Many friends and colleagues have helped me along the pilgrimage that became this book. As a graduate student at Yale University, I had the good fortune to work with a superb group of scholars who guided me through the difficulties of dissertation research. My first thanks must go to Jon Butler, who introduced me to Nancy Towle and encouraged me to write about her. Without exaggeration, I can say that this book never would have been written without him. I am also grateful to Nancy Cott, who generously shared her encyclopedic knowledge of women's history with me, and John Demos, who nurtured my fledgling interest in colonial America. To Harry Stout, my advisor, I owe nothing less than my calling as an American religious historian. Before taking my first course with Skip, I had never imagined that I would someday write a book about religion. Ever since that course, however, I haven't been able to imagine writing about anything else. Over the years I have deeply appreciated his criticism, his advice, and his friendship.
While turning my dissertation into a book, I learned a lesson that nineteenth-century female preachers knew by heart. Although individual hard work is important, nothing is possible without the support of a larger community. I am grateful to several scholars, including Sylvia Frey, Richard T. Hughes, Edwin Gaustad, Vern Carter, Carol Sheriff, Christopher Grasso, Stephen Bullock, Stephen Nissenbaum, Liam Riordan, Kenneth Minkema, Jane Kamensky, Blair Pogue, David Wills, and Jill Mulvey Derr, for sharing citations or helping me track down elusive books, photographs, and manuscripts. Virginia Taylor very kindly sent me a photograph of Nancy Towle, one of the more colorful members of her family tree. I will never forget my excitement when I finally saw the face of the woman whose memoir originally inspired this book.