Emmeline Pankhurst, the noted political activist and early feminist advocate struggled to convince Victorian and Edwardian Britain of the glaring injustice to women that denial of voting rights brought about. Her Suffragette movement not only protested vocally, but often resorted to violent, sometimes even deadly, methods. As a consequence, she was viewed as not just an “uppity woman”, but a “dangerous uppity” woman. She could not be silenced though, Quite a religious woman, she regularly exhorted her listeners to “Pray to God, and she will help you”.
The New Testament is replete with “uppity women” and none is more notable than the Canaanite woman whom Jesus encounters in today’s gospel. A member of a persecuted minority tribe, she is further disadvantaged by being female and, even worse, the mother of a sick child.
An intelligent woman, she recognizes the potential in Jesus to answer her needs. In spite of loud deterrence by the disciples and testing remarks by Jesus, she persists in her efforts to help her daughter. Her faith, her persistence, her “uppitiness” is rewarded. She asked of God and she received. Like Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, she chose the better part and is commended by Jesus for refusing to be put back in her place.
Like the Canaanite woman, we too could not do better than persisting in demanding of God. She may well help us. Perhaps the modern Church needs to learn from Jesus’ attitude towards “uppity” women and put them in their place?”
“Jesus and the Canaanite woman,” by Pieter Lastman, 1617 (Wikimedia Commons)