The Power of Two Women

All day I have been praying for love and justice to triumph today in North Carolina. The vote on Proposition 1, which would, if adopted, place a ban on same-gender-loving marriage in that state’s constitution (similar to what we endured in Virginia in 2006), is said by some to be close. Others claim that the vote will be strongly in favor of the amendment.

As I prayed this morning, I remembered Patience and Sarah. They were not North Carolinians but New Englanders. But their story reminds me of why we continue to fight for the right to marry.

Actually, they are fictional characters from a novel of that name that has inspired many, mostly women I suppose but also men like me.  The novel is historical fiction by Alma Routsong (pen name Isabel Miller), and tells the story  of two women in Connecticut in 1816 who fall in love and decide to leave their homes to buy a farm in another state or territory and live in a Boston marriage.

A bit faded, but the message is still clear, “A Pioneering Love Story”

Although it is fiction, Routsong’s novel is based on a real-life painter named Mary Ann Willson who lived with her companion Miss Brundage as a “farmerette” in the early 19th century in Greene County, NY. Routsong said she came upon Willson’s work in a museum in Cooperstown and was inspired to write the story after reading the description of Willson and Brundage.

Jonathan and I were present for the premiere at Lincoln Center in 1998 of an opera by Paula Kimper based on the novel. We were very moved, by the music and the story. We were pretty poor in those days in New York but bought t-shirts anyway to commemorate the event.  I still have mine–full of holes and frayed edges. Someone took Jonathan’s at a laundromat in Brooklyn a couple of years later.

While working at home today, praying off and on, I decided to wear the shirt. It is my personal witness for same-gender love and marriage.

No matter the outcome in North Carolina, I know the day is coming when all the Patience and Sarahs–and tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of other loving people–will be free to marry (or not–right now we have no freedom to choose, that is what the fight is truly about).

As long as I live, I shall not forget these women, and so many others throughout human history who have loved, and those who love today, against the rules.

I feel certain Jesus would be proud of all of them.

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