Fundamentalism and Gender, 1875 to the Present

Fundamentalism and Gender, 1875 to the Present

Margaret Lamberts Bendroth
Copyright Date: 1993
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Fundamentalism and Gender, 1875 to the Present
    Book Description:

    This fascinating book depicts the long-running battle within the fundamentalist movement over the roles of men and women both within the church and outside it. Drawing on interviews as well as on written sources, Margaret Lamberts Bendroth surveys the complicated interplay between fundamentalist theology, which is dominated by the search for order and hierarchical gender roles that have women subservient to men, and fundamentalist practice, which often depends on women in important ways to further the movement's institutional growth.Bendroth begins by describing the earliest days of the fundamentalist movement, when there was a general acceptance of women in ministry roles as teachers, missionaries, and even occasional preachers. She then traces fundamentalism's growing identification with masculine concerns after World War I and its battle with the forces of modernity (such as the rebellious flappers of the twenties). Bendroth explains that in the years before World War II women were able once again to make substantial contributions to the movement, but that during the cultural turn toward domesticity in the 1950s, fundamentalist leaders urged women to retreat to their "ordained" roles as submissive helpmates and encouraged men to fill the teaching and organizational positions the women vacated. Bendroth brings this conflict up to the present, examining the fundamentalist and evangelical rejection of contemporary feminism and investigating how our cultural norms of equality affect these movements' teaching on gender roles.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15774-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    The popular image of contemporary evangelicalism is deeply antifeminist. And, it seems, rightly so. In the 1970s the “total womanhood” advocated by Marabel Morgan, as well as the political agenda of groups like Concerned Women for America, rallied religious conservatives in opposition to feminism. As the core constituency of the New Right in the 1980s, fundamentalists and their neo-evangelical cousins won a large share of public credit (or blame) for defeating the equal rights amendment.

    That position appears only to have strengthened. By the end of the 1980s, the pro-family message of James Dobson’s “Focus on the Family” radio program...

  5. Chapter One Revivalism and Masculinity in Early Fundamentalism
    (pp. 13-30)

    Early fundamentalism was far from monolithic. It cannot trace its origins to a single event or a single founder; it formed no single organization or church body. Late-nineteenth-century fundamentalism was the drawing together of co-belligerents, united in their opposition to various forms of “modernism” but willing to disagree on less important matters.

    The new coalition formed within the culture of American revivalism. Popular evangelists, with Dwight L. Moody as the foremost example, were among the movement’s earliest leaders. Their emphasis on personal conversion and warnings against moral laxity gave fundamentalism its deep popular appeal and a powerful language of cultural...

  6. Chapter Two The Roots of Antifeminism: Early Fundamentalism’s Search for Order
    (pp. 31-53)

    The antipathy of many early fundamentalist leaders to feminism was deep, widespread, and well documented; indeed, the movement’s literature is rife with strident antifeminist pronouncements, some of them bordering on outright misogyny.¹

    Less clear, however, are the origins of these attitudes and the extent of their practice within the movement. Certainly the turn of the century’s general anxiety and confusion over changing gender roles contributed to fundamentalist antifeminism; but that alone does not explain the depth of emotion that surrounded gender issues well into the twentieth century; nor, on the other hand, does it account for the relatively positive attitude...

  7. Chapter Three Fundamentalist Men and Liberal Women: Gender in the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy
    (pp. 54-72)

    During the 1920s, fundamentalism acquired the militancy it became famous for. In that overheated decade of stunning technological and social changes, face-to-face rivalries between modernists and conservatives split northern Presbyterians and Baptists into angry, competing factions. The confrontations were brief but left permanent rifts among evangelical Protestants. Fundamentalism fell into rapid decline after the Scopes Trial of 1925, descending unhappily into the cultural backwaters. As the mainline churches retreated to heal their scars, fundamentalists turned earnestly to fighting among themselves.

    That decade was also a time of perceived changes in women’s status, inaugurated by the passage of the suffrage amendment...

  8. Chapter Four Gender and Vocation in Fundamentalist Institutions
    (pp. 73-96)

    Although the fundamentalist movement disappeared from the public eye after 1930, its adherents were busier than ever. In the air of millennial expectancy that grew under the approaching shadow of World War II, they embraced any and all modern technologies that aided their evangelistic outreach. Thus, while mainstream denominations complained of a religious “depression” after 1930, fundamentalists were hard at work constructing a complex infrastructure of independent churches, publishing companies, and electronic communications.¹

    Fundamentalism had always demanded a lifelong commitment to work from all believers, male and female. “God has no place in His plan for Christians who are looking...

  9. Chapter Five The Fundamentalist Family
    (pp. 97-117)

    A symbolic moment occurred in May 1950 when the fervently premillennial magazineOur Hopepublished an article on “The Ministry of Women.” As the piece itself testifies, by the end of World War II even the most world-denying fundamentalists were shifting their vision from eschatological pursuits to smaller, more practical concerns. Indeed, the scene of battle was shifting from the heavenly realms to the social institution most basic to morality and most threatened by secularism: the Christian home.¹

    For decades the editors ofOur Hopehad tracked the rise and fall of European kingdoms, noting every human catastrophe that pointed...

  10. Epilogue: The Meaning of Evangelical Feminism
    (pp. 118-127)

    Long before it showed any sign of winding down, the neo-evangelical debate over feminism seemed to grow stale. Though it generated immense energy, it resolved little, and despite its intensity barely budged the male monopoly on evangelical leadership. To a great degree, in fact, the evangelical-feminist controversy virtually replayed arguments thoroughly explored nearly a century before.

    But few modern participants recalled that first encounter between turn-of-the-century fundamentalists and advocates of women’s right to preach. With little memory of the past, evangelicals seemed doomed to repeat it. A remarkably similar confrontation took place in the late 1960s, when the secular feminist...

  11. Abbreviations
    (pp. 128-128)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 129-156)
  13. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 157-170)
  14. Index
    (pp. 171-179)