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The International Association of Liberal Religious Women invites all women to celebrate the "Centennial Congress".  It will be held in Kochi (Cochin), Kerala State, in India from September 1st to 4th, 2010, when we gather to celebrate our 100th Anniversary as the oldest women's international interfaith organization in the world! The IARF (International Association for Religious Freedom) and the IALRW meet every four years.   The IARF meets immediately following the "Centennial Congress", Sept. 4 - 7.  That conference includes men and welcomes IALRW'ers (meeting in the same location as the "Centennial Congress.")  The venue changes cyclically throughout the four major regions (East Asia, South Asia, North America, and Europe / Middle East), with the theme dependent upon critical issues at the time.

Kathy MatsuiKochi is located on the southwest coast of India. In the state of Kerala, women enjoy a high rate of literacy and high social status. The city of Kochi is also known for its long tradition of religious amity. The major religions are Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. There are also smaller communities of Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism and Buddhism. Following Hinduism (51%), the Christian population (35%) of Kochi is the largest in India. Since Kochi has such a diverse, multicultural community--where all religious denominations live in peaceful coexistence--one might say that there has never been a conference site more appropriate for interfaith dialogue and cooperation.

The theme of the IALRW conference is "Women in Action." For our key speakers, we will be inviting women from different walks of life who are active in their respective careers, working to nurture care for women and children--especially those in impoverished, difficult circumstances. One of the speakers, Prateep Ungsongtham Hata, is the founder of The Duang Prateep Foundation’s “New Life Project" that helps children who have problems with slum life in Bangkok, Thailand. The children, many of whom have a background of drug abuse, go to a rural center where they are kept active with a mixture of conventional schooling, vocational training, and agricultural work. In addition to learning from our guest speakers at the "Centennial Congress", we plan to conduct study groups on religious cooperation, peace education, ecology, and human dignity. Community visits to various religious institutions are also being planned.

As our IALRW brochure explains, we are religious women who take action, not only to promote friendship and cooperation between like-minded women, but to serve as a channel of communication for those striving for a liberal religious life. We promote economic and social justice, and equality for women. Our activities include projects for disadvantaged women to become self-sufficient.  We strive for world peace. Change is needed in this chaotic world, and we are religious women who have the ability to make a difference for ourselves and others. Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” “To leave a trail where there is no path” means “to bring about change.” The attitude needed here is one of empathy and global citizenship. According to Mark Gerzon, a leadership trainer and organizational consultant, becoming a global citizen means living according to values that are good not just for ourselves, or for our own tribe or religion, or for our country or region, but good for the whole world. Perhaps, a good starting point for change would be the simple practice of empathy--the caring of one person for another. What is needed is a group of people performing simple acts of empathy and compassion. Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” We are just ordinary women, but we can take action and contribute to society where we live, and become good global citizens in the process. Working together, we can make this world a better place for everyone. Please plan to join us as we get together in southern India for a grand celebration of our longevity....and help plan our course for the NEXT 100 years!!!  www.ialrw.org

Margaret Fuller Bicentennial
Margaret Fuller is appearing all over the world this year. She has come back to prominence to celebrate her 200th birthday on May 23, 2010. In one form or another, Margaret is coming to Milwaukee, Wisconsin; North Palm Beach, Florida; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Warrington, Pennsylvania; Chicago, Illinois; Southfield, Michigan; Montclair, California; and Gwynedd, Wales; as well as to the places she lived in New England and New York City. Is she coming to your area?

Margaret Fuller was a writer, activist, and futurist who changed the way people viewed the world. One of the guiding lights of the first wave of feminism, she helped educate the women of her day by leading a series of Conversations in which women were empowered to read, think, and discuss important issues. She inspired generations to follow (including those who called the 1848 first women’s rights meeting at Seneca Falls) through her ground-breaking writings, especially her landmark book, Woman in the Nineteenth Century. Her dispatches from England and Italy, where she supported the Italian Revolution of 1848, mark her as an early trans-nationalist and a role model for today’s global society.

Have you encountered Margaret Fuller recently? If not, this year would be a great time to get to know her or to renew your connection. Not only is she being honored this year as one of our most notable UU foremothers but also many others in the United States and Europe are honoring her as well.

The Margaret Fuller Bicentennial Committee itself represents the wide range of those who have a passion for sharing the story of this amazing woman. It is a grassroots group of scholars, representatives of historical sites, commissions, and organizations, as well as Unitarian Universalist ministers and lay people. We have been meeting in the Boston area and networking with people all over the country who are participating in the Bicentennial.

Our primary tool for communication and networking is our website: www.margaretfuller.org. There you will find resources to help you create your own local programs and celebrations.

  • “Why Margaret Fuller Matters” Traveling Display is a series of 10 colorful 24-inch x 18-inch foam core panels with text and images designed to answer the fundamental question of why this great nineteenth-century figure remains important two centuries after her birth. The display, which you can bring to your location, introduces audiences to Margaret Fuller’s life, her ideas, her writings, and her vision of a just world. A booklet for use with the display contains a timeline of her life.
  • Margaret Fuller Worship Resources Packet with helpful materials to use in constructing a worship service.
  • Sermon Contest sponsored by the UU Historical Society and the Margaret Fuller Bicentennial Committee.
  • Calendar of events to which you are invited to add whatever you plan in your area.
  • Invitation to join the network of Margaret supporters and receive notices of new resources and upcoming events.
  • Opportunity to make a donation to ensure the continuing development and availability of resources about this amazing woman.

Many thanks are due to UU Women & Religion for generously serving as fiscal agent for the grant we received from the Fund for Unitarian Universalism. Additional funding has been received from the UU Historical Society and numerous individual donors. Without financial support we could not do this work and we know Margaret, who struggled financially during her life, would be pleased with the support being given to this Bicentennial effort.

Years ago, Ramona Barth, one of the first UU women to lift up the importance of women’s history, started a Margaret Fuller Foundation. We are not sure what happened with it after she died, but some of us think an important outcome of this Bicentennial year could be to revive or start such a foundation to keep Margaret Fuller’s legacy alive for the future.

Most of all, though, we hope you will join the celebration—and let us know what you are doing to bring Margaret Fuller to life in your community. If you don’t have an internet connect, you may contact Dorothy Emerson at 339-206-0829.

Margaret Fuller in NYC
Restoring Margaret Fuller’s place in history, literature, and memory.

A special project of UUWA and UU Women & Religion Metro District

You are invited to Margaret Fuller’s 200th birthday party and celebrations organized for the Margaret Fuller 2010 Bicentennial and the “Follow the Footsteps of Margaret Fuller” tours in New York City, Boston-Cambridge-Concord, and Rome-Rieti-Florence. These unique, one-of-a-kind events are a special project of UU Women’s Association and UU Women & Religion-Metro District, funded in part by The Fund for Unitarian Universalism. Do not feel guilty if you’ve never heard of Margaret Fuller. Born in 1810, her thoughts are as alive today as over a century ago. A woman of brains and heart, she was labeled genius by some, was ridiculed by others. World famous in the 1840s, she has largely been forgotten in history. She was:

  • First American to write a book about equality for women
  • First American war correspondent / served under combat conditions
  • First woman foreign correspondent
  • First woman journalist on Horace Greeley’s New York Daily Tribune
  • First woman literary critic / set literary standards
  • First editor, The Dial magazine
  • First to organize paid "Conversations" for women (educational "rap sessions")
  • First woman to enter Harvard Library for research purposes - a giant step since colleges were closed to women.

In addition, Margaret Fuller served as director of an Italian hospital that treated the war wounded during the Italian Revolution of 1848-9 – this predates the work of Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton.

Among the major events of the Bicentennial are dramatic stage presentations entitled “A Medley for Margaret Fuller,” “Men, Women, and Margaret Fuller,” and “O Excellent Friend!” with original scripts by Fuller scholar/author/actor Laurie James.  The New York City one-day walking tour “Follow the Footsteps of Margaret Fuller” will feature actors characterized as Margaret Fuller, Ralph Waldo Emerson and his wife, Lidian, Henry David Thoreau, Horace Greeley, Julia Ward Howe, Lydia Maria Child, Edgar Allen Poe, and other friends, and will culminate in a restaurant with skits and songs.

The tour to Italy will highlight sixth generation Roman researcher/writer Mario Bannoni as one of the guides as well as spotlight commemorative plaque presentations, wine tastings, seminars, a visit to Fuller’s lodging in Rome, and even a stay in the Florence hotel where Fuller lived. The Calendar of Events provides details.

Contact: Laurie James, Initiator and Project Director

Women & Religion (uuwr.org) News "blog by Helen Popenoe,” Sept. 18, 2009 

Helen wrote:  "I have sleep-disturbing nights like tonight when I feel we feminists could give up slogging through the patriarchal pie, up to our necks, impeded by disgusting goo everywhere.  So many incidents in the day before this sleepless night make me just want to give in, lie down and slurp up what tastes good to me at that moment, but...  To give up, to be swallowed up into my own little bite of sweet self-interest, grabbing what I can, would mean drowning.  I'd sink into too many over-cooked (but familiar), power-over ingredients." 

Judy wrote:

Judy HighfillGuess I'm having one of those nights right now, since it's 11:15pm and I can't seem to get to sleep.  What disturbs my sleep is similar to what disturbs yours:  the everlasting patriarchal hogwash I see on the news every day/night...plus big dogs -- when I'm just out walking in my nice, suburban neighborhood -- running/growling/barking -- rushing up to me, catching me off guard, though they’re behind electronic fences which I'm afraid they may break through at any instant -- as my heart pounds from being surprised once again!...plus occasional bursts of temper from people that also catch me off-guard -- triggered, perhaps, by something that has nothing to do with me!....plus my continued frustration at not being able to understand, nor being privy to the information about what's going on in my adult sons’ minds, nor whether they will ever be able to fully communicate with me anything -- their feelings, their thoughts; they’re "guys" and they seem to be living on another planet.

It's all such a mystery to me....not to mention "life and death" (my own, and others')....and the "state of the universe"!  And who INVENTED this mess, (e.g., wars everywhere, etc.) anyway??  And WHY????

Boy, late night thinking can really get complicated!  I'm not really upset.  These thoughts just go round and round in my head most of the time lately.  You'd think eventually men would learn that starting war after war after war never settles anything anyway; and bubble after bubble after bubble isn't any way to run a worldwide financial system either, with people losing their homes, and losing their relatively good-paying middle-class jobs, and so much domestic violence and illness and all the rest.  I'm really getting sick of it. 

So, I go outside and look at the trees turning color with their rising sap, like they always do, every year.  Or if it’s night, I look at the moon, and feel the monthly changes we share.  Or I sing or listen to music and, finally, feel a bit at peace again.  Or I look into a child's face, and think maybe there's a chance they will start all over and not make the same mistakes of all the past generations.  Oh, and then I watch PBS about the Hubble telescope and all of the wonders there are out there in outer space, more than we ever imagined; more than we CAN imagine!  Going back in time to the beginning almost, of the first Big Bang (or maybe "Bangs" since they're now saying they might be like the bubbles in champagne, many universes, popping off everywhere).  Who knows?!  Another mystery.

"And then we die." Or not!  Who knows?!  Maybe not!!!  Maybe all of those ancient Hindus and Buddhists are right, and we get reincarnated and come back again....until we get it right.  I don't know about you, but just the thought of that makes me tired.  Guess I'll head back to bed.  But I just wanted to let you know I enjoyed your blog, Helen!

Thanks, Judy, for your reality check.  Thanks, also, to the many men who are so strong they have loosened the bonds of patriarchal attitudes to become feminists.