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


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Gedge asks scholars to reject the “feminization” paradigm for understanding women’s role in the nineteenth-century American Protestant church. In its stead, she proposes a “great” or masculine tradition and a “little” or feminine tradition, modifying a conceptualization borrowed from sociologists of religion who propounded a “great” ecclesiastical tradition and a “little” popular tradition in the church. Protestant clergy, the church, and theology were not “feminized” during this period; these institutions were redefined as “masculine” to conform to new gender ideals. Women continued to be excluded from institutional church leadership, but began to articulate and act upon their discontent in creative ways. They discovered spiritual guidance in non-institutional ways, among families and friends, read and wrote tracts and novels, and participated in new anticlerical religious movements such as spiritualism, Mormonism, and Christian Science.

Keywords: “feminization,” “great” tradition; “little” tradition; institutional church; non-institutional religion; spiritualism; Mormonism; Lucy Mack Smith; Christian Science; Mary Baker Eddy

Chapter.  5814 words. 

Subjects: Christianity

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