"The Roar of Thunder and the Sweetness of a Woman" Gender and Twentieth-Century American Revivalism
Payne, Leah Louise
This project examines gender and revivalism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century America. I use gender and ritual theory to explore how women became powerful female revivalist ministers during the 1890s-1920s – an era in which public leadership was seen as naturally male. More specifically, this project offers an explanation for how two women – Maria Woodworth-Etter and Aimee Semple McPherson – overcame their gender, the taints of divorce, single motherhood, and public scandal to become powerful revivalist pastors. I argue that Woodworth-Etter and McPherson established authoritative careers by co-opting versions of ideal womanhood in service to their ministerial identities, and by displaying those identities through classic revivalist methods. This project demonstrates how the women’s use of biblical narrative, public image, worship space, and the ritualized act of preaching established their womanly and authoritative revivalist ministries.