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Community & Business

20 May, 2023

Pastor’s Viewpoint - May 2, 2023

Women of faith and grace

By Supplied

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.”

When 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.

Duly 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 length.”

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 stories.

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

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