The late Rev. Pauli Murray, a woman of many accomplishments – civil rights activist, feminist, author, lawyer and the first female African American Episcopal priest – will likely be named in the next few days to The Episcopal Church’s book, “Holy Women, Holy Men.”
Her nomination is up for a vote at the Anglican denomination’s general convention, meeting in Indianapolis through Thursday.
If it passes, Murray will have her own date on the Church calendar, July 1. Later this month, St. Titus’ Episcopal Church, where Murray worshipped, will hold its annual service in celebration of her work. She was born in 1910 and died in 1985. Murray’s impact goes beyond just her racial and gender barrier breaking in the church.
“Pauli Murray’s significance to The Episcopal Church is as a pioneer, as an advocate for racial reconciliation, an agent for social justice, racial and gender equality both in the church and society,” said Rev. Brooks Graebner, rector of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Hillsborough and member of the steering committee of the Pauli Murray Project based at Duke.
“I would consider her a woman who in many ways anticipated major movements in the life of church and society,” Graebner said.
After being turned away from UNC Chapel Hill’s graduate school in 1938, Murray participated in civil rights protests in the early 1940s and graduated first in her class and the only woman from Howard Law School in 1944. In 1965, she was the first African American to receive a J.S.D. from Yale. A year later, she was a founding member of the National Organization for Women.
Among her law and other publications is the memoir “Proud Shoes: The Story of an American Family,” regarded as her seminal work. In it, she talks about growing up multi-racial in Durham’s West End. She became a priest in 1977.
The Episcopal Church’s book of saints, “Holy Women, Holy Men,” is a major revision of “Lesser Feasts and Fasts,” a worship book that included biographies of those commemorated on the church calendar. In 2009, the last time The Episcopal Church General Convention was held, more than 100 women and men were named to the new book in trial usage. Murray is among a handful to be considered at this year’s convention.
Read more: The Herald-Sun
(What is not stated in the Herald-Sun, but is clearly stated on Wikipedia, is that “She was a lesbian”).
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Thanks for alerting me to the upcoming vote on Pauli Murray and to her lesbian identity. I became fascinated and quickly did a lot of research into her queer side, as well as her amazing life and powerful theology.
Murray was attracted to women and her longest relationships were with women, so she is justifiably considered a lesbian. But she also described herself as a man trapped in a woman’s body and took hormone treatments in her 20s and 30s, so she might even be called a transgender today.
I cover this in more depth in my post today at the Jesus in Love Blog:
Pauli Murray: Episcopal church votes on queer saint / activist for civil rights and gender equality
Others have written extensively about her many accomplishments, but material on Murray’s sexuality is hard to find, so please share the link — and thanks again!
By the way, I love the new “magazine” format of Queering the Church. It looks like you have a vast team of writers working for you!
Thanks for the quick response, Kitt. I’ve replied in kind, with an intro and link at this site.
I’m glad you like the magazine format at QTC. I wish it really were “an army of writers” – but as that’s always been the intention, I live in hope that they’ll be temtpted out of the woodwork.