Queen Victoria was still on the throne in England when my Mother and Father were born. Her strict standards of propriety seeped into American society, even into remote homes in west Texas.
A woman’s place was in the home. Children should be seen and not heard. Girls didn’t need an education. Their parents would care for them until they married. Then they’d be under their husband’s authority. Women certainly didn’t need the vote.
My father was the editor of an influential national conservative Christian newspaper for 46 years. He was passionately committed to the authority of the Scriptures. You might think he’d accept those Victorian ideas as if they actually conformed to what the Bible teaches. But you’d be wrong.
Recently I saw a letter my father wrote to my mother back in 1921, just a few months before they were to be married, and it is absolutely charming!
Mother evidently had written him about her dreams for the sons God would give them. There were no limits to what their sons might accomplish. College president? Musician? Writer? Even, perhaps, president of the United States? My father wrote her in response:
“And you are thinking of the great things you want your sons to do. What would you have of that little daughter you are going to have (maybe)? Couldn’t she be great, too? —a great singer, a great violinist, a great pianist, a great educator, or a great mother? You would want them all to be great, wouldn’t you? And they could be!
Two things especially touch my heart about this letter. One, Daddy thought being a great mother was a high and holy task. And, two, he thought nurturing daughters as important as nurturing sons. (How fortunate he felt that way, since it turned out, they had six daughters and no sons!)
Mother and Daddy tried to make their dreams a reality for us six girls. Piano, violin, and voice lessons. Office and management skills (many learned in my father’s publishing business). Social skills, making people from all strata of society comfortable. Intentionally teaching us about, and demonstrating, a personal, life-transforming relationship with God.
We may have had holes in our socks, worn hand-me-down clothes, and had orange crates for kitchen cabinets (to my mother’s dismay). But we had arms-full of books. Symphonic concerts and art museums. Dinner guests from all walks of life. When my oldest sister was ready for college, Daddy moved us from Texas to Wheaton, Illinois, so we could all get a wonderful (and expensive) Christian education. That was a sacrifice few fathers were willing or able to make for their daughters in those hard depression years.
My parents believed that God would give their girls opportunities to serve Him, even if we were “only” girls, and He did. All six of us married good and noble men in the Gospel ministry.
“I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams. Your young men will see visions. In those days, I will pour out my Spirit even on servants, men and women alike.” Joel 2:28,29
Thank God that He wants to use all of us for His wonderful tasks, “men and women alike.” He wants us to dream big dreams for ourselves and for our children. God will give us, and them, He promises, exactly the spiritual gifts and tasks we’ll need to serve Him well.
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford