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

§56 Etty Woosnam
(1849–c.1883)

Etty Woosnam17 was a member of a British family with ties to India. She wrote to prepare young women for their future vocations as Christian women, wives, and mothers. Woosnam's interpretation of Rebekah testified to the tensions among women regarding changes in women's education and in their own understanding of their place and behavior in society. Unlike Morgan, who saw Rebekah as an oppressed woman, Woosnam held up Rebekah as an example for her readers. Like King, she used the story as a platform for teaching moral and religious lessons. In a unique interpretive move that reflected her high view of women's responsibility for the spiritual and moral climate in a family, Woosnam blamed the wife-sister incidents on women rather than on men.

From the story of Rebekah, Woosnam developed ideas about divine guidance and the need for both faith and reason in making decisions, especially for young women whose lives she viewed as being more uncertain than those of men. She was ambivalent about the key hermeneutical question around divine guidance in the life of Rebekah. Woosnam argued that it was possible that Rebekah was led by God to deceive her husband, but it was not clear. Woosnam did not dwell on negative aspects of the story. She minimized both the problem of Rebekah's partiality and the distance between her readers and the world of the text.

Woosnam also used a typological approach to find a deeper spiritual meaning in this story. She shifted the traditional understanding of Isaac and Rebekah as a type of Christ and the Church to a more individualized understanding of Christ and the individual believer.

From Etty Woosnam, The Woman of the Bible: Old Testament (London:
S. W. Partridge, 1881), 52–64.


–Rebekah: Divine Guidance–

In studying the inspired sketches of women, there is one thing very clear—we must not wait to learn lessons from them until we can find faultless models. Just as, in our observation of our fellow-creatures, we see much that we may

17 For more information on Woosnam see part 1, "Eve—The Mother Of Us All."

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