Women Without Superstition: No Gods — No Masters, by Annie Laurie Gaylor, is a very moving, educational and inspirational book. Ninety women are portrayed, women who had virtually no status or respect as individuals. And yet, what a tremendous difference thy made in the life of our nation as they challenged the Christian church, the clergy and organized, orthodox religion.
Two women in the book are such inspiring examples of courage, guts, intelligence and integrity.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote: “We need the courage to go to the source and strike the blow at the fountain of all tyranny, religious superstition, priestly power and canon law. I can tell you that the happiest period of my life has been since I emerged from the shadows and superstitions of the old theologies.”
She was the author of the Nineteenth Amendment guaranteeing women’s right to vote. She was the first to call for women’s suffrage in the United States. She fought tirelessly to free women from legal constraints and from the blight of religious superstition.
Stanton wrote and said over and over again, “When women understand that religion is a human invention, and that bibles, prayer books, catechisms and encyclical letters are all only emanations from the brain of a man, they will no longer be oppressed by the injunctions that come to them with the divine authority of ‘thus saith the Lord.'”
She said again and again in every way possible that the bible has been used by men for the purpose of keeping women in a state of subjection.
Throughout her life, Elizabeth Cady Stanton suffered abuses and humiliations, and yet she never faltered in her commitment to truth and the emancipation of women, for humanity’s sake.
Margaret Sanger wrote: “If Christianity turned the clock of general progress back a thousand years, it turned back the clock two thousand years for women. Its greatest outrage upon her was to forbid her to control the function of motherhood under any circumstances, thus limiting her life’s work to bringing forth and rearing children. Coincident with this, the churchmen deprived her of her place in and before the courts, in the schools, in art and society.”
In 1914 she wrote: “The first right of every child is to be wanted. Over-population is the root of the most serious problems in the world.” She was the first to use the phrase “birth control” and she campaigned for “the right of every woman to total sovereignty over her own person.”
No safe method of birth control was known in America in 1912. Women were not only trapped into economic and social slavery, they were also in biological slavery.
The church hated Sanger and the medical profession denounced her. She was often jailed and once flew to England to avoid a potential forty-five year prison sentence.
When the wrath of governmental and clerical opinion fell heavily upon her, Gandhi, who in his own country realized the blight of overpopulation, came to her defense. So did Clarence Darrow and H. G. Wells.
One of the greatest tributes paid her or any historical figure came from the pen of H. G. Wells who wrote, “Alexander the Great changed a few boundaries and killed a few men. Both he and Napoleon were forced into fame by circumstances outside of themselves and by currents of the time, but Margaret Sanger made currents and circumstances. When the history of our civilization is written, it will be a biological history and Margaret Sanger will be its heroine.”
As we revere those whose lives stood for truth against popular custom, political power and clerical arrogance and ignorance, we must remember all of those women who stood boldly by their convictions with their written and spoken words.
The power of the written word! The immortality of the written word. Great ideas are a force for change. There is an immortality in that, as the great Roman and Greek thinkers 3,000 years ago still remind us. “The spoken word perishes; the written word remains.” (Vox audit petit: litera script manet.)
It is through their written words that Stanton and Sanger, Emerson, Jung, Jefferson and Madison, still today inspire, motivate, encourage, teach, awaken, stimulate us still, even more so than in their own time.
The women without superstition… no Gods… no masters… are still giants of today in our own time, and we stand on their shoulders and carry their courage and their truth onward.