Women and Revivalism

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Book Chapter

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Scholars have largely neglected the role of women in nineteenth century evangelicalism. Their studies have noted female participation in revivals, but their interpretations of the origins of mass religious fervor have characteristically concentrated on men. Yet church membership records show that women – mainly women under age thirty – comprised about two-thirds of those joining New Jersey Presbyterian, New England Congregationalist, and Southern evangelical churches during the Second Great Awakening (1795-1830). Moreover, revival accounts, religious magazines, and clerical correspondence reveal that females often acted as evangelists within their homes and communities and helped instigate the century’s frequent revivals. Women’s prominence as both revival subjects and promoters invites further investigation. Why were females more susceptible to the evangelical message than males? What methods did women use to foster religious interest in others? An examination of women’s role in early nineteenth century revivalism suggests some answers.

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