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Reviewed by:
  • Holy Boldness: Women Preachers' Autobiographies and the Sanctified Self
  • Susie C. Stanley (bio)
The Fall 2003 issue of Biography (26.4: 755-57) contained a review by Lynn Domina of Holy Boldness: Women Preachers' Autobiographies and the Sanctified Self, by Susie C. Stanley (Knoxville: U of Tennessee P, 2002, 268 pp., ISBN 1-57233-310-3, $18.00). The following exchange explores issues raised in the review.

I appreciate the opportunity to interact with the reviewer regarding my book. This fulfills the goal stated in the preface in terms of my desire to be in conversation with theorists (xii). The thesis of the book is that the sanctified self which is socially constructed in a religious context replaces the socially constructed self imposed by society. However, the reviewer claims that I "implie[d] that the sanctified self is somehow more real than the socially [End Page 676] constructed self" and that this "is simply incorrect." This critique is unfounded. The fact that the sanctified self is socially constructed is never in question. I clearly state throughout the book that the sanctified self is a socially constructed self. For example, "the Wesleyan/Holiness religious tradition has offered an alternative construction of gender" (first sentence of fly leaf); "sanctification resulted in a new construction of the self" (85); and "Wesleyan/Holiness theology explicitly fostered the alternative construction of a confident self" (94). The reviewer relied on an undocumented assertion rather than the many statements I make in the book which speak of the sanctified self as a socially constructed self.

On the pages the reviewer does reference (95, 122), I am actually contrasting society's socially constructed self and the socially constructed sanctified self rather than claiming one is "more real" than the other. Page 88 discusses the autobiographers' viewpoint which I dispute.

In chapter four I wrestle with the notion of the self in autobiographical theory by examining the theology supporting the sanctified self, and how a religious community could foster a social construction of self that challenged the self constructed by the broader culture. The socially constructed sanctified self successfully replaced the earlier self constructed by society at large. The women themselves spoke of it as defying woman's sphere.

Also, contrary to the reviewer's contention, I did not "neglect" a discussion of Jesus in the book. She quoted from page 73: "Women did not always distinguish between the members of the Trinity. Palmer wrote of both God and the Holy Spirit as agents of sanctification." This statement reflects the function of two persons of the trinity in the experience of sanctification. When I discuss the experience of conversion, Jesus is the focus. Also, I specifically address Jesus' endorsement of an alternative construction of gender when he affirmed women speaking in public. On page 134, I summarize the autobiographers' justification for the socially constructed sanctified self. They refer to Jesus seven times.

I have been engaged in feminist analysis for thirty years as an activist, researcher, and writer. While I welcome dialogue and constructive reflection on my book, to state that my interpretations are "generally feminist" is likewise troubling. It would be helpful to know specifically which interpretations were not feminist.

Since the review was based on "implication" and a misreading of statements in the book as well as unstated generalizations, it did not accurately reflect the book's thesis. I appreciate the chance to set the record straight, and welcome ongoing dialogue.

Susie C. Stanley

Susie C. Stanley is Professor of Historical Theology at Messiah College, where she specializes in nineteenth and twentieth century American theology, women in ministry, social holiness, and the Wesleyan/Holiness tradition. In addition to Holy Boldness, she is the author of Feminist Pillar of Fire: The Life of Alma White (Pilgrim, 1993).



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pp. 676-677
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