Evangelical Episcopalian Walks to White House for Gay Rights
Helene Swanson, an evangelical Episcopalian, whose activism is an expression of her faith, started her 500-plus mile walk from the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, NY, on July 19, 2012. She plans on arriving in Washington DC on August 26, 2012, the 92nd anniversary of the 19th Amendment – the right for women to vote, the only right guaranteed women by the United States Constitution. Swanson is walking from parish to parish, as an expression of her faith, to bring attention to the need for an Equal Rights Amendment for the full inclusion of women in society and for LBGTQ Rights.
Seneca Falls has nourished abolitionism and feminism since the 1840s. Abolitionist Abby Kelly spoke against slavery at an outdoor rally there in 1843. One of her followers was later convicted of “disorderly and unchristian conduct” for arguing with the local Presbyterian minister about abolition. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Coffin Mott helped organize the first Women’s Rights Convention in 1848. Frederick Douglas’ impassioned support helped the convention pass the Declaration of Sentiments, which proclaimed: “All men and women are created equal.” In 1923 the National Women’s Rights party celebrated the 75th anniversary of the 1848 convention. Alice Paul, imprisoned, beaten, and force fed for protesting President Wilson’s not supporting women’s rights, proposed the Equal Rights Amendment at the 1923 meeting in Seneca Falls.
Swanson founded Katrina’s Dream in memory of her late mother-in-law, the Rev. Katrina Swanson, who was one of the “Philadelphia Eleven”, who were irregularly ordained in 1974, making them the first women to be ordained priest in the Episcopal Church.
When the ERA was voted down in the United States, Katrina would say the Pledge of Allegiance, “with Liberty and Justice for SOME!” When questioned, “Why ‘some’?” she would say, “Because the ERA was voted down retired women are more likely to live in poverty than men.” Swanson is dedicating this walk to her mother who was left to die in a hallway of an emergency room, as she was deemed too poor to save.
Katrina’s Dream is active in Prison Law Reform, education in Botswana, Africa, and the full inclusion of women in all areas of life. Working with local California communities and collaborated with national organizations.
In July 2007, a team was sent to the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury England where they distributed label pins to the attending Bishops and their spouses bearing the saying, “God is Beyond Gender” to show their support for women’s rights and the LBGTQ community.
The Archbishop of Canterbury sought out and engaged Helene Swanson regarding her work on women’s issues at the 76th General Convention in Anaheim, California, where Katrina’s Dream was instrumental in the passage of Resolution 2009-D042, which called for the Episcopal Church of the United States of America to renew its historic support of passage of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
On March 8, 2011, citing support from Katrina’s Dream, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) chose International Women’s Day to introduce legislation to speed ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution.
On July 29 all are welcome to attend the celebration of the 38th anniversary of the ordination of the ‘Philadelphia Eleven’ along with the ordination of Rev. Robert Coolidge who is believed to be the first deacon to serve a woman priest in the sacrament of communion. Celebration will be at 9:00am at St. George’s Episcopal Church, Schenectady, NY, which is one of the many churches Helene Swanson will be staying on her pilgrimage for the passage of the ERA to the Capitol.
People reading this are invited to contact their Senators and Representatives to urge them to co-sponsor the Equal Rights Amendment resolutions currently moving though the House and Senate to help all Americans have equal rights. They are also being asked to call the White House and ask for the President’s support in the passage of resolutions moving through Capitol Hill.