The Elizabeth Blackwell Award for outstanding service to humanity was presented to the Most Reverend Doctor Katharine Jefferts Schori on Nov. 10, 2013. Breaking a 500-year gender barrier, Jefferts Schori is the first woman to serve as Presiding Bishop, and the first female Primate in the Anglican Communion. The following day, the Episcopal News Service published the transcript of her speech online.
In her remarks, Jefferts Schori celebrated her own inspirations – Amelia Earhart, Marie Currie, Harriet Tubman, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and the men and women rebuilding community in Rwanda and the Congo. “Life is about discovering new possibilities, the possibility that we can create a world that is more life-giving than the one we currently enjoy,” she said.
The full article and transcript follows.
Episcopal News Service
Presiding bishop receives Elizabeth Blackwell Award
November 11, 2013
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori delivered the following speech Nov. 10 after receiving the Elizabeth Blackwell Award from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York. The Elizabeth Blackwell Award is given to women whose lives exemplify outstanding service to humankind. It is named for Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman in modern times to receive the Doctor of Medicine degree. Blackwell earned her degree in 1849 from Geneva Medical College, Hobart College’s precursor. The Colleges confer the Elizabeth Blackwell Award whenever a candidate of sufficient stature and appropriate qualifications is identified. The first award was given in 1958; it was presented most recently in 2011 when Eunice Kennedy Shriver was posthumously honored as the 38th recipient. Other notable recipients include Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr. Wangari Maathai, P’94, P’96, Sc.D.’94, former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, professional tennis legend Billie Jean King and anthropologist and author Margaret Mead.
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Elizabeth Blackwell Award
10 November 2013
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
I am humbled by this honor, and reminded that I stand here only because of the difficult work done by so many women and men before me. Elizabeth Blackwell went through 29 medical schools before she found one that would admit her, albeit grudgingly after what looked like another attempt to keep her and her gender out. I give thanks for the male deans and professors who kept their word, even if given in jest.
An awful lot of women, and many people outside official circles of leadership, have tried and failed to gain entry to many different vocations and opportunities. We remember the ones who prevailed in the face of prejudice or doubt. None of those named trailblazers made their entry wholly on their own. At the same time the remembered ones have continued to inspire others to try.
My own journey has been inspired by Amelia Earhart – for her intrepid courage and mysterious disappearance – and by Antoine de Saint-Exupery and Beryl Markham. I’ve been inspired by the witness of Jeannette Piccard – pioneer balloonist and first woman ordained an Episcopal priest – and other members of her family – Auguste and Jacques, who went exploring in the other direction, into the depths of the sea. I have been inspired by Marie Curie – pioneer in radioactivity, first woman and first double Nobel laureate, and by her younger colleagues – Einstein, Heisenberg, and Bohr. In recent years, I would note the often nameless women who have insisted on peace in their homelands – the market women of Liberia who demanded the warlords make peace, and literally sat down around them until they did. The women of the Niger Delta who shamed the oil companies into doing something about the violence and environmental degradation being visited on their people. I continue to marvel at the women and men of Rwanda and Congo who keep working to heal the war trauma that has so damaged their societies.
I celebrate the remarkable leaders and pioneers of this part of New York, and the outsized witness of Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, and their sisters. It started with a tea party in Waterloo, and had a rather different outcome than the tea party we’re wrestling with right now. That gathering in Seneca Falls was joined by quite a few men, and Frederick Douglass added his voice for greater access and full participation by all human beings. This was about the liberation of the many, rather than special rights and greater power for leaders already inside and in power. There was a powerful tide at work in those tea cups around here in the 1840s.
That tide keeps washing away barriers of gender and race and ethnicity and social class. As our brother Martin put it, “the arc of the moral universe is long, and it bends toward justice.” That arc bends toward the shores of a land where all dwell in peace because there is ultimate justice for all humanity and for all creation. We live in hope for that world, and Hobart and William Smith Colleges are part of encouraging the leaders of today’s tea parties and kaffeeklatsches and symposia to help bring that world to reality. Thank you for your leadership.