Eliza Sugg’s Use of Poetry for the Temperance Cause

While Eliza Suggs and Emma Ray both were African-American women at the turn of the 20th century their narratives are very different. Ray focuses on her urban ministry with her husband and her involvement in the Colored Women’s Christian Temperance Union. While her faith does play a very large role in her autobiography, you don’t see the strong ties to preaching and speaking at revivals that Eliza notes in her narratives. What seemed to come easily to Eliza (speaking up at revival meetings and testifying) did not come easily to Ray. Yet, the place where their narratives intertwine the most … Continue reading Eliza Sugg’s Use of Poetry for the Temperance Cause

Small in Stature but Big in Faith: The Story of Eliza Suggs Part 1

There are only two autobiographies written by 19th century African- American women in the Free Methodist Denomination. While this could be viewed as another example of segregation in Christian culture, I prefer to view the narratives of Emma Ray and Eliza Suggs as examples of women who bridged racial and gender barriers to actively engage in their chosen denomination. I’ve already written in detail about Emma Ray’s narrative, which is the more overlooked narrative of the two, but I would like to spend a few posts talking about Eliza Suggs influence. Suggs has received more attention from historians within the … Continue reading Small in Stature but Big in Faith: The Story of Eliza Suggs Part 1

Women and Temperance Part 2

The temperance movement, while often viewed as a failure because of the repeal of the probation, was in fact a huge success in terms of social movements.  The temperance movement was one of the most popular, successful and long lasting social movements in American history (Dannenbaum, 2001). This was in large part due to the commitment and conviction of religious women who spent decades fighting against alcohol consumption.  Many women who were involved in the temperance movement also become involved in the women’s suffrage movement because they realized the lack of voice they had in national issues.  Thus, by organizing … Continue reading Women and Temperance Part 2

The Temperance Movement and First Wave Feminism Part 1

Throughout her autobiography Emma Ray’s ministry and personal life is deeply connected to the temperance movement of the early 20th century.  One of the most powerful sections of Twice Sold, Twice Ransomed takes place in 1914 when the state of Washington puts the probation issue on the state ballot. The 18th amendment, outlawing alcohol nationally, wasn’t passed until 1919. So, Washington was leading the way in a national effort to ban alcohol. The work of prohibitionists such as Emma and Lloyd who worked with other Free Methodists and members of various religious movements was a driving force in Washington deciding … Continue reading The Temperance Movement and First Wave Feminism Part 1

Emma and Lloyd Ray

In 1860 when the United States was on the brink of Civil War the Free Methodist Denomination was founded. One of founding beliefs of the denomination was freedom – freedom for slaves and the poor and the socially forgotten. By breaking off from the Methodist Episcopal Church, which rented pews to wealthy parishioners, refused to denounce slavery and made little effort to reach out to the poor. What I have found interesting in my research is that while faith can be divisive and draw attention to difference, it can also serve as a way of empowering and drawing people together. … Continue reading Emma and Lloyd Ray

Women’s defense of their ministry in the 1890 Free Methodist

The debate continued in The Free Methodist over the next four years, in the May 1890 issue Clara Wetherald wrote a two page defense of her ministry and a woman’s right to be part of the denomination’s governing body. Wetherald, who would go on to become one of the denomination’s first seated female delegates at the 1890 General Conference, noted in her article “Shall Women be Ordained?” that at prior conferences women were not allowed to speak until the delegates voted her approval and that men who were not members of the denomination were allowed to be seated while women … Continue reading Women’s defense of their ministry in the 1890 Free Methodist

Secular Feminism and Methodism

Feminist historians have often portrayed the history of the first wave feminist movement as a history without religious influence. Any connections between early women’s rights advocates and their religious faith are often downplayed as nothing more than cultural ties to a religious heritage (Rupp 55-57).  Yet, there is a strong connection between the beginning of the women’s movement in the United States and strong religious conviction. As Anne Braude notes “women’s history is American religious history” (87) There are strong ties between Methodism, the Quaker movement and the feminist movement that have been overlooked by revisionist feminist historians who doubt … Continue reading Secular Feminism and Methodism

Caught between a rock and a hard place: The Christian feminist’s dilemma

Two years ago, soon after our second wedding anniversary, my husband Andrew and I stood in the church sanctuary taking to friends after the service about our anniversary plans. “So, when are you going to have kids?” a friend asked me. I stood there dumbfounded wondering why everyone kept asking me this question. Both Andrew and I were finishing our masters degrees with plans to pursue doctorate degrees in the next year. “Um, not anytime soon,” I replied. Yet, even after answering the family planning question two years ago. I am repeatedly asked every year, around our anniversary, when we … Continue reading Caught between a rock and a hard place: The Christian feminist’s dilemma

A Small Snippet of Ellen Robert’s Life

The powerful example of early Free Methodist women has been having a deep impact on me. As I’ve looked over the archives of the 1890 debate on ordaining women and saw the fiery response of women such as Ida Gage defend her right to ministry and read about the example of Ellen Roberts, who though not ordained served as a pastor alongside her husband B.T. Roberts, I can’t help but feel that the way I live my life is sadly lacking in comparison.  I don’t usually like to be self-reflexive on this blog. I prefer to keep my opinions to … Continue reading A Small Snippet of Ellen Robert’s Life

The Aftermath of the 1890 Conference

One of the greatest testaments to the drive for gender equality in the Free Methodist Church is the denominational magazine The Earnest Christian (the magazine archives are available at the Marston Historical Center website, see the link on the homepage).  Edited by B.T. and Ellen Roberts, the majority of its articles during the 1880’s and early 1890’s were written by women. The defeat of the 1890 resolution was disheartening to many women leaders in the church. In the December 1890 issue of The Earnest Christian Mattie Campbell notes the lack of respect and voice by certain church members in her … Continue reading The Aftermath of the 1890 Conference