20 May, 2023
Pastor’s Viewpoint - May 2, 2023
Women of faith and grace
Australian Nellie Constance Martyn
(1887 -1926) ‘Nell’, a “slightly built woman
of medium height, pale complexion,
fair hair, and kindly blue eyes” rose from
a career as hospital masseuse to that of a
famous “Captain of Industry.”
praised for her achievements, she humbly
replied that they were simply the
result of God’s grace.
In 1900 Nell’s father purchased a
steelworks factory in Brunswick, Melbourne
and his patriarchal inclinations
stopped her from working there.
To prove his male prejudice wrong,
she studied and became skilled in shorthand,
typing and engineering drawing
and eventually even astonished her father
with her brilliant financial acumen.
chastened he made her and not his son,
power of attorney in 1923.
Upon his death in 1924 Nell became
the sole managing director of “the largest
steel foundry in the Commonwealth” and
controlled over 100 employees. Local
newspaper headlines touted: “Girl bosses
Melbourne steel foundry” and “Romantic
story of lady Managing Director.”
Prominent in the Methodist church
Nell soon became president of the
Business and Professional Women’s
Club (1925) and a committee-member of
the Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital.
The Australian Women’s National
League supported her preselection as
Nationalist candidate for the state seat of
Brunswick in 1925 - however the male
party majority forbade it!
Ms Serle wrote in her defense: “Miss Martyn was led by her Christian perspective to an interest in social service and workers’ rights. She did not seek publicity for herself. Her view of a woman’s position was quite simple: the basis of women’s equality was that the sexes were of equal mentality, she asked no more than to compete on the same terms as men and to represent the interests of the whole community and not just women.”
Nell, dedicated to the Young Women’s
Christian Association, spoke at their
conferences right up until her untimely
demise at age 29. She left behind a community
in great anguish… “her funeral
cortege was a mile and a quarter in
And God’s grace led women into
leadership roles in the Bible’s Easter
story. It was a time that definitely favoured
the priority of men in religious dealings.
Patriarchal assumptions were rampant
and firmly entrenched.
However, at Jesus’ crucifixion the 12
male disciples had fled in fear and as
John Bunyan noted; “They were women
that wept when he was going to the cross
and women that followed him from the
cross and that sat by his sepulchre when
he was buried.
They were women that first saw him
at the resurrection and brought the tidings
first to his (brother) disciples that he
was risen from the dead.”
In grace, Jesus appeared first to Mary
Magdalene outside his empty tomb. She
mistook him for the gardener until He
spoke her name. He commissioned her to
“go and tell” his “brother disciples,” and
her words; “I have seen the Lord” (John
20;17) astonished them and made her the
“Apostle to the Apostles.”
As mediator of the resurrection
events she still gives ongoing witness
throughout the ages and validates all
women’s witness. Her leadership role
certainly reversed the status of the men
and ended all controlling patriarchal presumptions
about the priority of men in
God’s dealing with the world. As Jesus
said about His kingdom; “the last will be
first and the first last.” (Mark 10:31).
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we humbly
praise and thank you for your grace,
mercy and love seen in these precious
We ask for your Holy Spirit to
draw each of us to recognise our prejudices
- especially the oldest one i.e. sexism
- that we may repent and grow to live
in perfect harmony with your will on
earth and abide with you throughout eternity.
And may we remember that Jesus
called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who
wants to be first must be the very last,
and the servant of all”. (Mark 9:35).
In the name of your dear son Jesus Christ our Lord we pray. Amen Uniting Church, Gilgandra