50 Women Every Christian Should Know by Michelle DeRusha: A Book Review
The fifty women profiled in this feat of meticulous research were definitely world changers. Covering over 900 years of Christian history, Michelle DeRusha has included the familiar names of recent history (Flannery O’Connor, Ruth Bell Graham); the less familiar names of previous centuries (Susanna Wesley, Lottie Moon); and then some obscure names from the distant past (Hildegard of Bingen, St. Birgitta of Sweden). She has drawn back the curtain on their background, the influences that shaped their decisions, and summarized their contribution with a winsome style that resists caricatures and stresses uniqueness.
Yes, Hildegard and Birgitta had some ideas and experiences that might not go over well with the ladies missionary fellowship. Yes, Katie bought some property without Martin’s approval; and, perhaps, Sojourner, Jarena, and Elizabeth could even be accused of having abandoned their families for the sake of their ministries. From start to finish, the book portrays real women, warts and all, who held to their convictions and did not abandon the church, even though many influential women of history (their peers) erroneously concluded “that religion was detrimental to the cause of women’s rights.”
It is significant, I think, that only the last dozen or so of the collection would have had running water and indoor plumbing. It is also significant that many of them inhabited periods of history or geographical locations in which literacy and education for women were frowned upon. Often, against the norms of society (Victorian England) or against strong religious beliefs (Hinduism), a concerned father would see to his daughter’s education, putting in her hands the tools of influence. Most of the women profiled in the book suffered hardship or grief that led them to either seek God for solace or to seek opportunities for service to others in order to rise above their despair.
I was especially fascinated by the chains of influence that became apparent as I worked my way through the book chronologically. For instance, Clara Swain’s medical work in India paved the way for Dr. Ida Scudder; prison reformer Elizabeth Fry influenced the work of Florence Nightingale. Links continue to be added to this chain as great role models of the 20th century such as Elisabeth Elliot and Helen Roseveare have revealed in their writings the influence of these 50 great women.
And now, the baton is in our hands. It is of paramount importance that 50 Women Every Christian Should Know should become part of the reading experience of our generation of women, of our daughters, and of our grand-daughters. Reading about women who died for their faith, who made significant sacrifices to know Him and to make Him known, who persevered through the apparent silence of God only to hear Him speak — this is inspiring to our own faith and vision as we strive to become “heroines of the faith” in our day.
I received this book free from Baker Publishing Group. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.