7 Women and the secret of their greatness: Eric Metaxas [Part 2]

“Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world” says Percy Bysshe Shelley, and indeed this would be a fitting epitaph for the life of Hannah More who we meet in “7 women”. She had such a profound influence on history that it is amazing that she is not better known. One of the joys of reading “7 Women” has been discovering the wide and long ranging impact women have had on society, motivated by their deep faith in God and the way He used them to speak out.

Hannah More was one such woman. I won’t tell you all the details of her fascinating life, I’ll leave you to discover those for yourself.  But I will tell you that Hannah More was famous in the late 1700’s as an author and playwright and her works actually outsold Jane Austen’s! She used her status and writing to influence all levels of society; she was a passionate advocate for education of girls and the poor; and she helped pave the way for the abolition of slavery. It was fascinating reading about how a celebrity of the 18th century was able to use her power to help those less fortunate, and to speak the gospel, even though it left her open to criticism and hardship.  

Metaxas introduces another champion of education, Susanna Wesley. Much has been written about her over the years, and it was humbling to read of Susanna’s trust in God amidst poverty, a husband who treated her poorly and much tragedy in her life. Susanna dedicated herself to raising and educating her ten (yes, that’s right, ten!) children, and made sure her daughters were just as well educated as her sons - very countercultural in the 1700’s! I was in awe of her hard work and diligence in her home with her children.  Reading about her reaffirmed to me the importance of reading the Bible with my children, praying with them and for them. I agree whole-heartedly with Metaxas when he says, “Anyone believing that the life of a woman dedicated to her family must be less than optimal cannot know the story of Susanna Wesley.”

One of the great things about Metaxas’ book is the diversity of women he has written about, from Susanna Wesley, dedicated to her children, to Joan of Arc, a young, single farm girl who sacrificially served God until her life’s end. I was struck by Joan of Arc’s  obedience to God and her fierce belief that God was speaking to her and guiding her actions. I was challenged to think about what it means for me to live in obedience to God, in response to the grace he has lavished on us in His son Jesus. It is said that as Joan of Arc burned at the stake, her last words were praises to God, and she cried out, “Jesus!” as she died. What devotion to her Saviour!  

In the chapter on Rosa Parks, a woman who was instrumental in the civil rights movement in 1950’s America, Metaxas shares some not as well known parts of Rosa’s story.  He reveals how Rosa’s grounding in the Scriptures shaped her actions and gave her the strength she needed to stand up to the racism and segregation that overshadowed her life. As she was confronted by angry mobs Rosa would silently recount Bible verses, and prayer wasfundamental in helping her through. There is much more that could be said about these women, but I’ll leave it to you to read for yourselves!

In Part 3, I’ll share with you some of the stories of the other 3 women in this book: Saint Maria of Paris, Corrie ten Boom and Mother Teresa.

Writer | Stephanie Philpott Stephanie lives in South West Sydney with her husband who serves as an Assistant minister, and their 3 school aged children. She enjoys sleeping in, teaching the Bible to kids, and this year is living the dream of going to cafes kid-free!