The Legacy Of Katherine Bushnell -- By: Ruth Hoppin

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 09:1 (Winter 1995)
Article: The Legacy Of Katherine Bushnell
Author: Ruth Hoppin

The Legacy Of Katherine Bushnell

Ruth Hoppin

Ruth Hoppin lives in Daly City, CA. In addition to her book on Priscilla, she is author of Sharing Gori’s Life Throughout the Christian Year (1977) and Space Age Poems (1985). She is founder of the Annual Daly City Poetry Contest. Katherine Bushnell’s book, God’s Word to Women, is available from the CBE book service.

Katherine C. Bushnell was the author of God’s Word to Women, a ground-breaking study of what the Bible really says about women. Behind that remarkable book, which has been reprinted twice in recent years, I see a remarkable woman.

How do we measure greatness? If by loftiness of purpose, we see Katherine Bushnell going to China as a medical missionary. We follow her across America and beyond its borders to several continents as she worked to reform conditions of human degradation. We read her closely reasoned exposition of Scripture as she tried to establish women in their rightful place in church and society.

When God’s Word to Women was first published in book form in 1921, its author was 65 years old. Her writings on the Bible were the product of her later years, the culmination of impressions and concerns of her earlier life. God’s word to her personally was no doubt the inception of her book on the subject.

Katherine Caroline Sophia Bushnell was born February 5, 1856, in Peru (LaSalle County), Illinois. She attended public school there, and in 1879, after pre-med studies at Northwestern University (Evanston), went to the Chicago Women’s Medical College, where she specialized in nerve disorders.

At that point in her life, in light of her own call to missionary work, she pondered what seemed to be the biblical injunctions against women preaching. Her studies led her to China, where she established a pediatric hospital in Shanghai.

A medical practice spanning seven years, first in China, then in Denver, ended in 1885 with an entirely new venture. Joining forces with Frances Willard, president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), Bushnell worked for social reform on behalf of women. The WCTU, with 39 departments of activities, and in the vanguard of the 19th-century women’s movement, embraced far-ranging concerns; temperance, labor and prison reform, peace.

From Denver, where she worked among “fallen women,” Bushnell went to Chicago as National Evangelist for the WCTU’s Department of Social Purity. The WCTU announced her qualifications: Here was a woman of “strong character, courage, and practical ways,” one who “feels called of God to this sacred and difficult task.”You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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