These Brave Women ...
The United Nations observes the day, and in some countries it’s a national holiday. International Women’s Day was initiated by the socialist organization, The Second International. In 1977 the United Nations adopted a resolution which recommends a public celebration of International Women's Day.

(This piece by the Bishop of the Diocese of Västerås, Mikael Mogren, was written in 2009 but feels just as relevant today, ten years later)


The first time I saw a female priest was on television. It was before I even went to school, but I remember it clearly. The big forest stood dark around our cottage. It was Sunday and we were sitting together watching the televised service.
“How beautifully she sang!” said Grandma afterwards. Grandma seemed very happy. Her whole body seemed happy.

It was just as uncommon for a woman to be a pastor as for my mother to be driving the tractor. Some people didn’t like how well my mother drove.
I think of Ulla Bardh today, the first woman to be ordained as a pastor in Sweden. It was in the Baptist Church and the year was 1958. Fifty years later, in May 2008, she became a doctor of theology. It is quite a feat to pull yourself together and write a doctoral dissertation after a long working life. But, Ulla is amazing — in a number of ways. She can openly say things, things which others are too afraid to even whisper. She is one of the bravest people I’ve met.

In 1958, the year the Swedish Church decided to ordain women as priests, women could also become police officers. Over the years there’s been a lot of opposition to ordaining women, but I haven’t heard anything about people opposing women in the police force.
Back home in the big forest it was hard to picture a woman in the pulpit, but it was equally hard to picture women driving tractors or walking around as police officers. After more than 50 years only 23% of Swedish police are women. A much higher percentage of women are priests, and the medical profession has more women than any other profession: 43% of all doctors in Sweden are women.

It is sometimes said that Sweden was first when it came to women in professional life. But in Denmark, the decision to ordain women as priests was taken in 1948, and in Norway as early as 1938. In Holland women were ordained at the end of the 19th century, and in the U.S there were already female religious leaders in the 18th century within the Shaker movement.
In the Bible there are many female leaders. Funny that it took two thousand years to discover that.

By Mikael Mogren