Building the Old Time Religion: Women Evangelists in the Progressive Era

Building the Old Time Religion: Women Evangelists in the Progressive Era

4.7 7
by Priscilla Pope-Levison

View All Available Formats & Editions

2015 Smith/Wynkoop Book Award presented by the Wesleyan Theological Society

2014 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

During the Progessive Era, a period of unprecedented ingenuity, women evangelists built the old time religion with brick and mortar, uniforms and automobiles, fresh converts and devoted protégés. Across America

…  See more details below


2015 Smith/Wynkoop Book Award presented by the Wesleyan Theological Society

2014 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

During the Progessive Era, a period of unprecedented ingenuity, women evangelists built the old time religion with brick and mortar, uniforms and automobiles, fresh converts and devoted protégés. Across America, entrepreneurial women founded churches, denominations, religious training schools, rescue homes, rescue missions, and evangelistic organizations. Until now, these intrepid women have gone largely unnoticed, though their collective yet unchoreographed decision to build institutions in the service of evangelism marked a seismic shift in American Christianity.

In this ground-breaking study, Priscilla Pope-Levison dusts off the unpublished letters, diaries, sermons, and yearbooks of these pioneers to share their personal tribulations and public achievements. The effect is staggering. With an uncanny eye for essential details and a knack for historical nuance, Pope-Levison breathes life into not just one or two of these women—but two dozen.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"I really enjoyed this book. It is well organized, well written, and full of interesting details—a sign, no doubt, of many hours of research. . . . Scholars of American Christianity, the Progressive Era, the holiness movements, and American women's history (religious or otherwise) would all benefit from Pope-Levison's work in Building the Old Time Religion."-Paul Putz,Religion in American History blog

“Argues that historians have ignored the significant number of independent religious organizations founded by evangelical and Catholic women in the progressive era. This institution-building by progressive-era women was fundamental to reshaping American Christianity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century as it moved from 'itinerant to institutional revivalism.' A great strength of this work is to bring to the fore stories that are either not as well known as they need to be, or not known at all, a testament to the huge amount of archival research done by the author. This will be a significant contribution to American religious history."-Paul Harvey,University of Colorado

Product Details

New York University Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

Related Subjects

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Building the Old Time Religion: Women Evangelists in the Progressive Era 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Priscilla Pope-Levison has written an especially valuable and groundbreaking study on the institutions for evangelism and holiness founded and led by women during the Progressive Era , and the remarkable women who established them and made them vibrant and powerful witnesses to faith and holiness.  This often happened at great personal cost and sacrifice.  Frequently, too, these institutions arose only to be taken over and changed in significant ways, or controlled and “helped” into ultimate oblivion by ecclesiastical officials and (male) leaders who did not share the same vision which had launched the works in the first place. Pope-Levison’s study is, I believe, of huge value for the Church and faith communities generally.  Some of the ways in which this is true are obvious, such as: (1) exposing and lifting up some under-studied and even (if passively) suppressed history in evangelism and missions; and (2) a deeper awareness of cultural trends (generally) and ecclesiastical trends (such as the move from “conversion”-centered versus “education”-centered outreach).  This will be a wonderful resource book for missions and outreach bodies and women’s ministry, both at the local parish and general church levels, in addition to its more obvious academic interest.  Beyond this, it is an important study for present cross-cultural and international mission work, especially with reference to the question of whether the sorts of dynamics which marginalized or absorbed women-led institutions in the American experience, might have the potential to replicate themselves in current or future missional settings. There is a great deal here which is suggestive for future academic work as well, not least of which is further research on those categories of women-led institutions which had to be excluded from the present volume for reasons of length and focus, and further investigation into the biographies of the women leaders who are the focus of, or referenced in, Dr. Pope-Levison’s book. We frequently hear these days of studies which purport to allow us to hear previously-silent historical voices, or which offer us a new perspective on events, people, or organizations from beyond the usual seats of power.  In some cases, they do.  What is remarkable about Priscilla Pope-Levison’s book is in part the way in which she opens entirely new vistas on what we had considered to be very familiar and well-trodden historical paths.  Yet this is not even the half of what she has given us: by revealing these key women, people of power and influence in their own right who were the equal of (and in many cases far more successful than) their often vastly more famous male contemporaries, yet whose stories and contributions have been lost, forgotten, rewritten and even suppressed, she offers us a deeper and more nuanced view of our own past, issues a challenge to our complacency about what is “possible” in our infinitely more affluent and open time, and a warning about the subtle yet profound ways in which the valences of personal and institutional power can be subverted, assimilated for other purposes, and neglected to extinction … to the hurt of the work of Christ, and the loss of God’s people. It is a powerful study and worth the time and treasure of every serious student of the American religious history and missiology.  Dr. Priscilla Pope-Levison has earned our gratitude as well as our careful attention.
BLePort More than 1 year ago
An excellent history of women evangelists and their transition from itinerant work to institution building. Fills in many gaps in our knowledge of American Christianity.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a carefully researched and superbly written account of Christian women who were the 'difference makers' in American "evangelical" Christianity in an earlier era. In their era the word "evangelical" had not been hijacked as as a moniker for political agendas. Evangelical still meant "rooted in the Evangel," the Good News that is relevant to every segment and strata of society. To carry out this evangelism, these women had, at times, to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. So when the male hierarchy displaced one of them, they accepted it quietly and then moved on undaunted to start a new work. At times they had to be hard as nails and stand up to the oppressive structures that would have "put them in their place" - which meant at home with the kids, of course. Professor Pope-Levision does more than introduce us to these women and their impressive ministries. she puts our fingers on their pulse and allows us to feel the heartbeat of their passion and vision. She allows us to see their demonstrated courage and determination to persevere like the saints they were - sanctified by the Spirit and sanctified to their vocation. This is historical scholarship at its best. It defies every stereotype of the era and enables us to see that the contours of the Christian church in America was shaped in permanent ways by these remarkable women evangelists. W. Stephen Gunter Associate Dean, Duke Divinity School
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pope-Levison offers us a fascinating and compelling view of the women (yes, women!) who were remarkably influential in shaping the American religious landscape and building key social institutions that all Americans have inherited to some degree. It is a wonderful counter to the prevalent view of patriarchy that is still keenly felt as the legacy in American Evangelical Christianity. She also does a lovely job of unveiling for us the vision and passion that compelled these women to carry on their work in the face of formidable social obstacles, and of allowing us to understand their meaning of "Evangelical" which is so different from the current meaning the word carries today. This is a refreshing read and an inspiring historical perspective, especially for anyone interested in religious vocations for women or in the history or American religion during the Progressive Era. Plus, Pope-Levision's writing style is compelling and interesting - a difficult task to write a scholarly work that is also fun for the lay reader!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an incredibly well done book. PPL has an intimate knowledge of the women she writes about and her passion for them is evident in her scholarship. She is a story teller by nature, breathing life into the sources she has been pouring over for two decades to present to the reader compelling portraits of the Progressive Era's women evangelists—their personalities and influence. Highly recommended for the student of recent church history, especially Wesleyan and Methodist history, and also those who are interested in women's studies.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What makes a great movie? Close ups of people you empathize with in the midst of sweeping social change. That’s what this book gives us: vivid portraits of women whose aspirations and disappointments permeated an era that brought unprecedented change to America—the Progressive Era (1890-1920). We may think of World War I. Or perhaps women’s right to vote. Yet Pope-Levison gives us much, much more. She brings to our attention female bishops and trance evangelists, Catholics and Protestants, autocrats and servant leaders. What Pope-Levison does so well, so perfectly, is to preserve the foibles of these women while charting their accomplishments—the contributions they made to changes that shaped American religion. Her thesis is that these women changed American evangelism from a world of movement and itinerancy to a movement that saw its legacy in building institutions (hence the title, Building the Old Time Religion). She demonstrates this in a way that is highly academic, meticulously researched, a treasury of previously unpublished archival material. Yet the genius of this book is that Pope-Levison demonstrates this thesis in a way that rivets us to personal successes and failures, to women who founded an institution with a barrel of apples, to women who woke up before dawn to teach girls with speech impediments how to talk, to women who launched “gospel grenades” onto merchant vessels in an Oregon harbor, to women who filled tents with devotees and rescue missions with prostitutes. This is a remarkable book that is at once a pleasure to read and a massive education. It’s not a book just for or about women. It is a book about American religion and the way these women, whose faces we see close up, shaped it and changed it forever.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pope-Levison’s book is a significant addition to published research on the institution building of women in the Progressive era, joining Estrelda Alexander, Rebecca Laird, Susie Stanley and the reviewer himself in documenting the impact of women on American religious life during this time period. The book divides women’s institution building into four categories: evangelistic organizations; churches and denominations; religious training schools; and, benevolence ministries. The author utilizes her considerable research into recounting the lives, ministries and accomplishments of the women included in her book. A major shortcoming in making the claim that she is the first with a published work (“monographs, articles or dissertations’) on a number religious training schools, is that she relegates previously published works to footnotes or omits them altogether, thus rendering the claim an exaggeration rather than a statement of fact. Beyond that flaw, Pope-Levision’s book adds important life details to women significant in "Building of the “Old Time Religion.” Abraham Ruelas, Ph.D. Dean of Academics Professor of Communication and Psychology Patten University