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Hail! Valiant Women

March 13, 2016

A Litany in Celebration of the Gifts of Women, offerd in three voices during worship at The White Plains Presbyterian Church on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, March 13, 2016

Each March, as part of Women’s History Month, the Presbyterian Church (USA) celebrates the Gifts of Women. The liturgy we used in worship this year was based upon a litany first published by Miriam Therese Winter in 1987 (Woman Prayer, Woman Song: Resources for Ritual). Almost a third of the original litany was omitted (for reasons of time) and new entries – to bring us up to date – were written by The Rev. Noelle Damico. Our scripture reading, based on Proverbs 31:10-31, asked the question, “Who can find a valiant woman.” The answer is, “Look! We are all around.”

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Many remarkable achievements
are absent from the annals of history
because they were done by women,
and the conclusion is drawn
that nothing was done by women
because nothing is recorded there!
We must keep women’s memory alive,
recall and recover her experiences
because all women are less visible,
their collective worth less valuable,
when one woman’s world disappears.

Let us now praise valiant women,
recalling to life
representatives
of all those heroines
whose lives are living testimony
that God
is God
in us.

Our response will be “Hail! Valiant Women.”

We praise valiant women,
whose lives give hope to us.

Eve,
the first woman,
mother of all the living,
soul of the human race.

Noah’s wife,
on an ark
forty days
with all those animals.

Sarah,
heart of the covenant,
mother of nations,
who conceived laughter
in her old age.

Hail, Valiant Women! 

Rebecca,
woman of ingenuity,
achieving her own purposes
in a patriarchal world.

Rachel,
who waited
seven years, seven days,
waited for love,
waited for life.

Asenath,
Joseph’s Egyptian wife,
who merged her foreign ancestry
with the bloodline
of the covenant.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Hatshepsut,
Queen of Egypt
during the prosperous Eighteenth dynasty,
who constructed the great temple
in West Thebes,
who’s reign was a reign of peace.

Nefertiti,
Queen, co-ruler of Egypt,
who, with her husband,
introduced into Egypt
the revolutionary notion
of worshiping only one God.

Mother and sister of Moses,
and Pharaoh’s daughter,
whose courage enabled Moses
to live
to accomplish the exodus.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah,
daughters of Zelophehad,
descendants of Asenath and Joseph,
who convinced Moses
to allow women
to receive an inheritance.

Hannah,
witness to the power
of prayer
and the consequences
of faith.

Wise woman of Tekoa,
whom men in authority
consulted
for the wisdom
of her word.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Woman of Womanly Wisdom,
wiser than the wisdom
of Solomon,
whose mother-love
saved her child
from the stinging slice
of the sword.

Theoclea,
disciple of Pythagoras
in sixth-century Greece,
who was the chief priestess
at Delphi.

Phaenaretta,
mother of Socrates,
a genius in herbal medicine,
a respected midwife
and mathematician.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Sappho,
writer in ancient Greece,
who is said to be
one of the greatest poets
who ever lived.

Huldah,
prophet in Israel,
whose judgment
shaped the canon
that contains God’s holy word.

All those women of Israel and the Ancient Near East,
who are faithful to their calling,
whose deeds no one remembers,
whose names are unrecorded,
whose lives remain unknown.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Mary,
mother of Jesus the Christ,
a woman,
one of us.

Elizabeth,
who proved
one is never too old
to have her dream come true.

Anna,
prophet at prayer
in the temple
when Jesus was offered to God,
who from that moment
preached Jesus,
proclaiming salvation to all.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Mary,
mother of Joseph and James,
who joined Jesus in ministry. 

Salome,
who followed Jesus
and shared in his ministry.

Peter’s mother-in-law,
who was cured
of a high fever
by Jesus
and immediately
saw to the needs
of her guests.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Mother of the sons of Zebedee,
who was unafraid to speak her mind,
who atoned for her push
for power and prestige
by standing at the cross.

Mary and Martha of Bethany,
Soul-friends of Jesus
with whom he felt that home
and shared his ministry.

Generous Widow,
whom Jesus praised
because she gave all she had.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Prophetic Woman,
who discerned the truth
and proclaimed Jesus
Messiah
by anointing his head with oil.

Woman Rebuked by Jesus,
who dared
to speak her mind
in public
at the risk of being put down.

Woman Servant,
who spoke the truth
when Peter lied,
swearing
that he did not know the man.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Pilate’s Wife,
who begged her husband
to trust her intuition
and not condemn Jesus to death.

Mary, mother of John Mark,
at who’s home
in Jerusalem
Christians met to pray.

Lydia of Macedonia,
a businesswoman
converted by Paul
who met with a group for prayer.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Phoebe,
deacon of the church in Cenchreae.

Mary,
in ministry in the church in Rome.

Junia,
in ministry in the church in Rome.

Tryphaena and Tryphosa,
in ministry in the church in Rome.

Persis,
in ministry in the church in Rome.

Julia,
in ministry in the church in Rome.

Olympas,
in ministry in the church in Rome.

Mother of Rufus,
in ministry in the church in Rome

Sister of Nereus,
in ministry in the church in Rome.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Priscilla,
known also as
Prisca,
church leader and teacher,
in a team ministry
with her husband.

Tabitha,
known also as
Dorcas,
a disciple
and devoted worker
at Joppa,
whom Peter
raised from the dead.

Chloe,
prominent in the Corinthian church.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Four Women Prophets,
daughters of Philip,
who preached prophetically.

Women of Corinth,
who prayed and prophesied
in church,
whom Paul enjoined
to keep silent.

Rhoda,
maid at the house of Mary,
mother of John Mark,
who, in her joy
at seeing Peter,
left him standing
at the gate.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Claudia,
in ministry in the church.

Evodia and Syntyche,
who labored side-by-side
with Paul
and Clement
and their fellow workers.

Nympha,
who had a church at her house
In Laodicea.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Apphia,
who had a church at her house.

Thekla,
declared a legend,
perhaps because her reality
as role model for women
was too much of a threat to all.

All those women of the early church
who are truly pioneers,
as prophets, preachers,
pastoral leaders,
following in the footsteps of Jesus.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Cecilia,
second or third century,
one of the most venerated martyrs
in the early Roman church,
who today is known as
patron of church music.

Lucy,
who, according to tradition,
witnessed to her faith
by giving generously to the poor
during an era of Christian persecutions,
was denounced by the man
to whom she was betrothed,
and martyred in the year 303.

Monica,
mother of Augustine,
who besieged God
for his conversion
until her prayer was answered,
who was influential
in the life of her son
and the church
because of her piety.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Proba,
4th-century theologian,
whose interpretation of tradition
with systematically ignored.

Paula,
scholarly friend of Jerome,
the respected Doctor of the Church,
whose circle of learning for women
in Rome
remains virtually unknown.

Hiniko,
Queen of Wa,
the first recorded ruler of Japan,
who waged peace in the fourth century
by sending emissaries to China
and by uniting warring tribes and clans.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Bridgit,
patron saint of Ireland,
who founded a monastic center of learning
for women
in the fifth century
it was influential in politics
and church affairs.

Khadijah,
Muhamed’s first wife,
a successful business woman,
who had a strong influence
on the prophet,
who supported and encouraged him
during the time of his first revelations.

Fathima,
Muhamed’s daughter,
his only surviving child,
held in high esteem
by Muslims
who was with her father
through his years of persecution.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Wu Zi-Tien,
the only woman emperor
of China,
who reigned brilliantly and effectively
for forty years
late in the seventh century,
making Buddhism the state religion
and the Tang Dynasty a liberal interlude
for women.

Irene,
self-proclaimed emperor
of Constantinople
at the end of the eighth century,
the first woman to head the Roman Empire in the East,
who restored religious tolerance
and convoked ecumenical councils
in Constantinople and Nicaea.

Trotula,
eleventh-century physician,
considered the mother of gynecology,
whose book on women’s diseases
was a valuable reference
for centuries after her death.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Heloise,
who was banished to a convent
by her husband Abelard
soon after they were married,
who became abbess
and founder of a theological college,
who is one of the great female writers
and perhaps the most learned woman
in twelfth-century France.

Hildegard of Bingen,
twelfth-century Mystic,
one of the great minds
of medieval Europe –
abbess, scientist, scholar,
composer, visionary, poet.

Clare of Assisi,
a visionary
born of a noble family
in thirteenth-century Italy,
who renounced prosperity,
founded the Poor Clares,
and was Francis of Assisi’s
coworker and friend.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Julian of Norwich,
fourteenth century,
England,
whose mystical experiences
are revelations of divine love,
who contributed much
to the church’s tradition
of mystical theology.

Maria Bartola,
sixteenth century,
Mexico’s first female historian,
who recorded her experience
of the brutal Spanish conquest
of her Aztec civilization.

Katherine Zell,
sixteenth century,
Germany,
zealous promoter of the Reformation
and supporter of equality
between women and men,
who published a collection
of congregational hymns,
who cared for the sick,
the imprisoned,
and waves of refugees
displaced by religious warfare.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Anne Hutchison,
Massachusetts Bay,
whose Bible study
and group discussions
led to charges of heresy
and excommunication
from her church
in 1637.

Dewens Morrey,
a Quaker in England,
who in 1657
was whipped in the church
until she bled
because “a woman
must not speak in church.”

Okuni,
a priestess
in Japan
in the seventeenth-century,
who developed ceremonial dance forms
into Kabuki,
traditional Japanese drama,
in which women, not men,
played both male and female roles.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Susanna Wesley,
mother of John
and eighteen other children,
who taught them all
in her household school
and led prayer in her home.

Abigail Adams,
patriot, feminist,
revolutionary,
who protested slavery
decades before
a movement was organized.

Phyllis Wheatley,
who was purchased as a slave
at the age of eight,
became the first black poet
in America,
died in poverty
at the age of thirty-one
in 1784.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Katherine Ferguson,
former slave,
who opened the first Sabbath School
in 1793.

Kaahumanu,
first female ruler
and lawmaker of Hawaii,
who abolished restricted practices
and taboos against women
early in the nineteenth century
and established women’s right
to an education
and other basic rights.

Lucretia Mott,
preacher, reformer, feminist,
who launched the movement
for women’s rights
at Seneca Falls, New York,
in 1848.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Elizabeth Cady Stanton,
co-organizer
at Seneca Falls,
who produced
The Woman’s Bible.

Susan B. Anthony,
who led the women’s liberation
revolution
and pushed for women’s right
to vote.

Harriet Tubman,
former slave,
uncompromising abolitionist,
unintimidated by convention or authority,
you led your people by the North Star,
freedom and rights are your legacy.

Hail, Valiant Women! 

Harriet Beecher Stowe,
Nineteenth-century
New England novelist,
whose powerful depiction
of the plight of slaves
captured the American conscience.

Emily Dickinson,
American poet,
who was able to transform
personal pain
into strong, sensitive verse
that continues to inspire.

Antoinette Brown,
first American woman
ordained to ministry,
ordained in the Congregational Church
in 1853.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Elizabeth Blackwell,
first woman in America
to graduate from medical school
and become a licensed physician,
who founded a medical school
for women
in 1865.

Rosana Chouteau,
North American Indian,
elected chief of the Osage Beaver Band
in 1875,
the first female chief
in that patriarchal tribe.

Clara Barton,
who served as a nurse
in the Civil War
and founded the American Red Cross
for emergency relief
in 1881.

Hail, Valiant Women! 

Emma Lazarus,
Jewish poet,
whose words are inscribed
on the Statue of Liberty,
whose poem was chosen
from among submissions
by Longfellow, Whitman, and Twain.

Ida B. Wells,
ardent advocate
of rights for blacks,
who organized the first
black women’s suffrage group.

Pandita Ramabai,
a Sanskrit scholar
who challenged interpretations
of Hindu Law
in order to raise the status of women,
who was a delegate
to the Indian National Congress
in 1889.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Jui Jin,
revolutionary feminist,
poet, teacher
in China,
executed in 1908
for refusing to compromise
her beliefs.

Maria Jesus Alvarado Rivera,
who initiated the feminist movement
in Peru
at the turn-of-the-century;
a tireless activist for women’s rights,
she was imprisoned
and eventually exiled.

Raden Ajeng Kartini,
who initiated the feminist movement
in Indonesia
at the turn-of-the-century;
outspoken against social and colonial oppression,
she started a successful school for girls,
and died in childbirth at age twenty-five.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Marie Curie,
Nobel Prize in Physics,
Nobel Prize in Chemistry,
first woman to receive
a full professorship,
in 1906, in France,
at the Sorbonne.

Kathe Kollwitz,
graphic artist and sculptor,
20th century,
Berlin,
whose empathy
for the working class
permeates her works on
poverty, death, hunger,
and war.

Me Katilili,
who at age seventy,
organized the Giriama tribe’s
movement for independence
from British rule,
in Kenya,
in 1911.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Margaret Sanger,
studied nursing in White Plains,
courageous advocate of birth control,
and of indomitable spirit,
undeterred by church or police,
trusting women to decide.

Kasturba,
wife Mahatma Gandhi,
from whom he learned
the basic concept
of nonviolent resistance. 

Helen Keller,
born without sight or hearing,
graduated from Radcliffe with honors,
mastered several languages,
published a series of books.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Mary McLeod Bethune,
black educator, leader, reformer,
who founded a college
that has influenced many
and established the National Council
of Negro Women
in 1935.

Dorothy Day,
Co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement,
a prophetic witness
to the social gospel
and a true friend
of the poor.

Noor un Nissa,
a young Muslim woman,
who was known as the heroic “Madeleine”
of the French Resistance
during World War II
and is the only woman to receive
both the George Cross
and the Croix de Guerre.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Regina Jonas,
first woman Rabbi,
although never officially ordained;
when ordination was denied
because of her sex,
she was granted a diploma
privately,
and not long after,
in 1940,
died in a concentration camp.

Margaret Towner,
first woman ordained
to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament
in the American Presbyterian Church
in 1956.

Wilma Rudolph,
who became known as
“the worlds fastest woman”
after the 1960 Olympics
in Rome,
where she became the first American woman
to win three gold medals.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Valentina Tereshkova,
of Russia,
who became the first woman cosmonaut
in space
in 1963.

Ella Baker,
audacious mother of civil rights,
believer in the power of young people;
your freedom schools
unlearned the tyranny of oppression
unleashed the power of the people.

Nina Simone,
singer, storyteller, liberator,
shattering silence with eloquent ferocity;
Mississippi God damn
They say, go slow
You say, doing things gradually will bring more tragedy,
They say, go slow
You say, just give us equality.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Shirley Chisholm,
who in 1968
became the first black woman
to be elected to the US House of Representatives.

Ruby Sales,
you faced-down white supremacy
in Lowndes County, Alabama,
you knit together children and elders
in one movement,
life-saving, non-violent
clergywoman, rights champion
you keep prodding us today.

Erin Pizzey,
a housewife
who formed Women’s Aid,
the first shelter
for battered women
in Great Britain.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Lois Stair,
first woman elected
as a General Assembly Moderator
in the history of
the American Presbyterian Church
in 1971.

Sally Preisand,
first woman rabbi ordained
from any Jewish theological seminary,
1972.

Junko Tabei,
of Japan,
the first woman
to scale Mount Everest,
1975.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan,
who organized the people’s movement
for peace
in Northern Ireland
in 1976
and were awarded the Nobel Prize.

The Madres and Abuelos,
mothers and grandmothers
of Argentina,
whose vigil
in the Plaza de Mayo
since March 1977
bore witness
to the torture and disappearance
of their children and other loved ones.

Margery Matthews,
first woman Bishop
of the United Methodist Church,
the first woman Bishop
of any major denomination
in modern times.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Naheed,
a schoolgirl in Afghanistan,
who led a demonstration
against the Soviet invasion
of her country,
April 1980,
and was one of seventy children
to be massacred.

Sally Ride
First American woman in space
Pioneer, physicist, and professor
Setting satellites in motion
Changing the calculus for girls forever

Hail, Valiant Women!

Samantha Smith,
American schoolgirl,
goodwill ambassador
to Russia
at the age of eleven,
who died in a plane crash
at age thirteen
in 1985.

Rachel Corrie
an American college student
killed by an Israeli Defense Forces
armored bulldozer
in the southern part of Gaza,
while trying to prevent the destruction
of a Palestinian home
in 2003.

Zelle Andrews
Feminist, historian
Appointed Westchester County’s
First liaison to the GLBTQ community
Your principled and loving
Advocacy made us stronger

Hail, Valiant Women!

Mary Robinson
First woman President of Ireland
Former UN High Commissioner of Human Rights
You tend the wounds of earth and its people
By speaking truth
By standing shoulder-to-shoulder.

Wangari Maathai
Founder of the Greenbelt Movement
Whose fierce faith in communities’
Power to plant and sustain
Transformed earth and democracy itself
Kenynan sister who taught us well

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
President of Liberia
first woman ever elected head of state
on the continent of Africa
Tireless foe of political corruption
Mending the ravages of war and Ebola

Hail, Valiant Women!

Aung San Suu Kyi
Burma’s standard-bearer for democracy
Arrested but never silenced
Denied but never stopped
Prevailing peacefully against all odds.

Women of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers
Hermanas de Mexico, Guatemala y Haiti
Wresting from violence and exploitation in the fields
A new model of human rights
You have done “the impossible.”
You have ended assault and forced labor
The light of this new day reaches ‘round the world.

Berta Caceras,
Assassinated two weeks ago
for leading a movement to oppose
the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam
in Honduras
and protecting the Gualcarque River
for the Lenca people.

Leila Alaoui
Photographer for human rights
Risking and losing life at 33
To acquaint us with
The depth of humanity
In stranger and self, alike.

Hail, Valiant Women! 

Malala Yousafzai
Intrepid, joyful heroine
Looking death in the eye
Refusing to give quarter
For the sake of girls in Afghanistan and the world
Your life is lesson

All women in ministry,
ordained and unordained,
all who were first
to pave the way
and all who followed after.

All women of accomplishment,
who achieved despite the odds,
in science, the arts,
religion, health,
education, economics,
athletics, and the
sociopolitical fields.

Hail, Valiant Women!

Our scripture reading from Proverbs asked:
“Who shall find a valiant woman?”

Look! We are all around.

Inspired by this witness
of our sisters in faith,
let us now go forth encouraged
to give of our best efforts,
knowing that the grace of God
is power unto God.

© 2016, Updated and adapted by The Rev. Noelle Damico
© 1987 Original by Miriam Therese Winter

If you enjoyed this, please search out more of Sister Winter’s
writing scripture, liturgy, and song.

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