Fundamentalism and Gender, 1875 to the Present

Margaret Lamberts Bendroth

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August 28, 1996
192 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
ISBN: 9780300068641
Paper

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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.

Margaret Lamberts Bendroth is a lecturer at Andover-Newton Theological Seminary in Newton Centre, Massachusetts.

"A major contribution to our understanding of Protestant fundamentalism in North America."—David Harrington Watt, Journal of Ecumenical Studies

"Bendroth open[s] a fruitful, fascinating field of inquiry. . . . [She has] given us historical insight into some of the religious reasons that conservatives, often aggressively involved in our social debate over gender issues, think and act the way they do."—James H. Smylie, Interpretation, A Journal of Bible and Theology

"Bendroth's important and nuanced study shows that fundamentalist views on gender have been much more complex than has been recognized previously."—George M. Marsden

"A provocative and lucid argument about a timely topic."—Nancy Ammerman

"Bendroth's sensitivity to the religious integrity of fundamentalism is matched by her awareness of its ambiguities about women. The book as a whole breaks new ground in both research and analysis. It is a fine piece of work."—Mark A. Noll

"An important, thoughtful, and timely book."—Nathan O. Hatch

"[This book] provides a readable and concise history which is especially useful for undergraduate courses in American religious history or gender studies."—Colleen McDannell, Religious Studies Review