A diverse group of female leaders took part at the Female Religious Leaders Discussion Panel at the LSE Faith Centre on the 17 November 2015, part of the Interfaith Week. One of our team from the Library (Fabi) took part and presented on the archives of the Movement for the Ordination of Women (MOW), and two women who were at the heart of this successful campaign. The following post is Fabi’s contribution to the discussion.

Female leaders sitting on a panel.

From left to right: Sana Musharraf, Fabi Barticioti, Nava Ashraf, Becky Hardie (Chairing the panel), Lindsay Simmonds, Mandy Ford and Navpreet Atwal. Photograph by Levi Epstein

The archives of MOW are being catalogued at the LSE Library. The papers of MOW date from 1940s to the mid-1990s and cover the everyday running of the organisation offering insight to the path taken by women into priesthood in the Church. MOW operated between 1979 and 1994 to campaign for women to become priests in the Church of England. They were successful and the first women priests were ordained in March 1994.

The archives contain documentary materials in many formats and cover themes such as gender inequality, women in the church, campaigning strategies and lobbying. We believe it will be of interest to the LSE community and further afield, particularly as the first woman bishop, the Rt Rev Rachel Treweek, entered the House of Lords last month.

The archives are made up of papers but the papers are about people, discussions and affairs that happened in the course of the campaign. As I go through this archive, I encounter these real people who were devoted to the cause. This successful campaign was not carried out by a few women (or in fact men) but by many of them. The list is long, but for the benefit of the discussion today I would like to bring to your attention 2 names:

Portrait of Monica Furlong

Portrait of Monica Furlong. Photograph unaccredited.

Monica Furlong became the second MOW Moderator between 1982 and 1985, though without any personal vocation to the priesthood. She also edited Chrysalis, the MOW periodical, and founded a more militant subgroup called Radical Group. As an experienced writer she would have achieved distinction through her writings alone but her real commitment to many causes relating to gender inequality made her a household name in the church community. I think it is fair to say that she was somehow involved in many of controversial MOW actions. For instance, she was part of a group of women ejected from St Paul’s Cathedral for a silent protest in the early 1980s. She also found frequent disillusionment, most notably with the organised structures of the General Synod. As a result she founded St Hilda Community in London which she described as “a form of cooperation between men and women in liturgy, using inclusive language, and which invited ordained women from other countries to come and celebrate clandestinely.” She appears to me to have divided opinions within MOW, but no one could argue about her fierce commitment and her creative insight to the campaign.*

 

Dame Christian Howard at the Castle Howard Photograph unaccredited

Dame Christian Howard at the Castle Howard.
Photograph unaccredited.

Dame Christian Howard appears to have been debating the role of women in the Church since her early teachings in the 1940s. She was one of the founders of MOW and worked as a Moderator in the York Diocese branch. She wrote extensively on the subject, she was involved with the Association of Lay Ministry, the World Council of Churches and was a member of the General Synod in the 1980s. She had great knowledge on the subject of Feminist Theology and the politics in the established church. She was fair towards the opposition but I think she may have used the strategy of killing them with kindness. ‘I ‘could have been an MP’ she said once in an interview and she ‘never felt in herself the calling to be a priest’. Instead, she was compelled by having gender equality in the Church. She seems to have been very much dedicated to a subject that raised much opposition – particularly in those earlier days.*

Further information about the MOW archives cataloguing project see a previous blog post.

Fabi Barticioti

Assistant Archivist assigned to catalogue the Movement for the Ordination of Women

F.Barticioti@lse.ac.uk

Tel: (0)207 955 6452

*Some information extracted from the Guardian Obituary Online and Who’s Who, 1987.

About the author

Fabi Barticioti

Fabi is an Assistant Archivist at LSE Library and is assigned to catalogue and publicise the Movement for Ordination of Women archive (MOW).