Women, Gender and Religious Cultures in Britain, 1800-1940

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Women, Gender and Religious Cultures in Britain, 1800-1940. Edited by Sue Morgan and Jacqueline deVries. (London and New York: Routledge, 2010. Pp. ix, 244. GBP 22.99.)

The ten essays, plus Introduction and Afterword, which make up Women, Gender and Religious Culture in Britain, 1800-1940, present an interesting introduction to various aspects of female activities and relationships to the diverse British religious culture of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Subjects include religion and family culture, women's writing on religion, philantiiropy, women's work in religious institutions, sex and religion, and reforms of various sorts. All the essays are well documented; several include suggestions for further reading.

Every essay includes a section on the historiography of its topic and the kinds of sources available to those working on it. Each author takes the broadest possible approach to her topic; all relevant denominations and organizations are discussed. Not surprisingly there is more about England than Scotland and Wales, and more about urban activity than rural. Most of the material is from about 1850 to 1914. The intent throughout is to seek answers to such questions as: Did women really think about and practice religion the way their husbands and clergy said they did? Was there a religious culture shared by women that had little to do with men? Did women accept male views as authoritative? The authors encourage the use of evidence from as wide a variety of sources as possible in attempting to answer these questions.

There is inescapably some repetition as well as differences in the quality of the essays. "Women, religious ministry, and female institution building" by Carmen M. Mangion, "With fear and trembling': women, preaching, and spiritual authority" by Pamela J. Walker, and "Professionalizing their faith: women, religion and the culture of mission and empire" by Rhoda A. …