RESPONSE: OCTOBER 2018 ISSUE
Responsively Yours: Living Out the Love of God
Harriet Jane Olson in front of the statue of Millicent Garrett Fawcett in Parliament Square, London, England.
I was very glad to be in England this summer during the national celebration of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. If we’re friends on Facebook, you may have seen the photo I posted of the first statue of a woman in Parliament Square, of suffragette Millicent Garrett Fawcett. She stands near statues of other world-changing leaders like Mahatmas Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.
While visiting exhibits about women’s suffrage I was reminded that one of the arguments for women’s right to vote was that women would view issues through their commitment to care for children and those in need. Supporting women’s right to vote would be part of the success of the reform agenda. Similar arguments were made on this side of the Atlantic as well; in particular, the “women’s vote” was viewed as essential to labor reform with concern for worker safety, an end to child labor, limitations on the work day and work week and fair pay. I found myself thinking about how much progress has been made on these issues by legislation and through the work of labor (or trades) unions—and about how much work is still needed.
I’ve also been reminded recently that the 1908 version of the Methodist Social Creed in the United States called for “a living wage in every industry,” and we know that industries like farm and domestic work are excluded from the U.S. minimum wage laws, as are many tipped workers. We are seeing the declining strength of labor unions and the rise of the so-called “gig” economy, in which knowledge workers are treated as independent contractors rather than employees who would be covered by some of these protections. These changes contribute to the stagnation of middle- and working-class wages that has taken place in recent years and that pundits see as contributing to political polarization. Working with other organizations advocating for a living wage in states across the country is part of United Methodist Women’s response.
Of course, we know that the “women’s vote” hasn’t been a panacea for all the persons for whom we have concern, but it remains an important right, and we ought to exercise it as both a duty and a privilege. Check out United Methodist Women’s Action Alerts for analysis about some important current policies and confirm the voting locations and requirements in your area before election day so that you can have your say.
The exercise of our voting rights and communicating with elected officials about policy matters are just two ways of living out the love of God and neighbor that is at the root of the Wesleyan movement. One of the great blessings of our faith is that we are convinced that we can know that God loves us and calls us into relationship. When we respond in faith through Jesus Christ we are sent out in mission. Wesley called the early Methodists to works of mercy that included alleviation of suffering, working to uplift the marginalized and changing unjust laws and practices. One of John Wesley’s very last letters in 1791 was to William Wilberforce imploring him to work to eliminate the slave trade. United Methodist Women, we stand in a great tradition of turning faith, hope and love into action. I’m grateful to be a part of it.