Mary Penry was a diarist, accountant, and guide for Lititz’s single sisters’ house. Penry also left a vast correspondence, an “epistolary ministry” that emerged (like the activities of prominent Moravian women) from a confidence that grace regularly prompted her actions. Because recent writing on the dismantling of Moravian women’s authority focuses on Zinzendorf and the church organization he instituted, it sees no source to sustain women’s authority after his death. But this authority was imaginable in the first place only because the language of grace, of “power through passivity,” emboldened Moravian women to embrace a vision of themselves as active agents rather than the domesticated subjects their culture asked that they be. Mary Penry’s letters record her efforts to eliminate self so that she could receive grace— and her confidence that, having received it, her actions were simultaneously “hers” and “another’s.” Penry could assume authority, paradoxically, only by believing that it really was not “her” authority at all.


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