True womanhood

Did you know that International Women’s Day was first observed in the early 1900s? And I was surprised to learn that protests against gender inequality started much earlier, with the First Women’s Rights Convention being held in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848.

It’s interesting to me that this was also the era in which Mary Baker Eddy (1821–1910) experienced profound changes in her life. She went from being a single mother struggling with chronic health problems and financial difficulties to being a well-known religious leader and the founder of a worldwide church.

Despite the inequality faced by women of her time, Mary Baker Eddy succeeded as an author, publisher, editor, healer, lecturer—all at a time when women could not vote and were considered incapable of managing their own affairs. Her book on spirituality and healing (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures) was included on the Women’s National Book Association list of “75 Books by Women Whose Words Have Changed the World.”

Being the children of God, the image or reflection of God, each one of us is a complete expression of God’s fatherhood and motherhood.

From this book, it’s clear Mrs. Eddy saw the need for progress in women’s rights, for she wrote, “Civil law establishes very unfair differences between the rights of the two sexes.” On the same page of Science and Health she also said, “Our laws are not impartial, to say the least, in their discrimination as to the person, property, and parental claims of the two sexes,” and further, “If a dissolute husband deserts his wife, certainly the wronged, and perchance impoverished, woman should be allowed to collect her own wages, enter into business agreements, hold real estate, deposit funds, and own her children free from interference” (p. 63).

However, her focus was on something much deeper. Her protest was against the underlying “mental slavery” (Science and Health, p. 225) of false beliefs that would keep both women and men from achieving their full potential as daughters and sons of God. Her discovery of Christian Science, which is fully explained in her book, has helped many thousands of people to find healing in unhappy human situations through acknowledging their God-given right to freedom.

The powerful example of her life and the ideas in her book have proved to be life-changing for me. While I had always believed in equal rights for all, the study of Christian Science has given me the spiritual understanding on which to base this belief.

The very first book of the Bible says, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27). God is our divine Parent, and His nature includes both fathering and mothering qualities—what are considered masculine qualities, such as strength, courage, intelligence, as well as feminine qualities of love, tenderness, gentleness, grace. Being the children of God, the image or reflection of God, each one of us is a complete expression of God’s fatherhood and motherhood. Science and Health explains, “Union of the masculine and feminine qualities constitutes completeness” (p. 57).

Identifying myself as whole and complete contributed greatly to a happy marriage. Marriage, I learned, is not about two halves coming together to make a whole. Rather, it is two whole ideas moving together in harmony with God. No room for inequality, domination, or weakness. I found the recipe for a successful marriage in Science and Health: “Fulfilling the different demands of their united spheres, their sympathies should blend in sweet confidence and cheer, each partner sustaining the other,—thus hallowing the union of interests and affections, in which the heart finds peace and home” (p. 59).

Identifying myself as whole and complete contributed greatly to a happy marriage.

It was also this sense of spiritual completeness, each reflecting the completeness of divine Spirit, God, our Father-Mother, that helped me stay grounded when my husband passed on while we were living overseas. Returning to my home country was not without challenges. What really helped me overcome them was the recognition that as we are all children of God, men cannot lack feminine qualities, nor can women be deprived of masculine qualities.

I realized that what appears as a “gender gap” is only a gap in the general thought that needs to be filled with these right ideas about our completeness, based on the universality of spiritual qualities. True womanhood is not about how different womanhood is from manhood but about understanding how each one of us is forever the intact expression of the union of those qualities. One never takes away from the other but enhances the other.

It is our right to express our wholeness, our masculinity and our femininity. Recognizing this brings us a great sense of freedom from restrictions and limitations, and opens up wonderful possibilities.

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