Helen Barrett Montgomery: The Global Mission of Domestic Feminism

Article excerpt

Helen Barrett Montgomery: The Global Mission of Domestic Feminism. By Kendal P. Mobley. Waco, Tex.: Baylor Univ. Press, 2009. Pp. xi, 335. Paperback $39.95.

Helen Barrett Montgomery was a woman of the middle way. She deftly positioned her reform efforts on behalf of women between the radical feminism of the postCivil War era in the United States and the model of the middle-class Victorian wife and mother. Her Baptist upbringing formed her theological center. At Wellesley College she discovered the twin ideals of academic rigor and Christian womanliness (p. 28). With those ideals, Barrett became a social reformer who emphasized women's emancipation through the Gospel of Jesus Christ (p. 3).

Montgomery took a passionate yet pragmatic approach to problems of education, working-class women's rights, women's equality, and ecumenical mission. As a school board member in Rochester, New York, she spearheaded reforms that created kindergartens and emphasized group learning geared to students' ability (p. 164). Her "domestic feminism" uplifted women as wives, mothers, and spiritual leaders, claiming that the methods and virtues involved could reform the political process (p. 81). As a leader and apologist for the women's ecumenical movement, she argued that women could work together without sectarian divisiveness for the sake of the Gospel (p. 31). Montgomery advanced mission theory, expanding the idea of foreign missions to include statecraft, philosophy, art, and the history of the kingdom of God (p. …