Gone Astray; or, What the Public Feared

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

 Gone Astray; or, What the Public Feared

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The gender ideology of separate spheres that emerged in nineteenth-century America prescribed public roles for men and private roles for women while, at the same time, asking clergy and women to serve together as moral guardians of the republic. The cultural no-man’s land they occupied proved to be dangerous territory. Four highly publicized trials reveal nineteenth-century Americans’ fascination and horror with clerical sexual misconduct and crimes against women: the 1832 murder trial of New England Methodist minister Ephraim Avery; the 1844 presentment for moral “impurities” of the Episcopal Bishop of New York, Benjamin Onderdonk; the 1857 criminal adultery trial of Boston pastor Isaac Kalloch; and the 1875 church hearing and civil trial for adultery of the renowned preacher, Henry Ward Beecher. The verbal and graphic images generated in each of these trials tapped deep cultural anxieties, showing clergy and women regularly transgressing the too permeable boundaries of separate spheres and calling into question their roles as moral guardians and the utility of gender ideals in regulating social and sexual behavior.

Keywords: sexual misconduct; clerical crimes against women; gender ideology; separate spheres; graphic images; trial pamphlets; Ephraim Avery; Benjamin Onderdonk; Isaac Kalloch; Henry Ward Beecher

Chapter.  13614 words. 

Subjects: Christianity

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