Sunday reflection: Missing history

Since Sundays are a time to pause and reflect, it’s a perfect time to think back over the first week of my Write 31 Days series and look forward to the next week of the series.

The first week’s worth of posts covered just around 1000 years, and only touched on the lives of six women. This exemplifies part of the challenge of sharing the stories of the people who shaped Christianity since Peter preached the sermon on Pentecost that took the number of believers from 120 to more than 3,000. Whose story do you tell?

To my frustration, I have found – or rediscovered – that women’s stories are the ones excluded. I have written more in the first week of this series about Perpetua, Marcella, Mary of Egypt, Hrosvitha, Julian of Norwich and Clare of Assisi than the entire textbook for my Survey of Christian History class wrote for these six women combined. Specifically:

  • Perpetua’s story was told in only a sentence – half of which concerned the rumored conversion of a jailer who witnessed her martyrdom. The book did, however, include an excerpt from her diary.
  • Marcella, Mary of Egypt and Hrosvitha were not mentioned at all.
  • Julian of Norwich was mentioned in half of a compound sentence, but a short excerpt of her writing, Revelations of Divine Love, was included.
  • Clare’s only mention was in a sentence that reflected not her own accomplishments, but that centered on the influence of Francis of Assisi.

Looking into the stories I’ll be telling next week, it gets better, but not by much.

  • Katherine Schultz Zell, Katie Luther, Elizabeth Dirks and Anne Hutchinson are not mentioned in their own right.
  • Only 27 words are used to tell of Catherine of Siena, who served as an ambassador, counsellor and sometimes critic of different popes, throughout her short life.
  • Teresa of Avila alone among the women we’ll meet in the first two weeks of the series received treatment equivalent to that of male figures in the text.

I don’t know if this is typical of Christian history books. I understand that there are limits to what can be included in a book that is designed to serve as a survey for Christian history. I also understand that there may be men whose contributions to the church are not included due to those same space constraints.

Having said that, there has to be a better way to include more women in our Christian education whether it be in a survey textbook or in our churches.

I’m just not sure what that way is.

For now, I am indebted to various solid, well-sourced web sites for the information I am including in these stories.

Ruth A. Tucker’s Extraordinary Women of Christian History has been an absolutely essential reference and inspiration for the series. I’d highly recommend reading it if you have an interest in history as I do.

As we enter into next week, how do you believe we can tell the stories of women in Christian history better? Whose stories should I tell as the series continues?


This is the eighth post in my Write 31 Days series for 2017 in which I am taking a devotional look at key women in Christian history. For more information, or to start the series from the beginning, visit the introductory post.

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