NEWSLETTER

 

 

Winter
2002

Vol. 2       Num. 2

 

We want to share with you the note that Vanessa VanSpall wrote to us about what God’s Word to Women meant in her life.  

Greetings!  

I am so happy to find you and your website.  I recently ran across the book God's Word to Women in my mother's basement while searching for something else.  I was struck by the strong title and decided that either this book would truly be "God's word to women" or the author was just very arrogant.  After tearing through the entire book like a spy novel, I feel that it is the former. 

I am 26 years old and have grown up in the church (my father is a minister of music).  This book has changed my life.  I have been blessed with a gift of faith in God and assurance of my salvation since my conversion as a child. However, I have sometimes wondered what God's perspective is of me. There are a lot of conflicting messages that women receive in the church. Bushnell's book answered so many fundamental questions I have long had in my heart about being a daughter of God.  Her writings reflect qualities of God that I have found to be true of Him in my own life such as gentleness, hope and life to name a few.  On my own, I have not always been able to reconcile my knowledge and intuition of God's nature with certain passages of scripture regarding women or even an overall plan for me as a Christian woman. This book has enlightened me, and I marvel at the fact that it was written so long ago. 

I am disappointed that it is not cited more often in scholarly works. For example, I did not see it referenced in the book Paul, Women and Wives by Craig S. Keener, which deals with some of the same passages of scripture. In fact, my complaining about this issue to my boyfriend caused him to run the web search that located your website.  I appreciate your "Tips for Study" and am wondering which translation of scripture you find most accurate. 

Well, thanks for your time.  I am so excited to find others who have read this book.  I'm certainly going to pass your website along to all my friends. 

God Bless,                                   
Vanessa Van Spall  

What’s Happening on the Web?

We want to call your attention to some new articles that have recently been put up on the website.  You can always find the latest by clicking on “What’s New” found at the top of each page.

Who's the Boss? by Drs. Eddie & Susan Hyatt gives three reasons why Ephesians 5:21-33 is not about authority in marriage.  This article is a brief summation of the arguments presented in the Hyatts’ new book by the same name.

The Sonship of Women  by Cindye Coates.  Many have been hindered by the generic implication of the word, "sonship." In this article Cindye declares that the time has come for kingdom women to move from the wilderness over into their covenant place, possessing that which was already possessed for them in, through and by Jesus Christ.

 
Thank you  

Dr. Bushnell!

  By Pat Joyce       

Kate Bushnell - how much I wish that I could look you in the eye and thank you for your life and work, particularly God’s Word to Women.  For years, I struggled with the subservient role given women by the traditional church.  I condemned myself for not being able to accept the limitations that were imposed on women simply because of their gender.  I was like the child who is told to sit down and does it, but inside she is still standing up. Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,” I was told.  I begged the Lord to make me what I had been taught was a truly “submissive” woman.  He didn’t.

Through the years, I came across some hints that traditional teaching might be in error, but how do you get around “women keep silent in the church,” or “wives submit to your husbands as unto the Lord?”  Then a crisis arose where I had to know what I believed God intended for women, and my opinion had to be backed up by the Word.  

My friend, Gay Anderson, loaned me three books, Who Said Women Can’t Teach by Charles Trombley, The Apostle Paul and Women in the Church by Don Williams and God’s Word to Women by Katharine C. Bushnell.   The first two were wonderful, and I highly recommend them. However, God’s Word to Women was the life-changer. I tried to read it critically, and there were a few things that I  questioned, but overall, I simply rejoiced.  

When Dr. Katharine Bushnell died in 1946, her book had been out of print for years.   The work she had done seemed to have been in vain.  Yet, she never quit writing.  Like the prophets of old, she continued to work, looking toward the day when women would take their God-given place in society and the church. Thank you Lord for preserving the work of your servant and using it in this day when you are setting your women free!

 

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Who was Katharine Bushnell?

By Pat Joyce

 

 For many of us, the book God’s Word to Women by Katharine Bushnell is known and loved.  We thought you might like to know something about the life of the remarkable woman behind the words.  It is a testimony to the ongoing leading of God’s Spirit in a life given to Him.[i]

Katharine Bushnell was born February 5, 1855 in Peru, Illinois, the seventh of nine children.  After graduating from public school, she studied classics at Northwestern for two years while pursuing medicine privately.  When she was at Northwestern, she met Frances Willard, future president of the WCTU (Women’s Christian Temperance Union), who was to have a great influence on her life.  Bushnell left Northwestern and entered medical school.  It is said that “professors put up a screen around her in classes so she could recite without being seen, at which the men in the room would hoot and yell.”  When she graduated in 1876, she was three years younger than the others in her class! 

After graduation Bushnell did a short internship and then was persuaded to go to China as a medical missionary.  While in China, Bushnell became even more aware of the effects of a male-dominated society on women.  She also discovered a passage in the Chinese Bible that was mistranslated.  When she asked why, she was told that it was because the pagan culture was prejudiced against the ministry of women.  This experience caused her to question whether this same male bias might prejudice English translation as well.  

Bushnell went to China believing that it was not proper for women to preach the Gospel.  Now, her opinion began to change. She saw a desperate need for women, including herself, to learn the biblical languages and look at questionable passages for themselves. Katharine had begun to study Latin and Greek while at Northwestern.  She now intensified that study, concentrating on the Greek New Testament, then the Septuagint and later moving on to Hebrew.  

Bushnell was forced to leave China in 1882 because of a back injury.  She went to Denver and established a medical practice but was not happy with the work since she had studied medicine not for itself but as a means of Christian ministry.  There Katharine became associated with the WCTU (Women’s Christian Temperance Union) in the Department for the Advancement of Social Purity (Bible-based Christian morality) where she lectured and worked with “fallen women” (prostitutes).

In 1885, Bushnell left her medical practice, having been persuaded by Frances Willard to come to Chicago as National Evangelist of the Social Purity Department of the WCTU.    She saw drinking as a problem but believed that the root cause of society’s ills to be male dominance, which was supported by biased translation of the Bible done by all-male translation teams.  

It is impossible in this short space to give even casual mention to all Bushnell’s accomplishments during the time she was with the WCTU.  (For a thorough biography of Katharine Bushnell complete with an annotated bibliography of her works, read Oh Thou Woman That Bringest Good Tidings by Dana Hardwick.[ii])  Along with Elizabeth Andrew, Katherine helped found the Anchorage Mission in Chicago, which cared for up to 5,000 women and girls a year.  The mission provided a way of escape for those who desired to leave the “oldest profession.”  

After hearing numerous reports of a “white-slave-trade” kidnapping that forced women into prostitution in the Michigan and Wisconsin lumber camps, she began the first of her “crusades.” Katharine found the reports to be true and spent four months obtaining proof of the allegations.   

 It was dangerous work as the brothels had support from many of the town fathers, including the doctors.  Bushnell carefully documented verifiable evidence.  She proved that women as young as fourteen and some retarded women, were kept in subjection by force with barricades, and even dogs, used to prevent their escape.  In many places, the police not only refused assistance but returned runaways to the brothels. Local WCTU chapters and ministers in the towns where she was investigating supported her efforts. 

When Bushnell presented her report at a WCTU meeting in Chicago, the newspapers got hold of it, and many exaggerated her findings, threatening the credibility of the report.  She believed that the newspapers deliberately distorted the facts in order to discredit her findings.  A retraction undid some of the damage.  Officials denied her reports, which blackened the name of their state, but were forced by the publicity to give her a hearing.  Bushnell had to be protected by police when she was called to testify to an out-of-session meeting of the Wisconsin legislature.  Standing as the lone woman in the room, she sought strength from the Lord.  As she prayed, the door behind her opened, and some fifty ladies of high social position filed in and stood with her as she spoke!

Legislation was later passed to stop the practice, but it was not enforced.  The notoriety changed things for Bushnell.  People wanted to hear her speak on the lumber camp findings rather than the message on Christian lifestyle and morality.  When despite, or maybe because of her notoriety, she was not included on the program of the National Convention of the WCTU.  Bushnell kindly reminded everyone that temperance was the major focus and not moral issues.  However, these problems led her to seek the Lord for direction for her ministry.  

The WCTU commissioned her to make a round-the-world speaking tour with her friend Elizabeth Andrews.  A dream led her to contact Josephine Butler, the head of WCTU’s Social Purity Department in England.  Butler responded that it had come to light that the British troops in India were being furnished Indian girls “for the sake of their health” and requested that Bushnell and Andrews stop in India as part of her tour and quietly investigate the allegations. 

Since no financial help was given to the women, Bushnell planned a speaking tour to earn the money for the trip.  However, she became ill and was unable to complete it.  After prayer, she decided to go anyway and found God’s provision in numerous letters containing contributions waiting for her in New York.       

I wish there were room to detail these amazing trips.   The women’s only contact in India was not helpful. Although they were unfamiliar with Indian customs, God provided the way to learn what they needed to know.  Then, He protected them from the authorities and local danger while they traveled thirty-six hundred miles as lower-class passengers.  They would arrive at their destination in the middle of the night, sleep in ladies waiting rooms and eat what they could buy at the stations.  Then, they would go to the brothels, hold a service, and ask how the women came to be there.  The stories poured out.  After the service, they left immediately for their next destination.  

When the report was completed and sent to England, they were warned to keep silent.  They continued their tour going to Australia and New Zealand and then were called back to England to testify.   Although their testimony was proven true and there was much outrage in the end, nothing changed.  

Next came China and the Opium dens.  Again, the two women proved beyond a doubt the effects of opium on its users and society.  They found that both prostitution and opium use were supported by many of the American and British men in positions of power.  The actions of these men, who were supposed to be Christians, were a condemnation of Christianity to the Chinese.  

For ten years, Bushnell worked for the WCTU--touring, speaking and investigating.  In 1898, she resigned from the world organization when the English branch compromised their position on the very issues they had asked her to investigate. 

Bushnell continued her study of the Bible and the original languages throughout her life.  She could concentrate anywhere, having developed the ability to distance herself from her surroundings as a child in a large family.  Now, the study would be put to use.  After her return from England, she wrote and conducted Bible studies.  In 1904, she moved to Oakland, California and became involved in one more crusade against vice and prostitution in San Francisco.  When even her greatest efforts did not get results, she focused her attention on the work that would dominate the rest of her life.  

Bushnell had seen the plight of women around the world held captive by male-dominated culture and religion.  She believed that until both men and women realized that they were of equal value, no permanent change could come.  Only Christianity, supported by the Bible properly translated and interpreted, taught equality.  Bushnell intensified her study, returning to England in 1907 to polish her language skills and do intensive biblical study in their libraries.  She had published occasionally before this time, but now it became a regular event.  Katharine concentrated on providing accurate translation and teaching that would free women to seek the place that God had prepared for them in the divine economy.  Her work on scripture was ahead of its time and would be considered cutting edge on many of today’s issues.  Her life and work are a testimony to our Lord’s desire to convict his people of the consequences of choosing tradition ahead of truth.


1. Information in this article was taken from Oh, thou Woman Who Bringest Good Tidings, The Life and Work of Katharine Bushnell by Dana Hardwick and God’s Word to Women by Katharine C. Bushnell.

2.  Order Hardwick’s book from GWTW, 600 Partridge Ln., Eagle Lake, TX 77437 for $7.50 plus $3.00 postage.  For an order form, go to www.godswordtowomen.org/form.htm 


 
 
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