Women and Revivalism: The Puritan and Wesleyan Traditions

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This chapter explores how Puritan women, such as Sarah Goodhue, Deborah Prince, and Sarah Osborn – at first privately and tentatively, then publicly and more confidently – worked to spread the evangelical tenets of their faith. It shows women in the more activist Wesleyan tradition, such as Barbara Heck and Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, organizing Methodist societies, establishing chapels and seminaries for training Methodist preachers, directing missions, and performing many of the functions of evangelical ministers. The experience of the Spirit within enabled these women to pursue such activities despite the protests of male clerics who could not envision the radial implications of evangelicalism. In this sense colonial revivalism witnessed an awakening of women’s power as well as of religion and prepared the way for women’s much wider participation in evangelicalism in the nineteenth century.


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Reprinted in Blauvelt, Martha Tomhave, and Rosemary Skinner Keller. “Women and Revivalism: The Puritan and Wesleyan Traditions.” In Critical Issues in American Religious History: A Reader, edited by Robert R. Mathisen. Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press, 2001.Mathisen, Robert R. 2001. Critical Issues in American Religious History : A Reader. Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press.

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