Karin E. Gedge

in Without Benefit of Clergy

Published in print November 2003 | ISBN: 9780195130201
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780199835157 | DOI:

Series: Religion in America


Show Summary Details


The perception of a “peculiar” alliance between nineteenth-century Protestant clergy and their female parishioners emerges from contemporary sources such as Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter (1850) and the widely publicized adultery trial of Henry Ward Beecher (1875), and the influential monograph The Feminization of American Culture (1977) by Ann Douglas. By examining a wider variety of primary sources from mostly ordinary northern, white, Protestants, Gedge analyzes the similarities and differences between perceived, imagined, idealized, and experienced pastoral relationships, and identifies the cultural, spiritual, and psychological tensions they reveal. She outlines the argument that women were without benefit of clergy in the pastoral relationship. Though viewed as natural allies in their mission as moral guardians of the new republic, women and clergy were estranged by the same ideology that prescribed their alliance.

Keywords: Protestant clergy; female parishioners; “feminization,” benefit of clergy; Nathaniel Hawthorne; The Scarlet Letter; Henry Ward Beecher; Ann Douglas

Chapter.  2686 words. 

Subjects: Christianity

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.