Nineteenth-century women recognized Eve's importance. Ashton wrote, "Perhaps no character of earthly history, if we except only our Lord Jesus Christ, gathers about itself so much of interest, calls forth such deep and varying emotions, or affords such important instruction, as does that of our first mother."59 Women looked to Eve, their mother, for self-understanding, self-knowledge, guidance, and direction as they came to terms with key issues of the century. The nineteenth century was a time of tremendous change in the status of women. Discussion of the woman's place in home and society invoked the Bible as an authoritative text and discussed Eve as a foundational ancestress. Even women who seemed to follow traditional understandings of Eve challenged these understandings in subtle and surprising ways.
The authors represented in this chapter tried to redeem Eve from a long theological tradition that blamed her for sin, characterizing Eve, and thus every other "daughter of Eve," as a temptress.60 Yet, as we have seen, many
59 Ashton, Mothers of the Bible, 11.
60 The tradition of blaming Eve for the sin of both men and women is ancient, and can be
seen in the following tenth century penitential prayer to the Virgin Mary.
"Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of mercy!
Hail, our life, our sweetness and our hope!
To Thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To Thee do we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious Advocate