Let Her Speak for Herself: Nineteenth-Century Women Writing on the Women of Genesis

By Marion Ann Taylor; Heather E. Weir | Go to book overview
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§47 Sarah Elizabeth Turnock
(fl. 1898–1907)

Not much is known about Sarah Turnock's life other than what she tells us in her published writings. Turnock went on a spiritual pilgrimage to Palestine in 1903 and wrote about her experience in A Woman's Tour in Palestine. From this account we learn that she was probably from Manchester. She travelled with a group led by the Rev. Dr. Leach of Cavendish Chapel. She obviously had enough money to afford this trip, though it was a Cook's tour,34 and thus cheaper than travelling alone.

Turnock, like Butler, was interested in the stories of women in scripture, but, like Morgan, wrote specifically for women and applied the text to them. In the introduction to Women of the Bible, Turnock revealed her distinctly feminine point of view.

Woman, I may add, should be given her just meed of praise, for we have
not a single instance in the whole Bible of a woman insulting, deserting,
betraying or persecuting Christ. She was first at the sepulchre, and last at
the cross—she followed Him even to death; she was ever ready to minister
to His wants—washed His feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs
of her head; anointed His head with oil, and whilst men spat upon Him,
beat Him, nailed Him to the tree, women stood round in pity, weeping for
the sorrow and pain they could not alleviate. Who can say that women had
no part in writing the Bible, when it contains the glorious songs of Miriam,
Deborah, and Mary. Looking backward, we may well be satisified with the
position women won for themselves in the early Church. Jewish traditions
would have accorded them at best only an inferior place, but these converts to
Christianity had lovingly accepted a creed whose Founder was cradled in the
arms of a woman.35

Turnock brought her feminine lens to her very positive reading of the Hagar story. Turnock, like Butler, was very empathetic towards Hagar, who she viewed as a "typical outcast" and a typical woman for whom God cared. Again like Butler, Turnock noted that Hagar was the first woman to whom God spoke directly, and Turnock found it significant that God spoke to Hagar, not to Sarah.

34 On Cook's tours, see Timothy Larsen, Contested Christianity: The Political and Social
Contexts of Victorian Theology
(Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press, 2004), 29ff.

35 Turnock, iii. The last sentence of this quote is an example of the kind of argument that
Aguilar was trying to counter earlier in the century by writing for Jewish women.


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