Journeys That Opened Up the World: Women, Student Christian Movements, and Social Justice, 1955-1975

Journeys That Opened Up the World: Women, Student Christian Movements, and Social Justice, 1955-1975

Journeys That Opened Up the World: Women, Student Christian Movements, and Social Justice, 1955-1975

Journeys That Opened Up the World: Women, Student Christian Movements, and Social Justice, 1955-1975

Synopsis

This volume is a collection of inspiring memoirs from sixteen women active in the civil rights movement, anti-war campaigns, and the rise of feminism in the Cold War era. It places religious activism at the center of social movements previously thought of as largely secular. For thousands of young women in the 1950s and 1960s, involvement with the student Christian movement (SCM), including the YWCA, the National Student Christian Federation, and the Methodist Student Movement, changed their worldviews. Religious organizations fostered women's leadership at a time when secular groups like Students for a Democratic Society, and the Left in general, relegated most female participants to stereotypical roles in service to male leaders. The book reads as a riveting collection of dramatic personal stories of small-town girls thrust into leadership during watershed events of modern American history. The SCM introduced young women to activism in other parts of the country and around the world. As leaders, thinkers,,and organizers, they encountered the social realities of poverty and racial prejudice and worked to combat them. The SCM took women to Selma and Montgomery, to Africa and Latin American, and to a lifelong commitment to work for social justice.

Excerpt

For thousands of young women in the 1950s and 1960s, involvement with the student Christian movement (SCM)— comprising denominational campus ministries, the Student YM and YWCA, and national and international associations such as the World Student Christian Federation—changed their world and their worldview. It took them out of the context in which they were raised and introduced them to radically different perspectives in other parts of the country and around the globe. It also opened them up to their own capacities. As leaders, as thinkers, as organizers, they came face to face with social realities like racial prejudice, poverty, and oppression and with the possibility of action. A primary site of civil rights and student activism in the 1960s, the SCM trained a remarkable generation of leaders who moved directly into the civil rights movement, the student antiwar movement, and women's liberation. For women in particular, the SCM was a unique training ground that offered both female mentors and a greater openness to female leadership than its secular counterparts in the student new left. This collection of memoirs brings to life the experience of a critical generation of young women and a dimension of the social justice activism of the 1960s and 1970s that has been almost invisible until now, despite its deep roots in American history and the large numbers of American youth that it engaged from the early years of the cold war.

That religious engagement offered American women an unusually free space in which to develop leadership skills and a broad vision of their potential to shape history in the cold war era should not surprise us. Historically, women's rights in the United States have deep roots in evangelical reform movements.

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