“Reformers are often deceived by a kind of mirage. They suppose victory at hand when, in reality, generations are yet to pass before it can be realized.”
Reverend Olympia Brown, Acquaintances, Old And New Among Reformers (1911).
Olympia Brown, (1835-1926) was the first female pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Church. Although she does not make an appearance in Reliance, Illinois, her ideas and insights are threaded throughout. Reading her work, alongside biographies of her life, gave me a deep respect and a greater understanding of the hardships faced by professional women and women reformers in the nineteenth century. It also gave me a broader perspective on the ongoing struggles for justice and equality that reformers of all races and genders to face today. Laws are easier to change, she reminds us, than ingrained biases and convenient assumptions. And any right won, if taken for granted, can be stripped away.
Here’s a short summary of Brown’s life in ministry, to whet your interest. To learn more about this remarkable woman, I recommend, Olympia Brown: The Battle for Equality by Charlotte Cote.