Sunday, July 29, 2007

July 29: Remembering the Philadelphia Eleven (1974)

I was amazed, when I was teaching at CDSP, that some of the first-year seminarians (including the women) did not know who the Philadelphia Eleven were.

Quick précis here.

Timeline here. (And you think we have problems today, folks! Women weren't ordained as priests till that summer in 1974. But women did not get seated as lay delegates in the House of Deputies until 1970. They'd been trying for five decades.)

The ordination was --they did it on purpose-- the feast of Martha and Mary of Bethany. Today's feast is moved to tomorrow because it's Sunday.)

The women, who were all white, had almost all been involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Most of them understood themselves and spoke of themselves as feminists.

Here is a sermon preached by the Right Reverend Barbara Harris, the first woman bishop in the Anglican Communion (now retired) on the 25th anniversary of those first irregular ordinations of women to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church. Barbara Harris served as crucifer at the ordination of the Philadelphia Eleven, which took place at her home church in Philadelphia, the Church of the Advocate, a mostly African American congregation. Little did she or anyone there know that in 1989 she would be ordained bishop.

By the way, she has a few scathing things to say about Lambeth 1998 in that sermon.

The very first woman priest in the Anglican Communion, by the way, was the Rev. Li Tim Oi, ordained in Hong Kong during World War II. To her also I pay loving tribute today.

My Episcopal and Anglican history books are mostly at the office, but I may be able to post some references from there a little later this week, before I leave for Boston. (Yes, another trip to Boston: this time, a humongous family reunion.)

The photo is of the Rev. Jeannette Piccard, the oldest of the Philadelphia Eleven, ordained priest at the age of 79. She was also a noted balloonist (speaking of Christina the Astonishing, see below) and the first woman to enter the stratosphere, in 1934. She died in 1981, at the age of 86.


Magdalene6127 said...

Jane, thank you, thank you for this! This is wonderful. I have a dear friend here who does a one woman play about Piccard, Solo Flight-- both about the first trip into the stratosphere with husband Jean Luc, and also about the ordination.

And are you a Star Trek: TNG buff? There is a captain, Jean-Luc Piccard, of one generation of the Enterprise...

ok, possibly too much free-associating.

Thanks again,


Jane R said...

I've heard of that play. Would love to see it.

Actually, her husband was Jean-Félix Piccard (more often known in the U.S. as Jean, he was a Swiss originally), but one of the web sites I read (a reliable one, about science and ballooning and their whole family, which had brothers and sons who were also balloonists!) says it is more than likely that Jean-Luc Picard (with one c) was in fact named after the Piccards (with two c's) of balloon fame. And yes, I know who Capt. Picard is, though I don't really count as a Trekkie, but I did use to watch the show, on and off. (My friend Maureen who is an ethicist loves it, says it is full of great case studies.) I love him. All the men in my immediate family lose their hair early (or rather, their hairline recedes early) so I'm big on Bald Is Beautiful ;-).

One of the accounts of Jeannette's life, by the way, says that on that 1934 flight to the stratosphere, Jeannette and Jean-Félix brought along their pet turtle! They left the kids at home though. Jeannette wrote that people were just shocked that not only was a woman going into space, but a mother. Quite a character.

Kirstin said...

I completely forgot to mark this! Thank you for remembering.

Love the story about Jeannette and the turtle.

Jane R said...

Hey, Kirstin - how's the Bishop's Ranch? Are you still there or is your summer gig there over?

lisa mc said...

Just popped online to do research about ordained episcopal women. i'm working on a documentary and would welcome any advice on archived photographs or news reels. my next stop is the church office in new york.
thank you for the post on the philadelphia 11! tomorrow i have the privaledge to interview nancy wittig!

Anonymous said...

Just a note as I happened on your site: The turtles name was Fluer de Lis. Now you would naturally thisk that had to do with Joan d'Arc, but actually it had perfect Fluer d'Lis on each panel of its back. - Don Piccard