"On the Same Basis as the Men": The Campaign to Reinstate Women as Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, 1885-1918

J. Michael Raley/Ph.D. Candidate, The University of Chicago

This article was originally written in honor of Professor Emeritus Hugh Thomas McElrath, who taught with distinction for fifty years (1948-1998) in the School of Church Music at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky (hereafter SBTS), on the occasion of his eightieth birthday (13 November 2001). An earlier draft of this essay won the 2004 Ruth Murray Essay Prize in Gender Studies at the University of Chicago. The author especially wishes to thank Barbara G. Anderson, Northwestern University; Carolyn DeArmond Blevins, Carson-Newman College; Linda McKinnish Bridges, Wake Forest University; Barbara Dobschuetz, The University of Illinois at Chicago Circle; Deborah Carlton Loftis, Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, Virginia; and William Nold McElrath, Raleigh, North Carolina, for having read and commented upon earlier drafts of this article.

The following individuals were kind enough to assist with my research and, in some cases, to provide photocopies of rare publications and handwritten documents, or prints from difficult-to-obtain microfilms: Amy Cook, The Hunt Library and Archives of the Woman's Missionary Union, Birmingham, Alabama; Cheryl M. Doty, Kentucky Baptist Convention Archives, Louisville, Kentucky; Pamela R. Durso, Baptist History and Heritage Society, Brentwood, Tennessee; Deborah Mercer, New Jersey State Library, Trenton, New Jersey; Martha Powell, Boyce Centennial Library, SBTS; Richard W. Schramm, American Baptist Churches USA, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania; and Bill Sumners, Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, Nashville, Tennessee.

Tucked away neatly on page thirty-two of the Annual of the Southern Baptist Convention for 1913, in the midst of the record of that year's Convention proceedings, lies a brief and unassuming announcement:

R. H. Coleman, Texas, gave formal notice that at the next session of the Convention to be held in May, 1914, an amendment to the Constitution would be proposed, looking to the recognition of women as messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention.(1)

". . . despite Coleman's momentous victory in 1918, Baptist women's struggle to achieve full gender equality within the SBC continues to the present day."

With this deceptively simple declaration, Dallas churchman and hymnal publisher Robert H. Coleman (1869-1946) initiated a process that ultimately would grant Baptist women the right, alongside Baptist men, to serve as messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention. Baptist Standard (Texas) Editor J. B. Gambrell praised Coleman's decision to give advance notice of his proposal, adding, "Everybody can think about it and get ready for next year."(2) Gambrell was quite right, of course. Southern Baptists would spend a lot of time during the next year thinking about the "Woman question," but not all of them would agree that Baptist women should serve as Convention messengers. Indeed, Coleman's bold resolution would encounter such fierce opposition that he would have to postpone introducing it until 1917, and then yet another year would elapse before the measure finally achieved passage. The fact of the matter was that too many Baptist men felt threatened by Coleman's proposal, representing as it did yet another step in Southern Baptist women's long and hard-fought campaign to achieve fair and equal treatment within their local Baptist churches, associations, and state conventions, to say nothing of within the Southern Baptist Convention itself (hereafter SBC). The origins of this conflict extended at least as far back as the 1885 Convention, if not earlier. Ironically, despite Coleman's momentous victory in 1918, Baptist women's struggle to achieve full gender equality within the SBC continues to the present day.

The story of how Southern Baptist women first lost, and then later regained, the right to serve as Convention messengers has never fully been told.(3) The surviving evidence found in Convention annuals, Baptist state newspapers, Baptist women's publications, and the notes and minutes recorded by the officers of the Woman's Missionary Union (hereafter WMU) demonstrates all too well the degree of prejudice that Southern Baptist women have been forced to endure and to overcome in their quest for equal footing with their male counterparts. As Carson-Newman College Professor Carolyn DeArmond Blevins has observed,

An inescapably recurring theme in the history of Baptist women is the persistent opposition they faced from within Baptist circles. The opposition came from husbands, fathers, fellow Baptists, pastors, and editors. Many a rousing sermon was preached on the dangers of allowing women even to vote in the churches. Apparently the opposition was not uniformly clear about what the danger was. . . . The one sure conclusion was women should not vote, in the church, in the Southern Baptist Convention, or in political elections.(4)

The fact that this important story about women Convention messengers has received little or no mention in most Southern Baptist histories speaks volumes in itself. Just as Southern Baptist women not infrequently have been denied a voice within their own local churches as well as within their denomination, so too have they been excised from the official records.(5) Complicating the picture further, those few Baptist historians who have dared to discuss the "Woman question" have assumed, or at least intimated, that Southern Baptists invariably opposed the advances of Baptist women during the late nineteenth century. Thus Baptist historian W. W. Barnes observed that "Southern Baptists, in particular, were ultra-conservative on the question of women taking any part in church life," while Rufus B. Spain noted that "Baptists showed only hostility towards organizations devoted to the furtherance of women's rights."(6) These assessments are correct, broadly speaking, yet they fail to acknowledge the growing minority of individual Southern Baptists of both sexes, but especially of men who, long before the reinstatement of women Convention messengers in 1918, upheld a Baptist woman's right to speak publicly before mixed assemblies (i.e., assemblies of both genders), to serve as a "delegate" or "messenger" to Baptist associations and conventions (including the Southern Baptist Convention), and to be elected to membership and office on important denominational committees. (Unknown to many Southern Baptists today, the opening sentence of the 1845 SBC Constitution still in place in 1885 referred collectively to the Convention's entire membership, without gender distinction as "the delegates from Missionary Societies, Churches, and other religious bodies of the Baptist Denomination." The current designation of Convention messengers to convey a cooperative spirit rather than delegated authority emerged many years later, but was already in use by Robert Coleman's day.(7))

More importantly, a closer examination of the struggle over women delegates and messengers which first erupted at the 1885 Convention and later resurfaced in the 1910s under Robert Coleman's leadership suggests that the arguments employed by Southern Baptist men who supported these women shifted radically between 1885 and 1918, and along very different and far more complex lines than heretofore observed by Baptist historians. Whereas in the late nineteenth century men who defended Southern Baptist women's right to participate more directly in the affairs and leadership of their churches and denomination argued over points of constitutional or biblical law, or else justified a woman's inclusion through her personal merit and utility to Baptist causes, by the 1910s they were employing historic Baptist arguments of freedom of association, democratic polity, and equal participation regardless of gender. This return to their Baptist roots ultimately enabled many Southern Baptist men to rethink women's roles in religious and secular society in ways that were quite at odds with the longstanding patriarchal norms of Southern culture.

Baptists and the "Woman Question"

Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in Northern as well as in Southern colonies and states, considerable overlap could be found in the debates over the rights of women to address mixed audiences publicly on important social, political, and religious issues, on the one hand, and to preach in their local churches, on the other. Northern women actively involved in the abolitionist movement routinely spoke out publicly against complacent Protestant church leaders and organized their own anti-slavery societies, while the Society of Friends, or Quakers, supported women preachers with the radical argument that Christ, acting through the Holy Spirit, "continues to call . . . from women as well as from men, those whom He commissions to declare unto others the way of salvation." Thus the women (and men) attending the Woman's Rights Convention at Seneca Falls, New York, in July 1848 not only exhorted women "to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise," but also called for "the overthrow of the monopoly of the pulpit."(8)

The Woman suffrage issue, in turn, was closely tied to debates over a woman's right to participate in ecclesiastical decisions and leadership. Among Baptists, whose congregations historically were organized as democratic and autonomous free associations, such matters were typically left to the discretion of each local congregation. The women of Philadelphia's First Baptist Church, for example, voted in church business meetings from the church's founding in 1698 until 1761, when the men inexplicably excluded them, contrary to longstanding custom. The issue simmered until early 1764, when the men, pressed by the women, formally addressed the question, "Whether women have a right of voting in the church?" The men replied that, whereas the question of Woman suffrage was clear enough in civil affairs (where women possessed no such right), whether or not a woman had the right to participate in the decisions of her local church could be determined only from Scripture. The men, however, were unable to find such a right explicitly stated in the Bible. Instead, they cited 1 Timothy 2 (especially vv. 11-12: "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.") and 1 Corinthians 14 (especially vv. 34-35: "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. . . . for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.") Their written answer combined these two passages in an abbreviated, yet even more restrictive rendition "I suffer not a woman to usurp authority; but command that she be in subjection, as also saith the law" as evidence of "the subordination [of women] which the gospel hath established in all the churches of the saints."(9)

Although the men promised the women that their "suffrage or disapprobation shall have their proper influence" and, further, "to invite them when anything is to be transacted which touches the interest of their souls," in practice they continued to exclude the women from church decisions. Incensed, the women of the church promptly informed the men of their "Mistake." Above all, they reaffirmed their "former Rights," albeit in a manner consistent with the teachings of the Apostle Paul: "We do assure the brethren we will not attempt to teach or usurp any authority in the church of God; neither would we be so ignorant as to shut our eyes at all times, when our rights, which we never did any thing to forfeit, are denied us." Still the men refused to give ground; as a result, these Philadelphia women subsequently boycotted the business meetings of their church in protest. The minutes of the church's business meetings thereafter through at least 1814 record only men as having been in attendance.(10)

In New Jersey, where women did in fact exercise the franchise in local elections from 1790 until 1807, women also voted regularly in the business meetings of many Baptist churches. In 1819, an intense debate over the issue took place at Piscataway's First Day Baptist Church. The members concluded "by a large majority that the sisters have an equal right, in all cases with the brethren, in voting, speaking and governing the church."(11)

In Fall River, Wisconsin, too, women voted in the sessions of their local Baptist church. In a letter published in the American Baptist in March 1869, their pastor responded to a query about women voting in church sessions. He explained that, when his church's membership had reached a critical low three years earlier, the men of the church had wanted to disband. The women, however, had outvoted them to "preserve the organization," thereby inspiring a revival. During the next year, the church's membership had doubled, and in the year following, doubled again. In the fall of 1868, the members had financed the construction of a new building at a cost of $5,500, "a fact worth remembering in connection with females [voting] in the church."(12)

A debate over women associational delegates arose when at least one New Jersey church sent women delegates to the West New Jersey Baptist Association in 1876. A committee assigned to examine the question brought back a majority report opposing, and a minority report advocating, their admittance. According to the majority report, other Northern Baptist associations had first begun enrolling women delegates during the 1850s. To the conservative authors of this report, such innovations formed "part of that great anarchial [sic] movement of the human mind which broke out in the French Revolution, and in our times has produced communism." If women were admitted as delegates, they would soon demand the "right to vote, to debate all questions, to serve on Committees, . . . to occupy the position of Clerk, or to sit in the Moderator's chair." In short, they would "demand perfect equality with male delegates." Citing 1 Timothy 2:11-12 and other biblical passages, the majority report claimed that admitting women delegates was "inconsistent with the plain teachings of the New Testament," that "every form of public address or teaching is clearly forbidden [to women]." The report even discounted the argument that women might supplant the male delegates of "feeble churches." "If, in any such case, the men are inferior to the women in intelligence," the majority report's authors insisted, "the remedy is not for the women to usurp the functions of the brethren."(13)

The minority report favoring women delegates, unfortunately, was never published, but the issue was resolved in an amicable manner. Both the minority report and a resolution stemming from the majority report not to "recognize or enroll" women delegates, but "to receive only brethren as delegates from the churches," were tabled. This left the association free to operate "on its original basis," that is, with local churches choosing their own representatives. Baptist women continued to register as delegates, and the association never again took up the debate. Other associations followed suit, and, when the Northern Baptist Convention was organized in 1907, its Constitution affirmed the rights of constituent bodies to choose their own delegates without any reference to age, gender, race, or occupation (i.e., lay/clerical status).(14)

In the Southern states, where male hegemony arguably was even more firmly entrenched than in the North, women nevertheless voted in Baptist churches prior to the Civil War. In 1860, University of Georgia Vice-Chancellor and Georgia Baptist Convention President P. H. Mell published a book on church discipline in which he defined a church without regard for gender as a "local society, composed of those, and those only, who profess regeneration and faith in Christ, and who have been immersed upon a profession of that faith, who are able to meet together in one place, and who observe the ordinances and maintain the worship of God." This body, he insisted, enjoys independence from other churches in the management of its internal affairs and exercises sovereignty over its members. "It is the Local Church, then, to which Christ has given jurisdiction over offences." Subsequently, in addressing the question of whether a unanimous vote of the church membership should be required to expel a church member, or whether instead a majority vote might suffice church trials and expulsions of members were, in fact, quite common in that day Mell argued for unanimity whenever possible, yet acknowledged that problems might arise in mandating such a vote. If unanimity had been required in the Apostle Paul's day, he noted, "then if the woman whom the incestuous man at Corinth [in 1 Corinthians 5] was claiming as his wife had been a member of the church, . . . he could not have been 'put away.'" Clearly Mell took it for granted that women members were able to vote in their local churches.(15)

A more conservative Southern authority on Baptist church discipline, A. S. Worrell, opposed allowing women to vote in their churches. "I know of but few Churches where it is customary for any considerable number of females to vote," he wrote. "Perhaps in the majority of our Churches they do not vote at all . . . ." Worrell considered even raising a hand to vote in a church session to be a form of speech; women, therefore, could only vote by "speaking" in the church, something that the Apostle Paul had proscribed. Allowing women to vote in their churches, moreover, threatened to subject the male membership "to the government of woman, the opposite of what was designed by their Maker." Even worse, "where the Church has a majority of women as members, they could rule everything at pleasure." Worrell's admission, however, that women were voting in large numbers in but few southern Baptist churches that perhaps in the majority of them they were not allowed to vote at all together with his lengthy diatribe against women voting in the church, actually suggests that women were voting, at least in small numbers, in many Baptist churches in the antebellum South. Worrell, too, recognized the connection between women voting in their churches and Woman's political rights. If Woman were "competent to vote in 'Church,'" she would be "none the less competent to vote in 'State.'" Further, "if her right to vote should be established in the Church, efforts should be made to establish her right to vote in 'State': hence, a change in the Constitution of the United States ought to be made, in order to secure her this right." In such a case, "she should have the liberty of filling any office to which she may be elected," which explains precisely why Worrell had opposed allowing women to vote in local churches in the first place.(16)

"The shortage of men during the Civil War and postbellum era for a time provided a catalyst for the Southern Protestant woman's growing, albeit still limited, emancipation in the religious sphere."

The shortage of men during the Civil War and postbellum era for a time provided a catalyst for the Southern Protestant woman's growing, albeit still limited, emancipation in the religious sphere. Devout Southern Baptist women organized and chaired church committees, taught Sunday School classes, voted in church sessions, served as deaconesses of their churches, played a critical role in postbellum urban benevolence ministries, and assumed an ever more active part in missions both at home and abroad.(17) Within the context of American women's growing demands for a political voice, their overt opposition to liquor beyond their socially acceptable sphere of moral leadership in the home (through what modern historians have termed a "politics of domesticity"(18)), and their increased involvement in denominational missions work and local church leadership, the likelihood only increased that Southern women would desire to serve as delegates to Baptist associations and state conventions. The General Association of Baptists in Kentucky had opened its doors to women members as early as 1853. This trend increased sharply after the war. According to Rufus B. Spain, by 1900 only the Baptist state conventions of Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama still refused to seat women messengers.(19) Meanwhile, Tennessee's Holston and Big Hatchie Baptist Associations resolved in 1883 that member churches should include at least one woman in their delegations. Six women delegates, representing their local congregations, were seated at the next meeting of the Big Hatchie Association.(20)

Not all Southerners were pleased by these changes. Many perceived Woman's gains not only as a negative by-product of the North's victory in the Civil War, but also as a violation of the Pauline proscriptions (e.g., 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12) against women speaking or teaching in the Church and usurping male authority. By the 1880s, as a new generation of Southern males came of age, a reactionary period ensued. The demands of many Southern Baptist women for greater inclusion in the decision-making processes and leadership of their churches and denomination seriously threatened the Southern Baptist male hegemony even as it appalled more traditional Southern Baptist women. The Tennessee Baptist Convention, for example, seated women messengers from 1878 until 1889, when sixteen women enrolled, sparking a debate that led to passage of a resolution to "discourage" local churches from sending women messengers to future TBC meetings. Only in 1910 did the TBC resume enrolling women as messengers.(21)

Among Kentucky Baptists, the Crittenden Association, in light of "a disposition upon the part of some churches to appoint sisters as delegates to the [Crittenden] Association," resolved in 1880 "That none but brethren be appointed by the churches as messengers, in the future."(22) The following year a proposal to amend the General Association's Constitution to clarify the situation to legislate whether the General Association's members "shall be males or females or both" was ultimately abandoned on grounds that such an amendment might prove "more hurtful than profitable." Nevertheless, whereas in 1881 eight Kentucky Baptist churches had sent a total of thirteen women messengers to the General Association, in 1882 none did (although a lone woman, Mary A. Hollingsworth, did represent the Orphans' Home in Louisville). In the years that followed, women messengers on occasion were seated at General Association meetings through at least 1909, but eventually the conservative forces prevailed and the General Association ceased registering Kentucky Baptist women as messengers. Not until 1956 did their registration resume, at which time they also officially regained the right to serve as voting members of the General Association.(23)

Within the Southern Baptist Convention, the brewing conflict concerning the "Woman question" would come to a head at the 1885 SBC over two interrelated issues. The first concerned the eligibility of women to serve as SBC delegates. The second focused upon whether a Southern Baptist Woman's organization should be established under the auspices of the SBC, through Baptist state conventions or general associations, or as an independent organization, with the women raising their own funds and appointing their own missionaries without male oversight as Northern Baptist women recently had opted to do.(24)

Continue to Part II of III

NOTES for Section I


AHR The American Historical Review
ABSC Arkansas Baptist State Convention
ABSC Proceedings Proceedings of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention
BHH Baptist History and Heritage
ESB Encyclopedia of Southern Baptists
SBC Annual Annual of the Southern Baptist Convention
SBC Proceedings Proceedings of the Southern Baptist Convention
SBTS The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky
WCTU Woman's Christian Temperance Union
WMU Woman's Missionary Union

1. SBC Annual, 1913, 32 (item 61).

2. J. B. Gambrell, "The Convention as Seen by One Who Saw," Baptist Standard, 22 May 1913.

3. H. Leon McBeth, in "The Role of Women in Southern Baptist History," BHH 12, no. 1 (January 1977): 3-25 at 12-15, and Women in Baptist Life (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1979), 108-112, has provided the fullest and most accurate renditions to date. The accounts by Norman H. Letsinger, "The Status of Women in the Southern Baptist Convention in Historical Perspective," BHH 12, no. 1 (January 1977), 37-44, and Jane B. Watson, Labourers Together . . . A History of Arkansas Woman's Missionary Union (n.c.: Arkansas Woman's Missionary Union, 1987), 22, each contain significant errors and should be used with caution. Timothy James Studstill, "The Life of Robert H. Coleman and His Influence on Southern Baptist Hymnody" (D.M.A. dissertation, SWBTS, 1991), 16 and Appendix B, provides only a brief account. William Wright Barnes, The Southern Baptist Convention, 1845-1953 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1954), 148-158 and 165, includes a fine summary of the broader aspects of the "Woman question" as it emerged in the 1880s, but only briefly mentions the reinstatement of women messengers in 1918.

4. Carolyn DeArmond Blevins, "Women in Baptist History," Review and Expositor 83 (1986): 51-61 at 52. Also see her more recent article, entitled "Reflections: Baptists and Women's Issues in the Twentieth Century," BHH 35, no. 3 (Summer/Fall 2000): 53-66.

5. Blevins, "Women in Baptist History," 51, has lamented that "the researcher can literally spend hours going through indexes, tables of content, and bibliographies and scanning the contents of books without finding any significant information on Baptist women."

6. Barnes, The Southern Baptist Convention, 140; Rufus B. Spain, At Ease in Zion: Social History of Southern Baptists, 1865-1900 (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1967), 166.

7. SBC Proceedings, 1845, 3, emphasis added; H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1987), 614-615.

8. Society of Friends, annual epistle of 1841, cited in Irene M. Robbins, "St. Paul and the Ministry of Women," The Expository Times 46 (1934-1935): 185-188 at 188; Report of the Woman's Rights Convention Held at Seneca Falls, N. Y., July 19th and July 20th 1848 (Rochester: John Dick, [1848]), available online at http://www.nps.gov/wori/report1.htm. For more on the Seneca Falls Convention and anti-slavery societies, see Sandra Day O'Connor, "The History of the Women's Suffrage Movement," Vanderbilt Law Review 49 (1996): 657-675 at 658-660; and Jean Baubérot, "The Protestant Woman," trans. Arthur Goldhammer, in A History of Women in the West, vol. 4: Emerging Feminism from the Revolution to World War, eds. Geneviève Fraisse and Michelle Perrot (Cambridge, MA, and London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1993), 198-212 at 205-206 and 210.

9. William Williams Keen, The Bi-Centennial Celebration of the Founding of the First Baptist Church of the City of Philadelphia, 1698-1898 (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1899), 151-154 (italics original). Unless otherwise stated, all biblical citations in this article are from the King James Version, despite its many defects, since this was the translation most often cited by American Protestants prior to the American/Revised Standard Versions (1901/1946[1951]).

10. Ibid., 149-154.

11. Mary Philbrook, "Woman Suffrage in New Jersey Prior to 1807," Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society 57, No. 2 (April 1939): 87-98; First Day Baptist Church, Piscataway, NJ, Minutes from 12 May 1819 [recorded 12 June 1829], cited in Norman H. Maring, Baptists in New Jersey: A Study in Transition (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1964), 94.

12. Letter from Bro. A. E. Green, American Baptist, 2 March 1869, 2.

13. Minutes of the . . . West New Jersey Baptist Association, 1878, 20-26, italics original.

14. Minutes of the . . . West New Jersey Baptist Association, 1879, 21-22, emphases added; Maring, Baptists in New Jersey, 232-233; Minutes of the Meeting for the Organization of the Northern Baptist Convention, 1907, 4 (Preamble and Article III); Annual of the Northern Baptist Convention, 1908, 6-21 (list of Northern Baptist Convention delegates, including women).

15. P. H. Mell, Corrective Church Discipline (Charleston, SC: Southern Baptist Publication Society, 1860), 53-54, 77.

16. A. S. Worrell, Review of Corrective Church Discipline (Nashville: Southwestern Publishing House, 1860), 208-216, italics original. Gregory A. Wills, Democratic Religion: Freedom, Authority, and Church Discipline in the Baptist South, 1785-1900, Religion in America series, gen. ed. Harry S. Stout (New York and Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1997), 51-53, agreed that women voted in most antebellum Southern Baptist churches, but also pointed out a further distinction with regard to female voting privileges. Whereas most Southern Baptist churches allowed women members to vote on matters of "fellowship" and "discipline" (e.g., admitting new members, disciplining current members, and restoring those who had been expelled), a minority of churches declined to extend voting privileges to women in matters involving church government (e.g., the election of pastors and deacons).

17. McBeth, Women in Baptist Life, 61-63 and 102-103; Albert W. Wardin, Jr., Tennessee Baptists: A Comprehensive History, 1779-1999 (Brentwood, TN: Executive Board of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, 1999), 205, 254-255; Wayne Flint, Alabama Baptists: Southern Baptists in the Heart of Dixie (Tuscaloosa and London: The University of Alabama Press, 1998), 154, 172-179; Lynn E. May, Jr., The First Baptist Church of Nashville, Tennessee, 1820-1970 (Nashville: First Baptist Church, Nashville, TN, 1970), 106, 142-144.

18. For more on the "politics of domesticity," see Barbara Leslie Epstein, The Politics of Domesticity: Women, Evangelism and Temperance in Nineteenth-Century America (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1981; rep. ed., 1986); Susan Dye Lee, "Evangelical Domesticity: The Woman's Temperance Crusade of 1873-1874," in Women in New Worlds: Historical Perspectives on the Wesleyan Tradition, 2 vols., eds. Hilah F. Thomas, Rosemary Skinner Keller, and Louise L. Queen (Nashville: Abingdon, 1981-1982), 1:293-309; and Paula Baker, "The Domestication of Politics: Women and American Political Society, 1780-1920," AHR 89 (1984): 620-647.

19. In 1853, the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky seated and enrolled eight women as "life members" in return for their each having contributed thirty dollars to the General Association. In subsequent years the General Association also seated women (such as "Sister Annie Stapp" and "Sister Sallie Wilson" in 1868) who personally contributed at least one dollar to the Association as "annual members." Still other women (such as Misses Artie and Kate Alexander, representing the Harrodsburg Baptist Church in the Elkhorn Association in 1860) were sent to the General Association on behalf of their local churches. The number of women members exploded in 1870. The Association's Minutes for that year list 20 women "life members," at least 168 women "annual members" (including both single and married women), and women messengers sent by four local churches, so that a total of at least 192 Baptist women were enrolled as members. Minutes of the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky, 1853, 4; 1860, 7; 1868, 8; and 1870, 5-7 and 64-66. The author is especially grateful to Pamela R. Durso, Baptist History and Heritage Society, and to Cheryl M. Doty, Kentucky Baptist Convention, for checking these minutes. Cf. Spain, At Ease in Zion, 169-170, though the issue of women messengers to Baptist state conventions is more complex than Spain's brief account suggests (see nn. 21-23 below).

20. Leslie H. Coleman, "The Baptists in Shelby County to 1900," The West Tennessee Historical Society Papers 15 (1961): 8-39 at 31; Wardin, Tennessee Baptists, 257.

21. Wardin, Tennessee Baptists, 257-259.

22. Frank M. Masters, A History of Baptists in Kentucky (Louisville: Kentucky Baptist Historical Society, 1953), 328.

23. Minutes [Proceedings/Annual] of the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky, 1881, 5-8 and 20; and 1882, 5-7. By 1881, "annual members" (see n. 19 above) were no longer listed in the General Association's Minutes, and a constitutional amendment eliminated "annual" and "life" members entirely in 1890 (ibid., 1890, 22). For examples of women messengers seated at later meetings of the General Association, see ibid., 1884, 7; 1888, 5-8; 1889, 6-7; 1890, 8; and 1909, 7 and 9. For their restoration in 1956, see ibid., 1956, 14-24, 90, and 113; and the Western Recorder, 29 November 1956, 4, which noted that Baptist women attending the 1956 General Association "were officially seated as messengers and recognized as having voting rights," and that a "motion authorizing registration of duly elected women messengers prevailed by a unanimous vote." The complex history of women messengers to Baptist state conventions clearly merits further study.

24. Barnes, The Southern Baptist Convention, 148-158; McBeth, "The Role of Women," 5-8 and 12-15; idem, Women in Baptist Life, 93-97 and 108-112; SBC Proceedings, 1885, 34 (item 91). On the formation of women's Baptist foreign missionary societies in the North, which despite their feminine leadership and independent fund raising remained auxiliary to the American Baptist Missionary Union, and the two corresponding women's Baptist home missionary societies, which cooperated with, but clearly maintained their independence from the American Baptist Home Missionary Society, see Wendy J. Deichmann, "Domesticity with a Difference: Woman's Sphere, Women's Leadership, and the Founding of the Baptist Missionary Training School in Chicago, 1881," American Baptist Quarterly 9 (1990): 141-157, esp. 145-148; R. Pierce Beaver, All Loves Excelling: American Protestant Women in World Mission (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., 1968), 96; and Robert G. Torbet, Venture of Faith: The Story of the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society and the Woman's American Baptist Foreign Mission Society, 1814-1954 (Philadelphia: Judson Press, 1955), esp. 150, 192-196.


© 1998-2004 by The Journal of Southern Religion. All rights reserved. ISSN 1094-5253

This article published 11/04

Volume VII Main Page Advertisers jsr@admin.fsu.edu