Three Women

How Florence Nightingale, Hannah Marshman, and Harriet Beecher Stowe changed the world.


Life & Faith: The Evolution of the West

March 8, 1917. As the world is in the throes of a brutal war, tens of thousands of people gather in the centre of the Russian capital, Petrograd. They’re on strike, for “bread and peace”.

This day marked the beginning of the Russian Revolution. Four days later, the Czar abdicated, and women were given the right to vote – because the protesters that started the Russian Revolution weren’t male workers, they were mostly women.

The Governor of the city said the crowd consisted of “ladies from society, lots more peasant women, student girls and, compared with earlier demonstrations, not many workers.”

We now use this date every year to celebrate International Women’s Day.

In this episode, we remember and celebrate the achievement of women in all areas of life.

Meet the woman who professionalised nursing, revolutionised health and sanitation, and wrote a book protesting the oppression of women in her time:

“To have no food for our heads, no food for our hearts, no food for our activity, is that nothing? … One would think we had no heads nor hearts, by the total indifference of the public towards them. Our bodies are the only things of any consequence. … Jesus Christ raised women above the condition of mere slaves, mere ministers to the passions of the man, raised them by his sympathy, to be ministers of God. He gave them moral activity. But the Age, the World, Humanity, must give them the means to exercise this moral activity, must give them intellectual cultivation, spheres of action.”

And the woman who was a missionary’s wife in India, and a missionary in her own right, driving educational and social reform in India:

“It’s almost impossible to persuade people that the missionary movement was a women’s movement. Not just in the late 19th century when they began sending unmarried women, but from the first. I really haven’t found an example of a married missionary couple where the woman and the many daughters they had (when they came of age) didn’t start teaching women, giving informal medical care, having classes … This happened all around the world.”

And the woman who wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin and supposedly started the American Civil War:

“Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the bestselling book in America before the Civil War, with the exception of the Bible. Part of the reason for that is that in some ways it’s a very revolutionary book. Uncle Tom is a Christ figure – and to say that a slave is a representation of Christ is a very radical thing. Harriet Beecher Stowe did not believe that Christianity was about the power that ministers or that elites had, but that the power of Christianity lay in the lowly people.”