA delegate advocating for women's expanded roles in the church as well as the unfair practices she herself has confronted of being denied payment for work once it is completed. Her letter from Cincinnati documents in real time some of the debates unfolding at the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church (May 1-28, 1880) and reads in part:
"My dear Mrs. Nichols,
It is a long time since I received your last most welcome letter. Had I not been so very busy I would have answered long ere now. I came here almost three weeks ago, as a Delegate from the American Woman Suffrage Association to memorialize the General Convention of the M. E. Church asking that it license women to preach and ordain them as Deacons and Elders. It is here as elsewhere the women...are sufficiently advanced to go so far as to believe they should be ordained. But the subject will come up in the General Conference and we will see what we can do. Can you, Oh! Yes, you can understand what one can and must suffer to sit helpless and hear herself and her sex derided, actually made to appear as persons willing to do the most infamous acts for self agrandizement. Dr. What a title for such a man: well, Dr. Buckley of New York said if women were admitted as preachers it would have the most demoralizing effect, as they would use their feminine influence on the Presiding Elders that they miht obtain good appointments and there would be no end to the Church scandals." That said, she notes that "when the subject came up in the Con. to change the Discipline, there was another big contest. Twenty voted for and twenty eight against giving women the right to hold all offices in the Church that a layman can hold."
A conversation that points to debates that persist even today, Hindman expresses her frustration with the sexualization of women and the misogyny of Church and government structures willing to accuse women of unethical behavior even while they themselves engage in it. For the remainder of her letter deals with Colorado Governor John Evans and his refusal to pay her now that her efforts to organize and speak at the convention in his state are complete. "I really thought that as I had done the work the Con. arranged for me and bargained to pay me for, I should receive the renumeration agreed upon. He said he did not think the Con. ought to pay it, as he said he would not be personally responsible." Committing to continue pushing on the governor's office, Hindman nevertheless expresses concern about her own financial loss and appeals to Nichols as well as other local leaders to raise funds to assist her meanwhile.
While women eventually gained the right to preach and be licensed and ordained in the M. E. Church in 1920, this position was backtracked when the organization merged with the Methodist Episcopal Church South and the Methodist Protestant Church in 1939. Women would not regain their clergy rights until 1952. (Item #5657)