Sunday 2 October 2016

W.H.O? She is Reformer

W.H.O? Stands for Women History Offers and is an ongoing collection of short posts I'm writing up about remarkable women throughout history. This weeks write up is on the woman who fought the slave trade with a pen. Rightly she can be called a "warrior with a pen," and her life emulated what it means to have faith and fight for what is right. Meet Hannah More....

"Individuals who are not in Parliament seldom have an opportunity
of doing good to considerable numbers.
Even while I was writing the sentence I became conscious
of the falsehood of the position; witness Mrs. Hannah More
and all those who labour with a pen."
- William Wilberforce  

The life of Hannah More is one that has inspired me and taught me again how, our Father is so interested in every aspect and area of life. He is interested in justice for all and for freedom for all creation, including His beloved creation. Hannah More was born in to a family with five daughters. Her parents had modest backgrounds but her father Jacob More a school headmaster, used his teaching vocation as a means to educate his five girls beyond what little education women received in eighteenth century England. 

Women's education was beginning to expand but slowly and opinions differed as to how much education a woman could receive. Hannah and her sisters however, were in favour of womens education and opened a school where women were educated to become truer versions of themselves. Hannah's love and advocacy for education expanded across the course of her life. She advanced women's literacy and taught reading even in to her older years. Hannah showed a natural inclination towards writing and it was among London's finest, its poets, playwrights, politicians and who's - who, that it expanded. Yet it wasn't until 1780 that her heart was turned towards the Creator who would change her destiny.

The once lost John Newton, who penned the moving hymn Amazing Grace, published a collection of letters entitled Cardiphonia. Hannah read the book and a sudden awakening took place, not only in her own heart but among the "religious" folk of England. Hannah crept in to the pews to hear Newton preach and his background as a ships captain in  the slave trade and his conversion to a personal faith established on Christ, changed things for Hannah. Hannah was among the very first Christians who began to speak out against the slave trade. Her closest friends were slave abolitionists and included among them was William Wilberforce. Years before Wilberforce spoke out against the slave trade, Hannah was already hard at work against it. But when they met, their paths were forged in unity, they remained friends for 47 years, dying just mere days a part from one another. I started this post with sharing some of the words written by William Wilberforce, his words boast truth - it was among the warriors of the pen that the slave trade was fought against. Hannah wrote about Africa, about slavery and about freedom. She led a campaign boycotting the use of sugar from slave plantations. Her works changed minds among Englands high society and her poetry offered an emotional charge against the conditions of slaves. Their suffering was given a voice and it drew many to oppose slavery. She wrote to war against the inequalities of her time , and her work which spanned decades was a central part of the antislavery writings that emerged at the time. 

The mistreatment and neglect of animals was sadly characteristic of the times but Hannah joined with William Wilberforce and many others to change this. As Christians who believed in the Creator God who loved all creation, their hearts were burdened to see the inequalities of cruelty against the creation, undone. Wilbeforce was the founder of the S.P.C.A and his love for the animals is readily seen among his biographies and I am so grateful to him for this great gift. Hannah supported Wilberforce in his efforts to act against animal cruelty and she agreed that humanity needed to be empathetic towards everything and everyone and that included animals. Hannah was a firm believer in the role of education and its ability to change lives. She held to the belief that education could produce morals and could fan in to flame a deeper faith. 

Towards her latter years she retired to Barley Wood. After a period of depression, which often characterises people who are sensitive and deeply touched by the things around them,  she took up her pen again and was encouraged by her friends and sisters to keep scribbling. She wrote the most moving pieces of work, all devotionals, one entitled The spirit of Prayer, was translated in to French and published through 11 editions and the beauty of it was that Hannah wrote 11 books after the age of 60. Her home at Barley Wood became a place where people would visit her, learn from her and be mentored by her. It was in her nature to continue to help the poor, and she continued to be a philantropist until her death at the age of 88. She died leaving behind an extensive wealth of 30 000 pounds which largely went to charities of her choice. Hannah More was a woman who loved God, fought for what was right and did it by being herself, by believing in her God - given mission and by trusting her Saviour with her life. She had wonderful friends, a beloved sisterhood of five sisters and she fought with everything she had, for what was right. She has inspired me and I cannot read about her without shedding a tear. There are women who have gone before me whom I know I would have loved to meet and dear Hannah More is one of them. 

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