Anglican Women and the Bible in Nineteenth-Century Britain

By Taylor, Marion Ann | Anglican and Episcopal History, December 2006 | Go to article overview

Anglican Women and the Bible in Nineteenth-Century Britain


Taylor, Marion Ann, Anglican and Episcopal History


A surprisingly large number of Anglican women in Britain published a wide range of books on the Bible in the nineteenth century, but these women have been lost from view.1 Their books lie forgotten, hidden in boxes in attics or cellars or stored in libraries or private collections. This paper will explore the scope of women's engagement with the scriptures with a view to recovering a map of the variety of books published by nineteenth-century British Anglican women.

Standard histories of the interpretation of the Bible in the nineteenth century focus exclusively on the rise of criticism and on the lives and publications of key men associated with the academy and church. Missing from these academic histories are the voices from the world of popular belief and unbelief, including those of women.2 Popular voices, however, continued to carry weight in the churches and among the general public.3 Donald McKim's Histoncal Handbook of Major Biblical Interpreters, for example, mentions no female nineteenth-century interpreters and women from this period are similarly absent from John Rogerson's book on Old Testament criticism in the nineteenth century and Gerald Bray's history of biblical interpretation.4 In her book, Women as Interpreters of the Bible, Patricia Demers begins the important work of recovering women's interpretive voices.5 Her chapter on the nineteenth century, however, focuses exclusively on children's literature on the Bible. Maria Selvidge's work on "notorious" biblical interpreters from 1500-1920 also advances our knowledge of women interpreters of the nineteenth century, but she includes only feminist or proto-feminist voices.6 On the other hand, my research project on the writings of nineteenth-century female authors on the Bible has to date unearthed the titles of more than one thousand books, suggesting that it is no longer in doubt that nineteenth-century women published a substantial amount of interpretive work on the Bible. The majority of British women who published on the Bible were Anglican.7

Anglican women in the nineteenth century understood it to be their responsibility as the "angel," "priest" or "goddess" of the home to be accountable for the spiritual wellbeing of those around them.8 As Elizabeth Rundle Charles' poem "Ministry" suggests, the mission of women was a life of service to others epitomized by Jesus (Mk 10:45).

...Since service is the highest lot,

And angels know no higher bliss,

Then with what good her cup is fraught

Who was created but for this!9

A woman's circle of responsibility that began in the home, with children, husband and extended family, grew to embrace all who needed instruction, including the poor, the sick, the prisoner, the unchurched and the churched of all ages who lacked the education, time, and academic resources to study the Bible. Women's work as "ministering spirits" gave them considerable power and honor; but their power was generally restricted to the private sphere. Writing enabled women to broaden the scope of their ministries, by allowing them to preach and teach with their pens at a time when they were barred from the pulpit and deprived of formal theological education. Even at the close of the century, privileged and educated women like Charlotte Laurie, the assistant mistress at the Ladies' College, Cheltenham, were convinced that women played an essential role in religious education. In the preface to her book, On the Study of the Bible, Laurie called on the women of England to solve the problem of the "great ignorance of the Bible" in British society by teaching children in school, in church and in the home "as elder sisters; above all, as mothers."10 The need for educational resources prompted women to publish books on the Bible.

Many published women came from privileged families. They received the best education available to women at the time and that often included learning both modern and ancient languages.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Anglican Women and the Bible in Nineteenth-Century Britain
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.