Earlier this Fall I received a copy of Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More--Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist. I couldn't wait to read it. I had been hearing about this book from Karen Swallow Prior for a while, and the more I heard about Hannah More, the more I wanted to get to know her. I think you will too. Here are some brief observations about her life that really stayed with me. I hope it will make you want to read the book (there is still time to get it before Christmas!).
- Her accomplishments as a woman in her time period. Hannah lived in a day where women were not educated like men were. Women had little rights and voice in the powerful ranks of society. But Hannah was an exception. She did not embrace the early feminism that was rising up in her day, instead she understood her creation as a woman and used it to accomplish great things.
- She valued female education. In a Western context it's easy to take this for granted. But for many women in our world this is still a very real means of oppression. She taught women to read, to think, and to use their mind for good. But she saw a clear distinction between teaching women to think and making women think like men. "She sought to advance female education in order to fulfill women as women, not to make them like men" (24).
- She was brave enough to go against her culture regarding slavery and the treatment of all human beings. It's easy to look at history from our vantage point and think Hannah's positions on the deplorable practice of slavery and the refusal to educate lower class people are simply no-brainers. But we must remember that she was standing up for things (abolition of slavery and education of all people of all classes) that were unthinkable to many English men and women. Like every society, we have our own blind spots, and like Hannah, we must ask God to reveal these blind spots and give us the courage to stand against the tide.
- She had a consistent ethic regarding the dignity of persons and creation. One of the more surprising, and interesting, aspects of her life to me was how she fought for the ethical treatment of animals. It might seem like a random addition to a book on her bravery as an abolitionist and educator, but the more I learned about her the more I realized that it all goes together. Hannah believed in the dignity of people because they were created in the image of God. She believed in the fair treatment of animals because she valued God's creation. Her high view of God enabled her to honor and fight to protect all that he had made.
Those are just a few of the many things that struck me about her compelling and convicting life. I hope you will take the time to read Fierce Convictions and discover the myriad of ways that Hannah More's life means something for us today.