Hearing the Voices of Jonestown

By Mary McCormick Maaga | Go to book overview

4
Restoration of Women's Power in Peoples Temple

The women and men in the leadership of Peoples Temple shared one thing in common: all had a strong desire to contribute positively and centrally to social change. Steve Rose, theologian and early analyst of Jonestown, named this desire the "Herculean conscience," which is

an overwhelming desire to do good. . . . [It] defines the attitude of a small portion of the American populace, a group of people whose consciousness is formed by an existential awareness of major destructive forces in the world and by a strong desire to do something to combat them. The concerns of such individuals go far beyond the narrow pockets of self-interest to war and peace, ecological balance, social justice, and human rights. ( Rose 1979, 22)

I suggest that there is a difference between how this desire manifested itself in the women and the men in positions of authority in Peoples Temple. For the women, it wasn't until they met Jim Jones and joined Peoples Temple that their personal power and institutional influence matched their desire to make a difference in the world. For the men, it would have been possible eventually to act out this desire in positions of leadership in mainstream society. For the women, this would have been less likely because of the "glass ceiling" within mainstream society that limits the authority women can exercise. Within Peoples Temple there was an opportunity for some women to exercise power and authority beyond what either their

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Hearing the Voices of Jonestown
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Preface xiii
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • Introduction xix
  • 1 - Who Were the Members of Peoples Temple? 1
  • 2 - Deconstructing Jonestown 14
  • 3 - The Triple Erasure of Women in the Leadership of Peoples Temple 32
  • 4 - Restoration of Women's Power in Peoples Temple 55
  • 5 - Three Groups in One 74
  • 6 - From Jones the Person to Jonestown the Community 87
  • 7 - Freedom and Loyalty, a Deadly Potion 114
  • 8 - Conclusion 136
  • Appendix A - Jonestown Demographics 145
  • Appendix B - Suicide Tape Transcript 147
  • Appendix C - A Witness to Tragedy and Resurrection 165
  • References 169
  • Index 175
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