A Crusading Suffragist Is Restored to Church Membership





To her many admirers, Elizabeth Bartlett Grannis was a humanitarian, social reformer and pioneering suffragist. To the First Church Disciples of Christ, which Grannis had attended faithfully for five decades, she was a “disturber of the peace.”

Translation: she didn’t think the pastor — a popular and successful rainmaker for the congregation — ought to be making unwanted advances on women. Or men. And Grannis further believed that a young girl whom she had informally adopted ought to be welcomed at Sunday worship. Unfortunately, the year was 1906. And the child was not only squirmy: she was black.

For these offenses, the congregation dismissed Grannis from its rolls after a trial conducted by church elders. Grannis scorned the inquiry as a “high-handed, star-chamber proceeding, illegal in every respect.” Until her death in 1926, however, she never stopped attending services, even though she was not formally a member of the church. (Public relations may have been in its infancy, but church leaders understood that physically barring an old woman from taking her place in a pew on Sundays would not create the best impression.)...




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