Strangers and Pilgrims: Female Preaching in America, 1740-1845 / Edition 1

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Margaret Meuse Clay, who barely escaped a public whipping in the 1760s for preaching without a license; "Old Elizabeth," an ex-slave who courageously traveled to the South to preach against slavery in the early nineteenth century; Harriet Livermore, who spoke in front of Congress four times between 1827 and 1844—these are just a few of the extraordinary women profiled in this, the first comprehensive history of female preaching in early America.

Drawing on a wide range of sources, Catherine Brekus examines the lives of more than a hundred female preachers—both white and African American—who crisscrossed the country between 1740 and 1845. Outspoken, visionary, and sometimes contentious, these women stepped into the pulpit long before twentieth-century battles over female ordination began. They were charismatic, popular preachers, who spoke to hundreds and even thousands of people at camp and revival meetings, and yet with but a few notable exceptions—such as Sojourner Truth—these women have essentially vanished from our history. Recovering their stories, Brekus shows, forces us to rethink many of our common assumptions about eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American culture.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A masterful overview that highlights recent advances in the study of religious women and indicts both women's historians and religious historians for failing to notice."
Christianity Today

[A]dds such profundity and detail to the particulars of early preaching women's lives that it is a major contribution.

Journal of Religion

A study which should quickly become the standard work on its subject, radically altering our understanding of America's religious past .

Journal of American Studies

Strangers and Pilgrims is necessary reading for students of American religion.

Journal of Ecclesiastical History

It is a compelling picture that deserves to hold the attention of scholars and general readers alike.

Journal of the Early Republic

Now that Brekus has retrieved their stories, we will be hard put to forget the remarkable history of female preachers.

Journal of Southern History

Library Journal
In this well-documented and readable history of a neglected group, Brekus (American religious history, Univ. of Chicago) examines the rise and decline of female preachers among Evangelical churches from 1740 to 1845, with an epilog discussing late-19th-century developments. Brekus follows female evangelism through 18th-century revivals and the American Revolution to its rise during the 1820s. She then covers the growing restrictions on female preaching that started to appear in the 1830s and its brief resurgence among the Millerites. Brekus is especially interested in how these women understood their own conversion, calls to preach, pulpit style, theology, and defense of female preaching within the context of their own times and religious beliefs. Recommended for academic and public libraries.--C. Robert Nixon, Lafayette, IN
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807847459
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 12/7/1998
  • Series: Gender and American Culture Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Catherine A. Brekus teaches American religious history at the University of Chicago.

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Table of Contents


Introduction. Recovering the History of Female Preaching in America
Part 1. There Is Neither Male nor Female
Chapter 1. Caught Up in God: Female Evangelism in the Eighteenth-Century Revivals
Chapter 2. Women in the Wilderness: Female Religious Leadership in the Age of Revolution
Part 2. Sisters in Christ, Mothers in Israel
Chapter 3. Female Laborers in the Harvest: Female Preaching in the Early Nineteenth Century
Chapter 4. The Last Shall Be First: Conversion and the Call to Preach
Chapter 5. Lift Up Thy Voice Like a Trumpet: Evangelical Women in the Pulpit
Chapter 6. God and Mammon: Female Peddlers of the Word
Part 3. Let Your Women Keep Silence
Chapter 7. Suffer Not a Woman to Teach: The Battle over Female Preaching
Chapter 8. Your Sons and Daughters Shall Prophesy: Female Preaching in the Millerite Movement
Epilogue. Write the Vision
Appendix. Female Preachers and Exhorters in America, 1740-1845

The Capitol, Washington, D.C.
Harriet Livermore (1827)
Jonathan Edwards's notes on the Bathsheba Kingsley case (1743)
Philip Dawes, A Society of Patriotic Ladies (1775)
Portrait of Jemima Wilkinson by John L. D. Mathies (1816)
Methodist church in Unity, New Hampshire (1823)
A Methodist camp meeting held in Queen Anne's County, Maryland
Title page of Elleanor Warner Knight, A Narrative of the Christian Experience, Life and Adventures, Trials and Labours of Elleanor Knight, Written by Herself (1839)
Salome Lincoln
Abigail Roberts
Sarah Righter Major
Nancy Towle
Rebecca Miller's article on the "Duty of Females" (1841)
Laura Smith Haviland
An advertisement for Harriet Livermore's books (1832)
Jarena Lee
Sojourner Truth (1864)
A Methodist camp meeting (1820)
St. Paul's Methodist Episcopal Church, New York City (1859)
Lydia Sexton
A Millerite chart (1843)
The Millerites' Great Tent (1844)
Martha Spence Heywood

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