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The Woman I Am

Southern Baptist Women's Writings, 1906-2006

Melody Maxwell

Publication Year: 2014

Melody Maxwell’s The Woman I Am analyzes the traditional, progressive, and potential roles female Southern Baptist writers and editors portrayed for Southern Baptist women from 1906 to 2006, particularly in the area of missions.

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) represents the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, yet Southern Baptist women’s voices have been underreported in studies of American religion and culture. In The Woman I Am, Melody Maxwell explores how female Southern Baptist writers and editors in the twentieth century depicted changing roles for women and responded to the tensions that arose as Southern Baptist women assumed leadership positions, especially in the areas of missions and denominational support.

Given access to a century of primary sources and archival documents, Maxwell writes, as did many of her subjects, in a style that deftly combines the dispassionate eye of an observer with the multidimensional grasp of a participant. She examines magazines published by Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU), an auxiliary to the SBC: Our Mission Fields (1906–1914), Royal Service (1914–1995), Contempo (1970–1995), and Missions Mosaic (1995–2006). In them, she traces how WMU writers and editors perceived, constructed, and expanded the lives of southern women.

Showing ingenuity and resiliency, these writers and editors continually, though not always consciously, reshaped their ideal of Christian womanhood to better fit the new paths open to women in American culture and Southern Baptist life. Maxwell’s work demonstrates that Southern Baptists have transformed their views on biblically sanctioned roles for women over a relatively short historical period.

How Southern Baptist women perceive women’s roles in their churches, homes, and the wider world is of central importance to readers interested in religion, society, and gender in the United States. The Woman I Am is a tour de force that makes a lasting contribution to the world’s understanding of Southern Baptists and to their understanding of themselves.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Series: Religion and American Culture


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Series Page, Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

I am indebted to a large number of people for their assistance and support with this project. Most of all, I thank Ian Randall and Pamela Durso for their tireless guidance throughout multiple drafts of my manuscript spanning many months. Others who helped suggest and review revisions include Keith Jones, Karen Smith, and Anne Phillips. ...


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pp. ix-x

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1. Southern Baptist Women’s Writings in Context

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pp. 1-25

Wife. Mother. Children’s worker. Teacher. Missionary. Deacon. Executive. Pastor. Which roles are acceptable for Southern Baptist women? It depends on whom you ask. Southern Baptist Addie Davis demonstrated her view by becoming an ordained minister; pastor’s wife Joyce Rogers, by exhorting each woman to be “submissive to her husband [and] to the male leadership in the church.”1 ...

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2. Woman’s Work for Woman, 1906–1918

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pp. 26-60

WMU began publishing Our Mission Fields in July 1906, at the height of the woman’s missionary movement. During this time, Progressive optimism and activism permeated many missions organizations, influencing missionary activities at home and abroad. ...

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3. Supporting the SBC, 1919–1945

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pp. 61-93

In the years following World War I, mission work declined in popularity as new ways of thinking arose among many Americans. The woman’s missionary movement also gradually weakened. As “woman’s work for woman” thinking evolved into an ideology of “world friendship,” almost all Protestant women’s missions organizations were absorbed into broader denominational structures. ...

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4. Cultivating a Christian Influence, 1946–1967

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pp. 94-129

“An informed woman reads Royal Service,” the back cover of that magazine’s February 1962 issue proclaimed. And read—or at least subscribe— the women did. Subscriptions to Royal Service rose from around two hundred thousand in 1946 to nearly five hundred thousand in 1965,1 as WMU and the SBC enjoyed their years of greatest strength. ...

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5. Almost Unlimited Possibilities, 1968–1983

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pp. 130-167

Antiwar demonstrations. The assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Protests against sexism in the Miss America pageant. All of these events dominated American news headlines in 1968, introducing to the United States a new climate of activism, liberation, and reform. ...

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6. Developing Spiritually in a Context of Division, 1984–2006

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pp. 168-202

“Be it resolved,” pronounced messengers to the 1984 annual meeting of the SBC, “that we encourage the service of women in all aspects of church life and work other than pastoral functions and leadership roles entailing ordination.”1 Thus began a new era for women in the SBC, including leaders and members of WMU. ...

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7. Southern Baptist Women’s Writings in Retrospect

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pp. 203-210

The one unforgivable sin among American evangelicals, according to historian Margaret Bendroth, is “thoughtless capitulation to the secular standards of American culture.”1 More so than adherents of other Christian traditions, evangelicals pride themselves on relying upon what they consider to be the timeless truths of the Bible rather than upon changing cultural mores. ...


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pp. 211-216


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pp. 217-256


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pp. 257-264


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pp. 265-269

E-ISBN-13: 9780817387631
E-ISBN-10: 0817387633
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817318321
Print-ISBN-10: 0817318321

Page Count: 279
Illustrations: 15 illustrations
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Religion and American Culture
Series Editor Byline: John Smith, Will Wordsworth See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 880059724
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Woman I Am