Katharine Bushnell

Even though Katharine Bushnell (1855-1946) planned to become a physician, she studied Greek during her undergraduate years at Northwestern University (where Frances Willard, another Women's L Project honoree) was one of her professors). After earning her medical degree from the Women’s Medical College of Chicago, Bushnell (at the age of 24) went to China to serve as medical missionary. Besides treating patients, she established a pediatric hospital in Shanghai.

After three years, Bushnell returned to the US and settled in Denver where she opened a medical practice and became a member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Reconnecting with her former Northwestern professor and WCTU President Frances Willard, Bushnell gave up her medical practice, moved back to Chicago and became the head of the WCTU’s Social Purity Department. This department focused on domestic violence, exploitation and sex trafficking.

Besides giving lectures across the US, Bushnell founded the Anchorage Mission in Chicago, a shelter that served 5,000 women a year. Gathering evidence and testifying about women and girls who had been forced to work as prostitutes in Wisconsin lumber camps, she was successful in pressuring the Wisconsin state legislature to pass a bill which made it a felony to abduct women for the purpose of prostitution.

Throughout her life, Bushnell was increasingly troubled by English translations of the Bible—specifically, male-biased translations that promoted subjugation of women. Her Classical Greek studies from decades earlier proved to be valuable  as did her more recent study of ancient Hebrew. Translating the Old and New Testament directly from their original languages was eye-opening and Bushnell eagerly shared what she had discovered. In 1923 she published God’s Word to Women which walked women through Biblical passages that had been previously mistranslated. Chapters included “Must Women Obey?” and “Sex Bias Influences Translators” and “Women Must Preach.” God’s Word to Women is considered to be a forerunner of feminist theology.

Why this stop? The Purple Line Dempster stop is not far from Northwestern University (Bushnell’s alma mater) and from the WCTU’s national headquarters.

Read a section or two of God’s Word to Women (Note: The first 5 “Lessons” are a bit heady. You might wish to choose a Lesson or two later on in the book.)