Twenty years ago Rev. Dorothy Boroush had an epiphany. Why not, every once in a while, preach as if she were someone else? She had been reading a biography of the Rev. Antoinette Brown Blackwell, the first woman to be ordained in the United States, and thought this woman who would not be silenced in life should not be so by death. Reverend Blackwell was ordained in 1851 and led the congregational church in South Butler, New York.

The result of this moment of insight has become for Reverend Boroush a two-decade journey into the mind of Reverend Blackwell.

“Her life was such an emblematic life of what women can do but were not allowed to do,” Rev. Boroush said. “She had to fight for everything she accomplished.”

This Sunday, Dec. 12 at the 11 a.m. service at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Martha’s Vineyard at 238 Main street in Vineyard Haven, Rev. Boroush will be conducting the service as Rev. Blackwell. She will preach her sermon in character. “And I age as the sermon goes on,” she said.

The sermon will encompass four distinct periods in Rev. Blackwell’s life including her early work in the women’s suffrage movement. Other parts of the service will be thematically aligned with every component, from the hymns to the prayers, being pieces written by women. The service will conclude with the Battle Hymn of the Republic, that feminine ditty written by Julia Ward Howe.

Islanders who do not know about Reverend Blackwell’s past as a minister and advocate for women’s rights might still be familiar with her name. She and her husband, Samuel Blackwell, began summering in Chilmark in the 1860s. The family compound also included Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first licensed woman physician in the United States, Dr. Emily Blackwell and Henry Blackwell, who married suffragette Lucy Stone.

Reverend Blackwell died in 1921 at the age of 96, just one year after finally gaining the right to vote. She is buried at Abel’s Hill Cemetery in Chilmark. But on Sunday, thanks to Rev. Boroush, she returns to the pulpit once again to rally the faithful in the fight for justice and equality.

For further details, call 508-693-8982.

— Bill Eville