Some readers will know that Maurice is researching the life and work of Archbishop Arthur Hughes, Missionary of Africa, Papal Diplomat, and, in this talk that he gave to Saint Joan’s Alliance in 1933, he appears as a Christian feminist. His sister Winifred, whom he greatly loved , was a teaching Sister of Mercy, Sister Edith. She worked for years among the poorest children in the East End of London; by their work and example, those sisters were feminists before the word was coined. Here the then Father Hughes talks of the ‘Longest Advent’: longest because we are not yet living the Christian revelation fully when women are not full and equal participants in the Church and wider society.
‘The Virgin, the Mother of the Redeemer, was venerated as a symbol of what womanhood could attain, but Christianity was not yet achieved, nor the emancipation of women and we are awaiting this time; we are waiting for the longest Advent to come to an end.
‘… education is a vital part of the longest Advent. The founding of a Girls’ Secondary School crowned the founding of other schools. (Most girls in England at this time would have left school at 14; in Africa Girls’ Secondaries were few and far between.)
‘Advent is associated with ideas of worthiness and readiness, and during ‘the longest Advent’ feminists should think things out and read and meditate so that they could speak with ever more conviction. Full equality, liberty and emancipation is the completion of the Christian ideal. Our Lord by allowing devotion to Our Lady to become an integral part of our Catholic Faith paved the way for feminism – when he came to earth practically everything had still to be done towards the emancipation of women, not only equality had to be achieved, but something more, therefore external marks of respect towards women should be maintained and expected. Your crusade is associated with the longest Advent. Pray and work with greater courage! ‘