Thursday, December 18, 2008

Women's Preaching

After spending time with the Oneidas, Brothertowns, and others, Dorothy Ripley returned to New Stockbridge, New York towards the end of August, 1805. At least two clergymen were visiting John Sergeant (Jr.) on that day and Ms. Ripley overheard one of them saying that if she had "Come to teach them to knit and sew it would be very well"(page 110). According to Ripley's journal,"Catherine Quachemut, an Indian sister, "was so "grieved at the incivility of the missionary who opposed women's preaching" that she wrote Ripley a letter and walked eight miles to deliver it.

That letter starts out as a very conventional confession of Christian faith and then proceeds to address the issue of female preachers:

"I fully believe that thou art sent by the great and good Spirit into this part of the world to do good to thy fellow creatures, to preach the gospel to every kind of people; and although many people are led to believe that it is not the duty of women to preach, still I pray God that thou mayest not be discouraged, there being many infallible proofs in the scriptures of women labouring in the gospel; one great encouragement is our Lord Jesus appeared to a woman first after his Resurrection" (pages 117-118).

After several more lines of sisterly well-wishing, Catherine Quachemut signed her name and wrote Neyuh Dinnaukomuh [which means "I will do it"], New Stockbridge, 8th mo[nth] 1805 (page 118).

That same day the other Stockbridge women dictated another letter to Captain Hendrick:

"Dear sister,
We the poor women of the Muheconnuck [Mohican] nation, wish to speak a few words to you, to inform you, that while our forefathers were sitting by their ancient fire-place, about eighty years ago, our father, Rev. Sergeant's father, came amongst them with the message of the Great and Good Spirit."

The letter went on to describe the esteem they had for John Sergeant Sr. and the compassion with which John Sergeant Jr. had towards their "dismal situation." The letter continues:

"Sister, While we were sitting by the side of our fire-place here, we saw you coming, and when you opened your mouth we believed you was sent by the Great and good Spirit to visit us (poor natives of this Island.) We feel thankful to Him that he has put such a love in your heart, that you was willing to undertake such a long and tedious journey on purpose to deliver His message to us... Sister, In behalf of the rest of our women, we now heartily thank you for your kindness and for the pains you have taken to visit us."

The letter continued on with more pleasantries and Captain Hendrick listed Lydia Suhquawkhuh (wife of Hendrick), Catherine Quaquwchon, Elizabeth Maukhtoaquawusquch, Catherine Quinney, and Eve Knohtcaunmeau as the authors. John Sergeant [Jr.] gave Dorothy Ripley his horse and ten days later she was on a sloop back to New York City.

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