Women and Religion in America, 1780-1870

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Book Chapter

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The historical study of women and religion in America has been a boom industry in the last fifteen years. The topic concerns scholars from the diverse fields of religious history, social history, and women's studies; the documents exist in abundance; and the churches have long been a critical medium for women, influencing them and being changed by them in turn. Nevertheless, the lives of nineteenth-century church women are not the stuff of great battles or crises, and it was only when traditional diplomatic and political history made room for social and women's history in the 1960s and 1970s that interest began to grow. "The personal is the political," one of the most heartfelt battle cries of the women's movement, is an apt slogan for the history of churchwomen, too. Both social and women's history emphasize the lives of ordinary people, their participation in local institutions, the exercise of power on a day-to-day basis, the impact on individuals of larger movements -- all this describes as well the study of women in the church.

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