Aimee Semple McPherson: Everybody's Sister

Overview

One of the most influential and dynamic evangelists of the twentieth century, Aimee Semple McPherson 1890-1944 was a complex, lively, and controversial figure with a flair for the dramatic. Against the backdrop of the Roaring Twenties, Sister Aimee, as she was widely known, cultivated her ministry, preaching the "old-fashioned gospel" and calling for a return to simple biblical Christianity. A religious leader who strongly identified with ordinary folk, she attracted hundreds of thousands of loyal followers ...
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Overview

One of the most influential and dynamic evangelists of the twentieth century, Aimee Semple McPherson 1890-1944 was a complex, lively, and controversial figure with a flair for the dramatic. Against the backdrop of the Roaring Twenties, Sister Aimee, as she was widely known, cultivated her ministry, preaching the "old-fashioned gospel" and calling for a return to simple biblical Christianity. A religious leader who strongly identified with ordinary folk, she attracted hundreds of thousands of loyal followers throughout the United States and Canada. Edith L. Blumhofer's thorough biography is grounded in extensive research and academic scholarship, yet written for the general reader as much as the historian. Blumhofer offers unique insights into McPherson's Canadian and Salvation Army roots and her relationship with Pentecostalism and uses her experiences to test stereotypes about mainstream Protestantism and Pentecostalism. Blumhofer has also had access to resources not available to previous biographers - selected minutes of The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel - and she had contact with both of McPherson's children, Roberta Semple Salter and Rolf McPherson. Dozens of photographs also help illustrate McPherson's multiple roles as missionary, radio broadcaster, editor, mother, wife, and - above all - dramatic and inspiring evangelist.
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Editorial Reviews

American Historical Review
Edith L. Blumhofer is to be congratulated for her detailed, scholarly study.... Aimee McPherson is an important figure in the history of North American religion and merits attention as a woman who had a major effect on our culture. Yet she has received only modest attention and nothing to match this work, distinguished as it is by a searching and comprehensive scholarship, a rare biography that exists neither to praise nor to bury its subject.
Fides et Historia
"Blumhofer has written the most complete and well-grounded biography of McPherson to date.... In Blumhofer, Sister has found a scholar who has done her justice.... Blumhofer has set an admirable standard for all that would follow."
International Bulletin of Missionary Research
This book is narrative history at its best, and it should appeal to both scholarly and popular audiences.
Provident Book Finder
The book is readable and provides an excellent introduction to this unique individual.
Journal of American History
American survey instructors should consider the book as a way to introduce students to a strong female religious leader; researchers in the field will be impressed by Blumhofer's excellent bibliographical essay.
Journal of Southern History
In this engaging, well-researched, and sensitive biography, Edith Blumhofer has succeeded not only in producing a definitive work on her subject but also in opening up new ways of thinking about the popular culture of twentieth-century American Protestantism.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this vibrant biography of controversial, charismatic ``Sister'' McPherson 1890-1944, Blumhofer Restoring the Faith traces the influence of the celebrity preacher on 20th-century American protestantism. Seeking to separate the facts from the cloak of myth surrounding McPherson, the author chronicles the Ontario farm girl's religious formation by her mother, by the ``flamboyant style'' of the Canadian Salvation Army and by her Pentecostal first husband, Robert Semple, who died when Aimee was 19 and pregnant. As the center of her International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, Sister, who married Harold McPherson in 1912, built the Angelus Temple in Los Angeles, drew overflow crowds to her assemblies and broadcast from her own radio station. Blumhofer explores the inner loneliness of this divorced mother of a daughter and son who served as sources for the study. While marital scandals and the shifting economic and societal tides of the 1930s dimmed McPherson's star, today a purported 1.5 million members worldwide follow her vision. Balanced and engrossing, this portrait also examines Sister's early application of modern promotional techniques to a religious endeavor. Photos not seen by PW. Dec.
Library Journal
``Sister'' was one of the best-known North American religious figures and media celebrities between the world wars. At long last, an objective and scholarly biography has been written about this controversial old-time religion revival evangelist. In this sensitive and engaging biography, Blumhofer, a historian Wheaton Coll. and editor The Christian Century , depicts not only the woman who mixed piety and pageantry while crossing denominational lines but also the complex social scene of 1930s America. This volume outshines all other McPherson biographies, including Robert Bahr's Least of All Saints LJ 5/1/79, which is a speculative and dramatic re-creation, and the poet Mark Epstein's appreciative and noncritical Sister Aimee LJ 12/92. An excellent bibliographic essay is included. Appropriate for general readers as well as scholars, this is recommended to public and academic libraries of all sizes.-- Gary P. Gillum, Brigham Young Univ., Provo, Ut.
Lindsay Throm
The life of Aimee Semple McPherson was packed with adventure, intrigue, and controversy--all the ingredients necessary for a lively biography, as Daniel Mark Epstein demonstrated in his "Sister Aimee". In this exploration of the evangelist's turbulent career, from her years as a traveling preacher and healer through and beyond the establishment of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, Blumhofer recounts the well-known events while focusing on McPherson's family history and her roots in the Salvation Army in order to trace the relationship between American Pentecostalism and traditional Protestantism. In her analysis of Sister Aimee's relationship with both of these religious persuasions, Blumhofer reveals there was less hostility between them than is widely assumed. Blumhofer places Sister Aimee, the religious celebrity, in a cultural and historical context that includes the development of religious thought and institutions in North America, women's experiences in the twentieth century, social welfare work, and Southern California culture. This is a thorough account and analysis of a life that made a significant impact on American society--an impact that continues to be felt in an age of Educationalist fervor.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802837523
  • Publisher: Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 10/1/1994
  • Series: Library of Religious Biography
  • Pages: 434

Meet the Author

Edith L. Blumhofer is professor of history and director of the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois.
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Table of Contents

  1. Foreword, by Nathan O. Hatch
    Introduction

  2. Beginnings
  3. The Pivot
  4. Full Time
  5. Itinerating
  6. The Foursquare Gospel
  7. Content
  8. Angelus Temple
  9. Angry Surges Roll
  10. Regrouping
  11. Finishing the Course
  12. Epilogue
    A Note on the Sources
    Appendix: Excerpts from The Bridal Call

    "Motion Picture Actor Converted"
    "Delivered from a Living Death"

    Index

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