Suffer Not a Woman to Teach
The Battle over Female Preaching
The Battle Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the over Female man, but to be in silence. -- 1 Timothy 2:11-12
In 1822 Sally Thompson traveled to Smithfield, Rhode Island, to preach at a Methodist camp meeting. Arriving at the campgrounds, she saw hundreds of people falling to their knees in prayer, crying aloud in anguish, and clapping their hands in joy. Countless numbers of curious spectators mingled with the devout, walking from tent to tent and marveling at the sights and sounds of "oldtime" religion. Some of the people in the crowd carried Bibles in their hands; others took furtive sips from bottles tucked inside their coats. Some listened intently as strolling preachers beseeched them to repent and be saved; others made fun of the preachers' shabby clothing and coarse language. But all turned their attention to the center of the campgrounds when they realized that Thompson, a woman, was climbing into the preacher's stand to deliver a sermon.
One of the people who listened to Thompson preach that afternoon was Catherine Williams, an educated, liberal woman who prided herself on her support of female evangelism. 1 Winding her way through the boisterous crowd, she managed to find a seat on a log in front of the preacher's stand, where she waited excitedly for Thompson to begin her sermon. Williams had heard Thompson preach on one occasion before, and she had been delighted by her "mild and pleasing manners" and her "plain good sense." When she saw