From the Balcony
After crossing the ocean to attend the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and all other women were not permitted to participate. Instead, they were offered seats in the balcony behind a curtain. They could listen to the proceedings from where they sat, silenced and hidden from the men who were welcomed to the meeting, but their exclusion ignited a “burning indignation” in young Stanton. Later that day, Mott and Stanton “agreed to hold a woman’s rights convention on their return to America. …Thus a missionary work for the emancipation of woman…was then and there inaugurated.” Reference A, Reference B
Today, modern women in many societies enjoy the fruits of the labors of Stanton, Mott and others, who acted on their belief that women should be more than silent, hidden spectators when men convene about subjects of equal concern to men and women.
April 5, 2014
“Since these subjects are of equal concern to men and to women, I am pleased that these proceedings are broadcast and published for all members of the Church,” said Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Reference C He delivered these words to a male-only congregation as women stood outside the building in the rain, not permitted to enter. Reference D Women were not allowed to participate by praying, speaking or attending the session, but they were allowed to listen over the Internet, the curtained balcony of our era.
Listening to the priesthood session online was a new privilege for Mormon women. Only a year earlier, women were not even allowed to listen to the session from a metaphorical balcony. Reference E Inasmuch as a silent, hidden spectator role can be described as access, women now enjoy better access to the priesthood session of General Conference than to many other meetings of equal concern to Mormon men and women, such as bishopric meetings, high council meetings, stake presidency meetings, disciplinary councils, stake and regional priesthood leadership meetings, and meetings of the quorums of the Seventies, Apostles and First Presidency.
When these governing bodies meet, women may not even listen to the proceedings.
Being allowed to listen, but not participate, was not enough for Stanton and Mott. Is it enough for women today?