By Toya Richards
The Rev. Archibald B. “Arch” Taylor Jr. grew up in segregated North Carolina at a time when women and people of color were treated like second-class citizens.
“I’m an old southern guy,” he said, adding that his father was a Confederate loyalist and his great grandfather was a slave owner.
Now, at nearly 90 years of age, Taylor is giving $25,000 to The Women’s Center at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. The Center’s mission is “to educate on matters of concern to women, advocate for justice and equity for women, liberate prisoners of rigid gender roles, and celebrate the gifts and achievements of women in the Church and the world.”
Taylor credits his first wife, Margaret Hopper Taylor, and his alma mater, Louisville Seminary, for shaping his life journey, which has brought him to such a commitment.
“I credit Margaret with enabling me to have an attitude adjustment,” the retired missionary said. “She picked up this old southern boy and she really helped to open my mind and broaden me.”
Plus, attending Louisville Seminary “was really one of the very best things that happened to me. … My whole spiritual pilgrimage has been a growth.”
Taylor, who earned his Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1945 and a Master of Theology degree in 1954 from Louisville Seminary, has made his unrestricted donation to The Women’s Center in memory of Margaret, who was a lifelong advocate for women’s issues and who supported the Center in its earliest days.
“It is the biggest gift that we have received,” said the Rev. Dr. Johanna Bos, faculty and financial liaison to The Women’s Center and the Dora Pierce Professor of Bible and Professor of Old Testament at Louisville Seminary.
Bos said The Women’s Center is still determining the best way to honor Arch Taylor’s gift, and among the ideas being considered are developing a series of workshops in Margaret Taylor’s name, perhaps dealing with domestic violence, and supporting the Center’s endowment.
Margaret Taylor “was a very strong woman. Arch always says that she taught him everything about women, about feminism, about equality between women and men.”
Bos, a member of the faculty since 1976, particularly recalls Margaret Taylor’s time as a student at Louisville Seminary in the 1980s. Taylor, a social worker, was on furlough with her husband from mission service in Japan.
It was a class on the Psalms and “we did a lot of liturgical preparation,” Bos said. During the class Taylor was diagnosed with cancer, and “she wrote a Psalm reflecting on her being deathly ill,” she said.
“She was fully prepared to take leave of this life,” Bos said. She was a “great contributor to the class.”
Margaret Taylor died in November 1984, but not before living a full life that included active involvement in women’s issues and the rights of the disenfranchised.
During her time in Japan, she was always out on the cutting edge for women’s rights, said Arch Taylor, who served in Southeast Asia for more than 35 years until his retirement in 1986. She also carried that dedication with her during her time at Louisville Seminary, he said.
“Part of her social justice instincts were the rights of women,” said Taylor.
The gift most certainly will continue to advance the Center’s overall mission and activities in behalf of justice and women, which include the Katie Geneva Cannon Lectureship that honors the first African American woman ordained to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church. This year, the annual event will feature Dr. Gay Byron of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School. The lecture will take place within the context of a conference, called “A Woman’s Voice – Women Speaking with Authority in Religious Community” that will be held Sept. 12 and 13 on the campus.
Other Women’s Center initiatives include a weeklong observance of the global V-Day movement to end violence against females, and an Artist-in-Residence program, which will spotlight Louisville Seminary’s Distinguished Alumna, pastor, and playwright Rev. Cheryl Goodman Morris (MDiv ’77) from Portola Valley, Calif., in 2011.
“I am always so impressed with the devotion that people have to the Women’s Center,” such as that of Arch Taylor, Bos said. “It is a devotion to both serve and give their energy.”