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Book Reviews 371 ists exploited ties of kinship, religious loyalties, and community exclusiveness long before education, social and physical mobility, and bourgeois tastes moved people away from rural areas into the cities. In many rural areas, the old faith has been replaced by evangelical closedmindedness that has retained and exploited local labour. In urban areas, conservative evangelical denominationalism and trendy religious experimentation often reflect the contrast between the two Mennonite worlds of small business and professional groups. Transformation is as much a rural as an urban phenomenon. There is another problem that is not addressed in detail. In his earlier volumes, Epp had the luxury of dealing with Mennonites as a people defined primarily by religious values, with strongly inherited cultural traditions that maintained distinctive, although diverse, communities . Being Mennonite has always involved more than just religion , but religion inevitably lay at its centre. In Regehr's account of postwar Mennonite life, however, there are many 'missing' Mennonites . This group includes those who remain religious, but no longer as 'Mennonites'; those who reject 'Mennonite' as a religious label, but continue to identify themselves as ethnic, cultural Mennonites; and those who totally reject their ancestry. Although also a consequence of postwar tendencies, including secularization and multiculturalism, the origins of these changes lie well before 1939. It is easy, however, to criticize a book such as this, without recognizing its virtues. This is no hagiography, and, like his predecessor, Regehr has not shied away from controversial issues. His approach is judicious, although, at times, enigmatic. The problem is one of audience : at times, Regehr appears to address only Mennonites, not a general readership. Some of his brief and most critical comments about · people, events, and Mennonite values might go unnoticed by an uninitiated reader. For such a reader, however, Regehr's book provides an excellent, detailed, and scholarly introduction to recent Mennonite history. JAMES URRY Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand The Work of Their Hands: Mennonite Women's Societies in Canada. GLORIA NEUFELD REDEKOP. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press 1996. Pp. xvi, 172, $24.95 According to Gloria Redekop, Mennonite women's groups (Vereine) have 'functioned as a parallel church,' providing 'a context where women could speak, pray, and creatively give expression to their 372 The Canadian Historical Review understanding of the biblical message' alongside their brothers in the faith. In some ways that approach is reminiscent of the early historiography of Canadian women's organizations, in which separate spheres was a guiding principle. Redekop calls this division the 'dual reality' of Mennonite women's experiences; pointing out that 'there was a life within the institutional church, predominantly male controlled, and another life within the context ofwomen's societies' (18). Informed by recent historiographic trends {and a certain sympathy for her informants), the author does not automatically equate religion and oppression, as some feminists before her were wont to do. Instead, she sets out to explore female agency, to take female spirituality seriously, and to consider how gender and ethnicity intersect. She is clearly determined to make her account more than 'contribution history,' where women's experiences are recovered and added to the record, although she concurs with Marlene Epp that this corrective is badly needed in Mennonite historiography. Redekop declares that her purposes were to be informed by the women's own voices; to understand from the women's points of view the meanings they attached to their membership; and to acknowledge that women were consciously compensating for their decidedly inferior status within Mennonite gender politics. This book is a feminist study, a revisionist consideration of groups which seem to ascribe decidedly traditional roles to women and which previously 'have been thought of in a disparaging way as contexts for women's "gossip"' {19). Looking at thirteen decades of Mennonite women's group work, the author highlights 'the work of their hands,' such as mission projects, wartime sewing and knitting, and community mutual aid, activities that closely parallel the work of other women's groups, both within and outside churches. What sets these women apart from their secular sisters is their spirituality. Redekop surveyed 188 women's groups of the Mennonite Brethren and the Conference of Mennonites in Canada and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-1093
Print ISSN
0008-3755
Pages
pp. 371-373
Launched on MUSE
2016-04-06
Open Access
No
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