A Hundred Years Hence|
Created by Sarah Barber-Braun, Paula Copestick, and Dorothy Emerson
for the Unitarian Universalist Women’s Heritage Society
Worship Service at General Assembly, 1996
Leader: Take from the
past not its ashes but its fire.
Response: The flame of
our heritage lights the way to our future.
(in three voices):
“The Past, the
Present, and the Future” adapted from Ella Lyman Cabot (1918)
The Past: We sometimes speak as if the past were over and done with:
past; that’s out of date; that’s ended.” Yet try to
obliterate in your thought all that is past. It is impossible, of
course, because in so doing we obliterate ourselves. Without the help
of what we call the past we could not live at all.
past, instead of being done with, is, then, the real fiber of the
world as we know it. Just as the food we eat nourishes us till it
becomes what we act with, so the past is always what we think with.
The Present: The present. . . is what we make of it, and its size is
exactly that size which our hands are capable of grasping.
The Future: Our future is in our power—not, indeed, what
happens to us, but what we do with what happens to us.
can we best meet an unknown future? Three things seem to be
essential: resolve, resource, discipline.
Our own future may be spiritually and physically. . . rough, wild,
[and] complicated. . . To meet its uncertainties we need to know what
to do in woods where we have lost our life-way and in whirlpools that
break to pieces our cherished hopes.
“A Hundred Years Hence”, words by Frances Dana Barker
(Used with the tune:
hundred years hence, what a change will be made
politics, morals, religion and trade,
statesmen who wrangle or ride on the fence,
things will be altered a hundred years hence.
laws then will be uncompulsory rules,
prisons converted to national schools,
pleasure of sinning ‘tis all a pretense,
people will find that, a hundred years hence.
cheating and fraud will be laid on the shelf,
will not get drunk, nor be bound up in self,
all live together, good neighbors and friends,
Christian folks ought to, a hundred years hence
woman, man’s partner, man’s equal shall stand,
beauty and harmony govern the land,
think for oneself will be no offense,
world will be thinking, a hundred years hence.
and war will be heard of no more
blood of a slave leave his print on our shore,
will then be a useless expense,
we’ll go free-suffrage a hundred years hence.
of speech-making to satisfy wrong,
all join the chorus to sing Freedom’s song;
if the Millennium is not a pretense,
all be good [neighbors] a hundred years hence.
Frances Gage wrote the
words to this hymn nearly 150 years ago. Clearly we have already
passed by half a century the time she hoped her vision of a world of
justice and peace would come to pass. This service today, created by
the Unitarian Universalist Women’s Heritage Society, offers us
an opportunity to reflect on the visions of our foremothers, to
consider our own contemporary response, and to envision anew what we
hope to bring into being one hundred years from now.
I. The Past:
Introducing Frances Dana Barker Gage
We are honored to have
with us today the visionary author of our Opening Hymn, Frances Dana
Barker Gage. She is a writer, lecturer and social activist, known to
the readers of her famous column as “Aunt Fanny.” Her
religion is Universalism, and she works tirelessly for social reform,
particularly for the abolition of slavery, for temperance, and for
equal rights for women.
Just one example of her
activities will demonstrate her visionary perspective, which included
an understanding of the need to link oppressions. In 1850, she
organized a petition drive to secure voting rights for women of all
races and for African Americans both male and female, by asking the
Ohio legislature to eliminate the words “white” and
“male” from the new state constitution then being
The following year, she
was chosen to preside at the second Ohio women’s rights
convention, which was held in the Universalist church in Akron. It
was at this gathering that Sojourner Truth gave her famous “Ain’t
I a Woman” speech.
In her opening remarks
to that convention, Frances Gage drew on the Bible as an unexpected
source of validation for equal rights for women.
and Female Created He Them” by Frances Dana Barker Gage (1851)
me to draw a comparison between the situation of our forefathers in
the wilderness, without even so much as a bridle-path through its
dark depths, and our present position. The old land of moral, social,
and political privilege, seems too narrow for our wants; its soil
answers not to our growing, and we feel that we see clearly a better
country that we might inhabit. But there are mountains of established
law and custom to overcome; a wilderness of prejudice to be subdued;
a powerful foe of selfishness and self- interest to overthrow; wild
beasts of pride, envy, malice, and hate to destroy. But for the sake
of our children and our children’s children, we have entered
upon the work, hoping and praying that we may be guided by wisdom,
sustained by love, and led and cheered by the earnest hope of doing
shall enter into no labored argument to prove that woman does not
occupy the position in society to which her capacity justly entitles
her. The rights of mankind emanate from their natural wants and
emotions. Are not the natural wants and emotions of humanity common
to, and shared equally by, both sexes? Does man hunger and thirst,
suffer cold and heat more than woman? Does he love and hate, hope and
fear, joy and sorrow more than woman? Does his heart thrill with a
deeper pleasure in doing good? Can his soul writhe in more bitter
agony under the consciousness of evil or wrong?
the sunshine more glorious, the air more quiet, the sounds or harmony
more soothing, the perfume of flowers more exquisite, or forms of
beauty more soul-satisfying to his senses than to hers? To all these
interrogatories every one will answer, No!
then did man get the authority that he now claims over one-half of
humanity? From what power the vested right to place woman—his
partner, his companion, his helpmate in life—in an inferior
position? Came it from nature? Nature made woman his superior when
she made her his mother; his equal when she fitted her to hold the
sacred position of wife. Does he draw his authority from God, from
the language of holy writ? No! For it says that “Male and
female created he them, and gave them dominion.”
he claim it under law of the land? Did woman meet with him in council
and voluntarily give up all her claim to be her own lawmaker? Or did
the majesty of might place this power in his hands? The power of the
strong over the weak makes man the master! Yes, there, and there
only, does he gain his authority.
the dark ages of the past, when ignorance, superstition, and bigotry
held rule in the world, might made the law. But the undertone, the
still small voice of Justice, Love, and Mercy, have ever been heard,
pleading the cause of humanity, pleading for truth and right; and
their low, soft tones of harmony have softened the lion heart of
might, and, little by little, he has yielded as the centuries rolled
on; and man, as well as woman, has been the gainer by every
concession. We will ask him to yield still; to allow the voice of
woman to be heard: to let her take the position which her wants and
emotions seem to require; to let her enjoy her natural rights.
not answer that woman’s position is now all her natural wants
and emotions require. Our meeting here together this day proves the
contrary; proves that we have aspirations that are not met. Will it
be answered that we are factious, discontented spirits, striving to
disturb the public order, and tear up the old fastnesses of society?
So it was said of Jesus Christ and His followers, when they taught
peace on earth and good-will to men. So it was said of our
forefathers in the great struggle for freedom. So it has been said of
every reformer that has ever started out the car of progress on a new
and untried track.
fear not man as an enemy. He is our friend, our brother. Let woman
speak for herself, and she will be heard. Let her claim with a calm
and determined, yet loving spirit, her place, and it will be given
her. I pour out no harsh invectives against the present order of
things—against our fathers, husbands, and brothers; they do as
they have been taught; they feel as society bids them; they act as
the law requires. Woman must act for herself.
if all women could be impressed with the importance of their own
action, and with one united voice, speak out in their own behalf, in
behalf of humanity, they could create a revolution without armies,
without bloodshed, that would do more to ameliorate the condition of
mankind, to purify, elevate, ennoble humanity, than all that has been
done by reformers in the last century.
and Naming Women from the Past Who Are Our Spiritual Guides
You are invited now to
remember and to name women from the past who have served as your
Over-Soul and Inter-Heart”, words by Mary Safford (1895) as
edited by Eugene B. Navias, with the tune: Duke Street L.M.)
Over-Soul and Inter-Heart,
whom we feel ourselves a part,
whom all souls forever tend,
Father, Mother, nearest Friend.
church with love to thee we bring,
while our spirits inly* sing,
pray that it may ever be
Home for all who seek for thee.
home of faith in all things true,
faith that seeks the larger view,
home of love that yearns to bless.
home of truth and righteousness.
may it stand, the outward sign
that indwelling Life divine,
makes thy children truly free,
draws them ever nearer thee.
*The word “inly”
was in common usage in Mary Safford’s day and means inwardly,
II. The Present
Verse by Verse, Voice by Voice—a response to Frances Gage
Nearly 150 years ago
Frances Gage challenged women of her day to create a world of justice
and peace. Furthermore, she spelled out that vision with details of
how life would be “a hundred years hence.”
Today, we have our own
visionaries. We hear their voices as a response to Frances Gage, as
evidence that her vision lives on in us. Several of these women have
spoken to us at our General Assemblies, from the prestigious platform
of the Ware Lecture. We hope that those who have not yet addressed us
in this fashion will be invited to do so soon.
Frances Gage reads her
hymn, verse by verse. She is answered by the voices of contemporary
Verse 1: One hundred
years hence, what a change will be made
In politics, morals, religion and trade,
In statesmen who wrangle or ride on the fence,
These things will be altered a hundred years hence.
United States Congressperson:
all over the country can get to know the facts.. . so they can stand
up and ask the hard questions and say, “We want to be involved
in the details of our own protection, rather than trusting it to the
same old craziness.
Verse 2: Our laws then
will be uncompulsory rules,
Our prisons converted to national schools,
The pleasure of sinning ‘tis all a pretense,
And people will find that, a hundred years hence.
Coretta Scott King,
Human Rights Activist:
. . women would increase their voting turnout by 10%, I think we
would see an end to all of the budget cuts in programs benefiting
. . . Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that
you must become its soul.
Verse 3: All cheating
and fraud will be laid on the shelf,
Men will not get drunk, nor be bound up in self,
But all live together, good neighbors and friends,
As Christian folks ought to, a hundred years hence.
Edelman, Director of the Children’s Defense Fund:
the new century dawns with new global economic and military
challenges, [we] will be ready to compete economically and lead
morally only if we stop cheating and neglecting our children for
selfish, short-sighted, personal, and political gain...
Verse 4: Then woman,
man’s partner, man’s equal shall stand,
While beauty and harmony govern the land,
To think for oneself will be no offense,
The world will be thinking, a hundred years hence.
Clinton, First Lady of the United States:
challenges of change are always hard. It is important that we begin
to unpack those challenges that confront this nation and realize that
we each have a role that requires us to change and become more
responsible for shaping our own future.
Verse 5: Oppression
and war will be heard of no more
Nor blood of a slave leave his print on our shore,
Conventions will then be a useless expense,
For we’ll go free-suffrage a hundred years hence.
Founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility:
power of an aroused public is unbeatable. Vietnam.. . proved that. It
must be demonstrated again. It is not too late, for while there is
life there is hope. There is no cause for pessimism, for already I
have seen great obstacles surmounted. Nor need we be afraid, for I
have seen democracy work.
Verse 6: Instead of
speech-making to satisfy wrong,
We’ll all join the chorus to sing Freedom’s song;
And if the Millennium is not a pretense,
We’ll all be good [neighbors] a hundred years hence.
must remember that one determined person can make a significant
difference, and that a small group of determined people can change
the course of history.
The Women and
Religion Resolution (1977):
In our own Unitarian
Universalist movement, women took a stand to change the course of
history by creating the Women and Religion Resolution. In 1977, the
General Assembly called upon all Unitarian Universalists “to
examine carefully their own religious beliefs and the extent to which
these beliefs influence sex-role stereotypes.” Furthermore,
religious leaders were encouraged to “(a) put traditional
assumptions and language in perspective, and (b) avoid sexist
assumptions and language in the future.”
This resolution has
sent reverberations throughout our movement. The changes did not
happen all at once, but change has occurred. When we get discouraged
at how slow things are to change, we need only remember this one
resolution to realize the power we have in our hands to make systemic
and Naming Women of the Present Who Are Our Spiritual Guides and
Mentors. We invite you now to remember and name women of the present
who are your spiritual guides and mentors.
of Life” by Carolyn McDade (1981), (#123 in Singing the Living
III. The Future
Once again, Frances Gage inspires us to move forward into the future,
with her poem “Dare to Stand Alone.” Let us read it
“Dare to Stand Alone” by Frances Dana Barker Gage (c.
Be bold, be firm, be strong, be true,
And dare to stand alone.
Strike for the Right whate’er ye do,
Though helpers there be none.
Oh! bend not to the swelling surge
Of popular sneer and wrong;
‘Twill bear thee on to ruin’s verge
With current wild and strong.
Stand for the Right! Humanity
Implores, with groans and tears,
Thine aid to break the fest’ring links
That bind her toiling years.
Stand for the Right! Though falsehood reign,
And proud lips coldly sneer,
A poisoned arrow cannot wound
A conscience pure and clear.
Stand for the Right!—and with clean hands
Exalt the truth on high;
Thou’lt find warm sympathizing hearts
Among the passers-by—
Those who have seen, and thought, and felt,
Yet could not boldly dare
The battle’s brunt, but by thy side
Will every danger share.
Stand for the Right! Proclaim it loud—
Thou’lt find an answering tone
In honest hearts, and thou no more
Be doomed to stand alone!
Envisioning the Future—What do WE hope to see a hundred
We know that what we
are doing in the present is helping to create the future. But what is
the future we are seeking to bring into being? Let us pause now for a
moment of silence and allow the future to come into focus in our
minds and hearts. (Silence)
You are invited now to
come forward to light a candle and to name some element of the future
you are helping to bring into being.
“Take up the Song” by Carole Etzler Eagleheart and Brenda
“The Opening Doors” by Olympia Brown (1920)
Friends, stand by this faith. Work for it and sacrifice for it. . . .
Do not demand immediate results but rejoice that we are worthy to be
entrusted with this great message and that you are strong enough to
work for a great true principle without counting the cost. Go on
finding ever new applications of these truths and new enjoyments in
their contemplation, always trusting in the one God which ever lives
*AJ and music by Carole
Etzler Eagleheart and Bren Chambers, 1986 © Use only with
permission from composers.
Published in the
songbook Take Up the Song, which may be ordered for $7.45
including postage, from:
Sisters Unlimited, Inc.
RR 1, Box 1420,
Bridgeport, VT 05734