Some Wild Visions: Autobiographies by Female Itinerant Evangelists in Nineteenth-Century America

By Elizabeth Elkin Grammer | Go to book overview

AFTERWORD
The Call of the Preachers, the Cry of the Faithful
Evangelical Women Writers and the Search
for an Interpretive Community

How long, O Lord, how long, ere woman shall be clothed with the Sun, walk upon the moon, and be crowned with Apostolick glory?

Harriet Livermore, A Narration of Religious Experience in Twelve Letters

These fragments I have shored against my ruins.

T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land

If this year your story is one of loss, and you are as an exile in a strange land, remember that even in such a place the Lord's song will yet be sung. In God's good time, even exiles at last come home.

Dan Wakefield, Returning

All potential autobiographers have facts, and dates, and memories—reliable or not—with which to work as they construct a narrative of their lives; some of them even have diaries and journals upon which to draw. “But to organize events into stories, ” Patricia Spacks argues, “not merely sequences of happenings but sequences of meaning, requires 'making up, ' of patterns if not of events. To understand one's life as a story demands that one perceive that life as making sense” (“Selves” 131). When the preachers in this study began the process of exploring their lives by keeping journals and, later, by writing autobiographies, they wrestled with the issue of identity, an issue made acute by their awareness that they preached to and wrote for an audience that might well “judge” them (Towle 254). The problem of identity and audience could not easily be resolved, even under the aegis of a genre that critics have long understood as an educational, introspective tool, designed to help the struggling writer “impose order, form, and meaning on the facts of an existence” (Maynes 105). “The autobiography is, or can be, ” Robert Sayre maintains, “that second house into which we are reborn, carried by our own creative power. We make it ourselves, then remake it—make it new” (“Autobiography” 148). These women “wandering through our land, ” to quote Judge—once again, with their “wild visions” had indeed left their first homes, literally and psychologically. They wandered through their culture and then through their self-writings in search of a language that could adequately represent that “second house into which they were reborn. ” And, in part, they were successful. Their autobiographies tell stories of women who did make it themselves and then make it new. In appropriating the prominent

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