DANCE LIGHTLY WITH THE LIVING EARTH
one's self -- body and mind
each person and all peoples
all of the animals and every sentient being
the environment and every living thing
|A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF
ELIZABETH JANE FARIANS
Elizabeth Farians, born in 1923 in Cincinnati, is a typical Aries. When she convened the Cincinnati Chapter of "The National Organization for Women" in 1969, The Cincinnati Enquirer described her as 'fiery' in her beliefs. She is the only child of Charles and Hilda Farians, also natives of Cincinnati and of Irish and German decent, respectively. Although her father was a skilled welder his wages were low because there was no union for welders, there was a constant threat of being laid off without warning or recompense. Employment often was difficult to find. Her mother also went out to work.
Elizabeth is thankful for good parents. She had a happy childhood despite the fact that the family was very poor. Her father was exemplary in his compassion and empathy towards everyone and everything. From her mother she learned how to manage in difficult times.
She attended The Nativity of Our Lord parish grade school under the direction of the Religious Sisters of Mercy, and Withrow High School, a public school in Cincinnati. Often worried that she might have to quit school and go to work full time she accelerated her studies in both high school and college, finishing each in three years.
Even with some academic scholarships the expenses forced her to hold several jobs, and to work many hours. Despite this she maintained a dean's list academic record and participated in many school activities. She also did substitute teaching and became a certified official in several sports while she was still in school.
Her goal was to be a teacher. In fact, she wanted to be a teacher of teachers so that she could influence the way girls were taught. Her earliest memories are of being frustrated by the restrictions placed on girls and the limiting images girls had of themselves. In her day no one asked a little girl what she wanted to be when she grew up because the only answer was "to get married and have children" (or to enter the convent). Nothing else was acceptable, expected or, often, even permitted. To change this became the motivating factor of her life.
Elizabeth was also an athlete. She played every sport offered in school, and won awards in all of them. She even was offered a contract to play in "A League of Her Own". She declined because it would have interfered with her teaching goal. Nevertheless, she thought sports, especially team sports, were the best vehicle to help change the image girls had of themselves.
She thought that participation in athletics would help girls gain both psychological and physical self-confidence so she majored in Physical and Health Education, obtaining the bachelor and masters degrees from The University of Cincinnati to became a teacher of physical education. Her ideas in this field were often innovative and sometimes controversial because at that time girls were not encouraged to engage in serious athletic competition.
Elizabeth was a devout Roman Catholic. When she learned of the first graduate program in theology for women, opened by the president of Saint Mary's College-Notre Dame, Sister Madeleva Wolff, C.S.C., she enrolled immediately.
She earned the doctorate and thus she was destined to become a pioneer woman theologian. Opportunities were very limited, however, because the discrimination against women in the field of religion was enormous. In general, most men simply could not tolerate a woman who said she knew anything about 'the sacred'. In those days, Catholic colleges employed very few women and none in theology. Most other college religion departments were under Protestant control and would not employ a Catholic.
The more she studied religion, and the attitudes of the religious toward women, the stronger her conviction became that religion was a taproot of misogyny. So she began to write and speak out against these attitudes and to organize women to demand change. In fact, she became a national leader in the struggle for women's rights, influencing many women. Elizabeth was influenced by the social teachings of the church and by the Catholic Worker movement.
She knew what it was like to be poor. She had experienced discrimination and oppression, and she had always had an almost unique affinity with animals. It naturally followed that, being inspired with her father's example of compassion and empathy, her own identification with the down trodden, her move toward radical thinking and the questioning of authority, she was able to tie all the issues together. She could see the similarities that connected all who were oppressed, both human and animal. Although her roots were in Christianity she was no longer interested in institutional religion or the traditional concepts of transcendent divinity.
As she lives out her vision of justice and compassion her life style has become one of voluntary simplicity. Her work has been not only in the women's movement but also in the areas of civil rights, civil liberties, pacifism, animal rights, environmentalism and organic gardening, vegetarianism and the struggle to abolish the death penalty. A partial listing of the activities of Elizabeth follows:
She developed a racially integrated swimming program for Girl's Town before the Cincinnati swimming pools were racially integrated. Under the auspices of the Catholic Youth Organization in Cincinnati she developed a comprehensive athletic program for girls and young women. Such activities were unavailable elsewhere. She also saw to it that the girl's leagues were racially integrated. She became a sports official before it was a common role for women and to develop leadership in girls and women she set up classes for them.
Always aiming to empower women, she designed a religion related award for girls in Girl Scouting similar to the Boy Scout program. The Girl Scouts later adopted the program nationally and it become the prototype for the Marian Award. The Camp Fire Girls also used the award.
She was one of the first women to study theology on the graduate level and to become a theologian in either the Catholic or Protestant religions. In 1966, she integrated the then all-male Catholic Theological Society. As a qualified theologian she tried to attend an annual meeting of the CTS . Officers of the society threatened to call the police if she would not leave. Father Charles Curran, then of Catholic University, helped her to get in and avoid being arrested.
When she applied for a position at the University of Dayton she was assigned Thomistic philosophy to teach because the University would not allow a woman to teach theology. However, she was promised that if all went well at end of two years she could apply to teach theology. When she reminded the provost, Father Stanley of the Marianist Congregation, of his promise, she was fired. Several members of the philosophy department, including the respected Dr. Richard Baker, tried to intervene but to no avail.
Even before Vatican II she worked to change the roles of Catholic women in the church. She joined St. Joan's International Alliance and helped Frances McGillicuddy of New York start the American section.
As a panel member at Alburtus Magnus College in Connecticut on the role of women in the church, she dared to criticize the famous liberal theologian, the Rev. Bernard Haering, C.S.S.R., for his "lamentable gradualism" regarding women and the priesthood. Her remarks were carried widely by the press and the impetus from this publicity enabled her to pull together Catholic women and Protestant women ministers to start the Ecumenical Task Force on Women and Religion.
When the National Organization for Women was founded in 1966, she met with NOW's founder, Betty Friedan, who asked her to incorporate the Task Force with NOW. She was an original member of NOW and served on its National Board for over five years. She convened the first NOW chapters in three states: Ohio, New Jersey and Connecticut.
She participated in NOW's first ground breaking pickets: against the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission for not enforcing the new regulation outlawing sex-segregated help wanted advertisements and against The New York Times and The Chicago Tribune for continuing to run the ads. She also picketed the so-called "Executive Flight", flying daily on United Airlines between Chicago and New York on which women were not permitted. And she participated in the national Bell Telephone Co. protest for women employees.
She assisted Pat McQuillen in forming "Catholics for Choice" and served on its National Board.
She worked on a number of feminist issues with Arlene and Leonard Swidler and Philadelphia NOW.
She lobbied the U.S. Congress for the Equal Rights Amendment under the direction of Alice Paul, the suffragette who authored the E.R.A., and with Mary Eastwood of NOW and the National Women's Party.
She testified in both Houses of Congress for the E.R.A., regarding its compatibility with religion. She testified in several of the States in support of the E.R.A. and she got Ohio Senator, Tom Luken, to cosponsor the ratification of the Amendment by the State of Ohio. This enabled Ohio to ratify. She helped Maggie Quinn and Linda Reddington form "Catholics for the E.R.A.".
She tried to get the National Council of Catholic Bishops to meet with her and an umbrella of six Catholic groups, " The Joint Committee of Organizations Concerned About the Status of Women in the Church", which she had pulled together for the purpose. Bernice McNeela agreed to chair the committee. (It should be noted that at that time generally, women religious, except for the Coalition of American Nuns, founded by Sister Margaret Ellen Traxler, S.S.N.D., did not participate in the feminist movement in the church).
After many requests she was given an appointment with Lawrence Cardinal Sheehan of Baltimore and chair of a newly formed liaison committee set up for the purpose since the bishops had no previous structure to deal with outside groups. She asked Maggie Kuhn, an executive of the Presbyterian Church and founder of the "Gray Panthers" to go along in an effort to impress upon the bishops the seriousness of the problem, with no responce.
Elizabeth and the Joint Committee prepared a document, listing demands the women wanted addressed by the bishops, including ordination to the priesthood for women. Religious News Service released the document. Elizabeth would not give up. After many unanswered letters and phone calls she finally managed to get an appointment with Bishop Joseph Bernadine, President of the N.C.C.B., (later to become Cardinal Bernadine). She gave him one of her "Jesus Was a Feminist" buttons.
Again there was no response. Action was needed. Under Elizabeth's direction, the NOW Task Force organized an action referred to as the "national unveiling", protesting the liturgical requirement that women cover their heads in church as a sign of subordination. Much press coverage and some controversy was generated.
The protest was carried out dramatically by the Task Force with Milwaukee NOW on Easter Sunday and was called, "The Easter Bonnet Rebellion". When a new liturgical regulation came from Rome giving lay men a wider role in the liturgy but excluding women, Elizabeth organized a protest sending the bishops a burnt copy of the discriminatory, "Instruction 66", wrapped in pink ribbons and with the poem entitled, "Pink and Ash". Under the banner, "We Will Be Silent NO Longer", she and the Task Force in conjunction with Detroit NOW, led a picket in Detroit of one the Bishops' meetings.
Finally, in August, 1970, Elizabeth and the Joint Committee were given an appointment with the Liaison Committee of the bishops. The women presented their demands. This was probably the first time the bishops ever met with any outside group. Some time later the bishops set up a committee to study 'the problem they have with women', as the women put it.
Elizabeth was a guest on one of the early Phil Donahue shows, discussing the priesthood for women. She led a delegation of eight NOW members from all over the State of Ohio to meet with the governor, John Gilligan, asking him to create a state department dealing with discrimination against women.
She started a women's studies course in the "free university" at Loyola University in Chicago. Speakers at this ground breaking course included among others: Betty Friedan, Catherine Clarenback, Mary Jean and Jim Collins-Robson and Noami Weisstein.
She led a demonstration at the University of Cincinnati to get the university to start a comprehensive women's institute, including women's studies.
She and members of Cincinnati NOW and Women's Liberation 'sat in' at the Arts and Science Dean's office, while women with baby carriages paraded up and down Clifton Avenue in front of the University, demanding child care facilities for the children of student parents.
She was involved in the cvil rights movement, the March on Selma, Alabama. and other civil rights activities.
She was involved in the antiwar movement, at one time with Father Daniel Berrigan, S.J., inviting the young draft card burner, David Miller, to speak to her students at Sacred Heart University. Of course she was fired.
She lectured all over the country to awaken women to their rights in the church and society.
She gave the baccalaureate address at Brown University, as a last minute replacement for Charles Coleson, just convicted of a felony in the Watergate affair.
She was the first women to speak from the pulpit at Brown. She was asked to speak as a feminist but her talk was too radical for Brown parents. Most students approved.
Her lecture at St. John-the-Divine Episcopal Cathedral in New York City on feminism and religion was reported widely by the press, including The New York Times.
She brought the National Women's Political Caucus to Ohio, organizing a meeting in Columbus.
Because she was fired from Loyola University in Chicago for being a feminist, she filed the first complaint of sex discrimination in higher education with the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. This led the way for many other filings and her case became the title case in a large class action under Marcia Greenberger. Six national organizations backed her case. After years of struggle, she got only a very small settlement but no job. Students at Loyola University added her cause to their other strike grievances.
She participated in the protest to get back the job at Boston College of radical feminist, Mary Daly. She participated in the "Exodus " (from the church) with Mary Daly at the Harvard University chapel.
She was the first director of the Women's Institute of the Boston Theological Institute. She wrote and presented a number of papers on various aspects of feminism such as linking the roles of women with over population. On this topic her paper was published in the proceedings of the First National Conference of the Negative Population Growth, Inc.
Her paper on "Phallic Worship" was published in the proceedings of the American Academy of Religion's international conference on religion held in California.
She and three other women authored "Applesouce: The Return of Lillith", later produced by NBC television.
She worked to get women ordained to Episcopal priesthood with Pauli Murray, and Betty Bone-Schiess.
As head of the NOW Task Force on Women and Religion she wrote numerous new releases and position papers which have been collected under the title of " NOW Papers on Women and Religion".
She worked with the Rev. Maurice McCrackin (usually just called ,"Mac") and Marian and Ernest Bromley on the death penalty and she founded the Cincinnati Chapter of the Ohio Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. She obtained a very large grant for a long, in-depth lecture series with national speakers on the death penalty.
She picketed and protested. Many times, when pacifists "Mac" and Ernest Bromley were arrested, she worked with the notable Cincinnati lawyer, Allen Brown, to get "Mac" out of jail.
She was the treasurer of an ad hoc peace group dedicated to preventing the IRS from illegally seizing the Bromley's, Peacemaker's house, and she was the treasurer of the ad hoc committee which worked to get "Mac" out of jail when Prosecutor Simon Leis held a grand jury in session to try to persuade him to testify against some convicts who had kid- napped him and stolen his car.
She has been actively involved in the animal rights movement with such groups as: The Animal Rights Community of Cincinnati, Earth Save Cincinnati, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, The Cincinnati Vegetarian Resource Group, Feminists for Animal Rights, In Defense of Animals, APE (Animals, People and the Environment), Farm Sanctuary and many others.
She and Mary Jane Newborn presented an in depth workshop showing the relationships between meat eating and social problems, especially poverty, violence and the environment.
She has picketed and protested against turtle races, circuses, rodeos, animal testing, factory farms, product testing , especially by P & G, and against McDonald's role in the meat industry.
She has distributed petitions against the leg-hold trap and for the "Save the Doves" Organization.
She helped organize the first vegetarian Thanksgiving celebration in Cincinnati at the Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church and worked to get the celebration revitalized later at the Cincinnati-Dayton Jain Temple.
She worked with Sulekh Jain to get the Jains to present "Mac" with an "Ahimsa" award.
She organized a campaign to try to get Catholic parishes to stop exploiting animals at their summer festivals.
She authored "The Christa", an Old Testament style prophecy about feminism. Recently, she was honored for her work in feminism by "The Veteran Feminists of America". Her papers and an oral history are stored in the Elizabeth and Author Schlesinger Library in Boston.
With artist, Mary Ann Lederer, she produced the philosophical print: Dance Lightly With The Living Earth.
Elizabeth Farians might be called the "Mother of Ohio Feminism" because she brought both NOW and the National Women's Political Caucus to Ohio as well as causing the governor to set up a department of women's affairs in the state. She was a catalyst in getting the University of Cincinnati to start a program of Women's Studies and being instrumental in getting the ratification of the ERA introduced in Ohio.
She is listed in The Directory of American Scholars and Who's Who of American Women.