Ann Lee and the Rights of Women

On October 18,1893, the Enfield Shakers celebrated the community’s centennial with a day of speeches and sermons in the 1793 Meeting House. One of these commemorative addresses was delivered by Sister Isabella Russell. At the pivotal moment in her address, Russell described the important role that Ann Lee played as not only a spiritual role model, but also as a staunch defender of the rights of women. Below is an excerpt from her speech.

“Ann Lee was a woman with gifts so rare, a spiritual vision so clear….it is worthy of note, that coincident with the declaration of American Independence, came the joyful tidings of the emancipation of woman, proclaimed by this heaven ordained messenger, and in their seasons of sacred worship, hers was the voice that gave utterance to words that were like a consuming fire to the very nature of….[the]inequality of a system which all down through the ages had placed women in an inferior position, subjecting her to a life of misery and degradation, from which there was no escape, no possibility of redress, so long as man was her acknowledged lord and master.

She it was, who led the advance guard of the grand army of noble men and women, who, today, influenced by the same irresistible force and power, oftentimes in the face of opposition, yet like our own brave leader, are marching on to victory, their motto: “No Surrender,” persistently battling for the right, contending against the combined forces of ignorance, superstition and prejudice. And the struggle will continue until the victory is gained; for until this is accomplished, peace and righteousness cannot reign supreme….With this important fact before us, let us give honor to whom honor is due.”

For Isabella Russell’s full address click below.

1893 Isabella Russell Centennial Address

Sister Isabella M. Russell, Enfield, NH
Sr. Isabella Russell, Enfield, N.H. Collection of Hancock Shaker Village.