Skip to main content

M. Madeline Southard (1877–1967) is known among Methodists today for her pioneering work for ecclesiastical rights for women, particularly for the pivotal role she played in the 1920s in opening up ordination to women in the Methodist Church.1 Among religious historians, she is known for founding the International Association of Women Ministers (IAWM) in 1919, an interdenominational organization that, by the 1920s, included around 10 percent of female ministers in America, and which continues to this day.2 Southard also achieved a certain notoriety in her younger years, when she accompanied the infamous Carry Nation on one of her saloon-smashing crusades, and later when she traveled the country preaching and speaking on women’s rights, suffrage, and sexuality from a biblical perspective.3

Less well remembered is Southard’s theological writing. In 1927, she published The Attitude of Jesus toward Woman, a work of feminist theology in which she drew upon her own experiences as a Methodist woman in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America. She wrote it to provide a biblical foundation for women’s rights.4 She devoted a significant portion of her book to the ideal of Christian motherhood, or, more accurately, to her efforts to undermine that ideal. Southard had come of age in the late Victorian era, when motherhood had been elevated to be women’s sacred calling in both church and society. As a devout Methodist, Southard knew well the idealization of Christian motherhood. Over the course of the nineteenth century, the home had come to play an increasingly central role in the Methodist faith, and women had come to occupy a sacred space within the home. As wives, and especially as mothers, Methodist women were to model Christ’s self-sacrificing love and exemplify the special virtue for which Victorian women were celebrated.5

And yet, within Methodism, there was a conflicting ideal. From the earliest days, Methodists’ emphasis on the spiritual authority of individual believers had empowered women to rise to positions of leadership and transcend conventional roles. Within late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Methodism, these competing impulses remained in tension. Domesticity persisted as a powerful cultural ideal for middle-class women, but, at the same time, the rise of the holiness movement—with its renewed emphases on individual spiritual empowerment, the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, and the pursuit of “social holiness”—once again bolstered women’s claims to religious and social authority.6

This dual heritage contributed to the proliferation of nineteenth-century social reform movements. Deemed especially virtuous and charged with protecting their homes from the evils of the world, growing numbers of Protestant women realized that, in order to do so, they would need to move far beyond the domestic sphere. Combining domesticity with religious and social empowerment, these enterprising women set out to reform the world through missions, temperance, and social purity reform.7 Methodist women were often at the forefront of these social enterprises. With her activist work in temperance and social purity reform, Southard was no exception.8

Even as women found they could justify the expansion of their activities, the domestic ideal nonetheless constrained women’s activities and identities in significant ways. For women to claim social power, they needed to conform to the contours of the domestic ideal—an ideal sometimes difficult, if not impossible, to attain—and an ideal that Southard increasingly came to believe conflicted with the expansive understanding of Christian womanhood she found in the Scriptures. She sought through her theological writings to divest motherhood of its religious import, a crucial step in her efforts to construct a Christian foundation for women’s rights.9

The greatness of man and the glories of womanhood

Even as she fashioned a career combating the social and religious elevation of domesticity and motherhood, Southard’s personal journals reveal a more conflicted relationship with the domestic ideal. Though she felt God had called her to public ministry, privately, she yearned to experience the love of a husband and the “dream of motherhood.”10 Throughout her career, she struggled to reconcile the choices she had made to pursue an unconventional woman’s life with the inner longings she fought to keep at bay. In her youth, she had turned down suitors because she felt she did not love them with the depth of love necessary for a true marriage, and she later reflected how she had been “too absorbed in intellectual and spiritual life, in public service” to consider marriage at that time, noting that she likely “would have chafed under its sacrifices.” Instead, she wanted “to be great (and have the right to do great things) as man is great.” By the time she was in her thirties, however, her longing for some of the traditional “glories of womanhood” had intensified, conflicting with her call to public service.11

In her journals during this period, she tells of a “dull pain” that was always with her, a longing for a home, a husband, and children. Her pain was intensified by her belief that God had “gently whispered” to her that she would have “this gift, this glory of motherhood.” As the years went by, she struggled to keep faith: “My soul cries out again, almost in anguish, that I too may share in this most wonderful gift,” she wrote. “Sometimes I have been joyously confident,” she reflected, “other times as of late, I fight for this faith, as dying people fight for breath.” In a moment of despair, she called into question her pursuit of masculine greatness: “I could not then see the greatness of a woman’s life, as God planned it,” she lamented.12

Southard’s inner conflict ultimately led to a breakdown in 1910, during which time she temporarily ceased her public activities.13 Even as she returned to her work, devoting herself to Christian ministry and to advancing the cause of women in the Methodist Church, the depth of pain she poured out in her journals poignantly testified to the difficulties she faced in reconciling her devotion to God’s call with her inner longings, and reveals the difficulty she faced in constructing a model of Christian womanhood that departed from traditional Victorian ideals.14

The Attitude of Jesus toward Woman

In 1917, in order to wrestle with these tensions on a theological level and develop the tools she would need to fashion a sophisticated biblical foundation for women’s rights, Southard enrolled in graduate studies at Garrett Biblical Institute in Evanston, Illinois.15 At Garrett, she delved into the study of modern theological methods and acquainted herself with the long history of women’s oppression: “Poor womanhood,” she reflected in her journal, “how it has suffered, too ignorant often to know that it was crushed under injustice . . . carrying the world on its breast, yet crushed under the world’s feet.” Southard was left to ponder how “a Christian God has been able to let a world go on like this.”16 But her biblical studies confirmed her conviction that Christ was “woman’s only emancipation”; it was “only the idealism of Jesus reaching large numbers of men,” she insisted, that “could make a world where women dare be free.”17

Southard articulated her biblical defense of women’s rights in her master’s thesis, published in 1927 as The Attitude of Jesus toward Woman. In that book, she contended that the New Testament, properly understood, contradicted conventional views of womanhood that defined women in terms of their domestic roles as wives and mothers. Instead, she argued that a biblical view of womanhood demanded that women not be seen primarily as creatures of relationships, but rather as persons with relationships. For centuries, Southard explained, a woman had been considered “the creature of her sex-relationships and of the resultant blood relationships.” As such, a woman’s status had been determined by her being “the wife, mother, daughter, concubine or mistress of some man,” but not as “a person in herself.”18 But her work in temperance and social purity had convinced her that this view of womanhood put women at risk.19 Familiarity with women who fell under the hard hand of the “law of chastity” had educated Southard on the spurious nature of men’s “protection”: “when men think of women as primarily the creatures of their sex relationships and of their blood relationships,” while denying them any sense of equality with men, “they may love their own women, their wives, their mothers, their sisters and their daughters,” and they might “go to great lengths to please women who attract them and from whom they wish to secure favors,” but, outside such circles, she reflected, “they are rude to women with a rudeness that easily slips into cruelty.”20

Southard insisted that the Scriptures neither depicted women as dependent upon men for their protection or for their identities, nor did God’s word celebrate the nuclear family and women’s domestic duties. In fact, Southard maintained, the Bible taught the very opposite. The strongest evidence for this could be found in the teachings of Jesus, she claimed; indeed, rather than exalting the family ideal, Jesus himself stated that he had come to set family members against each other, declaring that “He that loveth father or mother . . . son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt 10:37) and that “If any man cometh to me and hateth not his own father and mother, his wife and children, and brethren and sisters . . . he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).21 Could Jesus have meant “this drastic teaching to apply to women whose first duty was commonly supposed to be to fulfill their feminine relationships?” Southard asked. Could he possibly “believe women mentally capable of reaching conclusions and making decisions that might have such far-reaching results?”22

Her examination of the biblical accounts of Jesus’s life and teachings convinced her that he did indeed expect women to make such divisive choices. In fact, when he predicted in both Matthew and Luke the strife his message would bring to families, Jesus had given one illustration involving men, and two of women.23 To Southard it was clear that “every woman, as every man, must make the supreme decision, putting the will of God before every human relationship.”24 In fact, Southard contended that in every instance recorded in the New Testament “where Jesus reproved women, it was for failure to subordinate their feminine interests to their interests as citizens of the kingdom of God.”25 The Scriptures plainly demonstrated that Jesus “persistently set Himself against woman’s own belief that she was primarily a female, a creature of domestic relationships,” and instead “demanded of her that she realize herself to be a self-determining person, responsible for the exercise of the highest intellectual and spiritual faculties.”26

Southard recognized that one of the primary obstacles to seeing women as citizens of the kingdom of God rather than as creatures of their domestic relationships was the celebration of motherhood that had long flourished in American culture. In The Attitude of Jesus, Southard wrote extensively on motherhood, taking pains to depict it as a biological process rather than a moral condition or a spiritual identity.27 In her attempt to strip motherhood of its religious significance, she turned to the gospels’ descriptions of Jesus’s relationship to his own mother—a relationship that contradicted at nearly every turn any idealization of a mother’s role. Theologians had long puzzled over the Savior’s treatment of his mother, she pointed out, citing one scholar’s recognition that it seemed “somewhat remarkable” that “on every occasion in the active ministry of Jesus where Mary plays a part she receives a measure of rebuke from her divine Son.”28 But Southard drew attention to the fact that, in each case where Christ reproached his mother, Mary as mother could be seen “taking precedence over Mary the disciple.”29

Southard recounted, for example, the story of the young Jesus remaining behind at the temple in Jerusalem, and his bewilderment at his mother’s inability to understand that his place was not with his earthly parents.30 Southard wrote, too, of the account of Jesus’s first miracle at the wedding celebration in Cana. Although he turned water into wine at his mother’s request, he first rebuked her, a move that frequently troubled scholars.31 Jesus’s response, Southard noted, resembled “the Boy’s cry of hurt surprise” when his mother had failed to understand him years before at the temple; while Mary was concerned with social embarrassment, Jesus was focused on the public ministry he was about to commence. Indeed, other scholars had suggested that Cana represented Jesus’s “passing from human to divine relationships,” and noted that, as he began his ministry, “Mary was losing her Son.” 32

That Mary failed to understand her son’s ministry is further evidenced by the fact that, soon after the wedding at Cana, she and Jesus’s brothers disappear for a time from the gospel accounts. When they eventually reappear, Jesus responds by asking: “Who is my mother? And who are my brothers?” (Matt 12:48). Stretching his hand toward his disciples, he then declares: “Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever will do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother and sister and mother” (Matt 12:49–50).33 As Southard explained, Mary’s troubled and anxious mother-love signified that she had “lost spiritual fellowship with her Son.”34 But, a tie of kinship more binding than blood had superseded the mother-son relationship, and even his gentleness would not soften the severe rebuke for those who challenged this new reality. Jesus’s separation from his mother was not inevitable, Southard insisted, nor was it the will of the son; rather, Jesus intensely desired his mother to “accompany Him in spirit” into the great adventure of his ministry.35 She contended that his family’s lack of understanding grieved the savior: “It was not from some height of unmoved calm but from the depths of pain in His own heart that Jesus stated so often the renunciation of father, mother, brothers, sisters, wife, children that His followers would find necessary.”36 Male commentators, however, tended to overlook this fact, commending rather than condemning Mary’s misdirected mother-love.37

Southard also turned to a story from the Gospel of Luke, where “a certain woman out of the multitude” called out to Jesus: “Blessed is the womb that bare thee and the breasts which thou didst suck” (Luke 11:27). “‘A certain woman out of the multitude’—and for what a multitude was she spokesman!” Southard remarked. “Blessed the woman who brings forth and suckles a great man,” she added, but, “let others train his mind, walk in the company of his soul, she may rest content in the physiological fact of reproduction.”38 Southard insisted that it was precisely this widespread cultural sentiment that Jesus challenged: “Yea, rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it” (Luke 11:28). As Southard explained, Christ “assented to the blessedness of physical motherhood, but He would not have her rest content with that.” Indeed, “no fulfillment of biological function however important, no relationship growing out of that fulfillment, even to motherhood of the Messiah, can take the place of the soul’s responsibility to God.” In this sense, Jesus “forever puts woman under the same direct responsibility to God as is man,” and motherhood could not serve as a substitute for that.39 Jesus was insistent that “women should let nothing, not even their devotion to their offspring, come before their responsibility as persons to a personal God.”40

Southard drew attention as well to Jesus’s rebuke of “the mother of Zebedee’s children,” who brought her sons to Jesus and asked that one would sit “on thy right hand and the other on thy left in the kingdom.” Jesus answered curtly, “Ye know not what ye ask” (Matt 20:21–22). Southard pointed out how the woman here was introduced not as Salome, as she was elsewhere in the New Testament, but as “the mother of Zebedee’s children,” defined by her “ambition as a mother” rather than as a citizen of the kingdom. Though many commentators on this text had considered her maternal affection and ambition “if not a laudable at least a natural quality in mothers, to be treated with the utmost leniency,”41 Southard took issue with this interpretation, observing that “this attitude found short shrift at the hands of Jesus who Himself had suffered so intensely from the renunciation of family ties.” Although she conceded that there was a “marvelous and beautiful unselfishness of motherhood,” she insisted that “every great virtue is shadowed by its special vice.” The “pride of unconsecrated motherhood” could do much harm, she argued: “When the desire for the success of one’s own offspring makes one willing to trample roughshod over the rights of others’ offspring,” the beauty of motherhood became perverted; a mother’s ambition for her children, she asserted, “was only selfishness one degree removed.”42

The family did not exist for its own sake, Southard contended, but rather to prepare people to serve God and others.43 Parenthood, she conceded (pointedly including fathers as well as mothers), did play an important societal role, and was indeed “intended to have an ultimate and spiritual meaning,” but that end could be achieved only “when the parent, taken out of self-centeredness first by its own child, passes from that to tenderness for all children everywhere, and through them for all humanity.” If parenthood failed to realize this goal in some sense, “this pure spring of living water may fall back into its own pool to become stagnant and fetid.”44 Jesus did not come to destroy the family, she concluded, but rather to establish it upon a “firm and wholesome basis.” Family affection needed both to be subordinated to individuals’ devotion to Christ and, at the same time, enlarged to include “the household of faith.”45

Southard not only believed that the celebration of female domesticity kept women from fully participating in the kingdom of God, but she was also convinced that shared domestic responsibilities would lead to a more egalitarian and productive society. Despite her intense desire to experience motherhood, Southard relished her freedom from women’s traditional tasks. Unencumbered by traditional domestic duties, she was able to support herself and at times her extended family through her preaching and public speaking engagements. Yet, she was well aware of the fact that women were often discouraged from pursuing professional activities because of their household obligations. Critics of female preaching, for instance, argued that “woman was made for the home, and everything goes to smash when she gives energy to anything else.”46 Southard, however, believed that “the franchise, industrial independence, even education” were but means to achieve broader social equality between men and women, the equal division of domestic, moral, religious, and vocational opportunities,47 and she worked to envision new family arrangements that would free women from the burdens of housework. She looked forward, for example, to a time “when housework can be disposed of in five hours, leaving time enough for every woman to have as wide a life as men,”48 and she advocated shared parental duties, noting that the “old theory that the home was entirely the woman’s sphere makes some women petty tyrants there, while some careless men shift all responsibility except that of the pay-check.”49

A “liberal conservative”

Southard’s views on domesticity and motherhood set her apart from the majority of her Protestant contemporaries, and, throughout the 1920s, she struggled to find her place within the changing landscape of American Protestantism. In December of 1923, just as “the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy [was] raging in all the churches,” Southard considered how she would position herself along the spectrum. After some deliberation, she concluded that she would call herself a “liberal conservative,” though she felt compelled to add: “what would I have done in my college years had any one dared call me a conservative!” Refusing to choose between revivalism and intellectualism, between an emphasis on personal salvation and Social Gospel teaching, Southard was bemused by the “big fight” tearing apart the churches, and by the lack of humility evidenced by all sides.

In the midst of the famous Scopes Trial of 1925, Southard worked to distance the IAWM from the divisive controversy. The organization, she made clear, was both “Evangelical and Inter-denominational,” liberal and conservative—liberal in the sense that, on many controversial issues, “we think and let think,” yet conservative in their evangelical convictions, and in their rejection of “the extreme liberal interpretation of Christianity.”50 The organization had, “by common consent,” avoided “speculative matters” and sought instead to absorb itself in “practical activities and above all in the fellowship that comes from personal allegiance to Jesus Christ.” Rather than embroiling themselves in doctrinal controversies, however important, Southard reminded her readers that members of the IAWM had “enough to fight, to secure rights for women in the churches.”51

Perhaps most significantly, Southard was profoundly troubled by the increasing tensions in American Protestantism between those committed to social action and those who emphasized personal conversion and individual religious experience. She identified herself as “a passionate preacher of the social Gospel” who worked to love her neighbor “at both short and long range in all the human relationships of domestic social, industrial, racial, national, and international life.” But this social vision had not lessened, but rather increased her “desire for the salvation of individual souls.” She distinguished herself from those who “disdain the theology of evangelical Christianity” and “sneer at the ‘saving of souls’ as individualistic and plead for a social religion that does not bother with anything so out of date as ‘souls,’” for she considered personal salvation “inseparably linked up with the reality of sin, the incarnation and atonement and the resurrection of Christ.”

By attempting to “combine the individual and the social message of our Gospel,” Southard stood against prevailing religious trends.52 Historians have identified the “Great Reversal” that took place in early twentieth-century American Protestantism, with conservatives increasingly abandoning social reform and liberals embracing social reform, but abandoning a biblical foundation for their work in favor of modern scientific expertise.53 The effects of these developments on Protestant women, who had long exercised considerable authority in the realm of evangelical social reform, should not be underestimated. Indeed, Southard attributed her combination of the individual and social messages of Christianity to her position as a Christian woman, and she blamed the diminishing space in American Protestantism for those who combined both messages on the ongoing marginalization of women in Protestant churches.54“The social aspects of the message of Jesus make a strong appeal to the hearts of women,” Southard wrote in 1919; but, due in part to the church’s treatment of women, the conversionist and activist aspects of Christianity were becoming increasingly disconnected. Had the church embraced the social and religious work of women, she asserted, “who can say how much farther along both the Church and social reforms would be today?” Southard believed that, had women been allowed to take their proper positions in the churches, it was “quite probable that these two aspects of the Gospel would not have become so estranged.”55

Toward a tradition of progressive Methodism

Although Southard’s book failed to reach a wide readership in her own time, and she would be remembered largely for her institutional work rather than her theology, her work remains significant today. As a compelling model of “biblical feminism,” her writings have the potential to resonate with evangelical Christians today seeking a biblical foundation for egalitarian views on gender and family. At the same time, her work testifies to a robust tradition of Methodist thought that has often been overlooked in light of the polarization framework that divides twentieth-century Protestantism into liberal and conservative camps. Southard stands firmly in a tradition of progressive evangelical Christianity, crafted in no small part by Methodist women, that stretches from nineteenth-century social reform to the twentieth-century civil rights movement and the resurgence of American feminism in the 1960s and 1970s.56 One need only scratch the surface of these movements to find Methodist women—black and white—carrying on the tradition of progressive Christian social action. In many ways, Southard bridges two eras of dynamic Methodist social activism. By recovering her legacy, we can better see the often overlooked role of progressive Christianity in twentieth-century America.

  1. The Methodist Church granted the ordination of women as local ministers in 1924, but did not give them full membership in the General Conference until 1956.
  2. Mark Chaves, “The International Association of Women Ministers,” in Women and Twentieth-Century Protestantism, ed. Margaret Bendroth and Virginia Brereton (Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2002), 265. The name of the association has changed five times: “Association of Women Preachers of the United States of America (1922); Association of Women Preachers (1933); American Association of Women Preachers (1936); American Association of Women Ministers (1943); and International Association of Women Ministers (1970)” (274).
  3. Although Southard was never ordained, and she did not undertake a serious study of theology until she was nearly forty years old, she was in steady demand as a preacher and speaker throughout the Midwest. It was not until 1920 that she realized that the preaching she had been doing was in fact against Methodist discipline (Journal, Dec. 27, 1923, M. Madeline [Mabel Madeline] Southard Papers, ca. 1878–1998; Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA). From 1925 to 1927, Southard taught at Taylor University in Indiana and later served as a missionary in the Philippines.
  4. M. Madeline Southard, The Attitude of Jesus toward Woman (New York, NY: George H. Doran, 1927).
  5. A. Gregory Schneider, The Way of the Cross Leads Home: The Domestication of American Methodism (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1993), xxii–xxvii.
  6. See Nancy Hardesty, Lucile Dayton, and Donald Dayton, “Women in the Holiness Movement: Feminism in the Evangelical Tradition,” in Women of Spirit: Female Leadership in the Jewish and Christian Traditions, ed. Rosemary Ruether and Eleanor McLaughlin (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1979), 225–54.
  7. See, for example, Barbara Epstein, The Politics of Domesticity: Women, Evangelism, and Temperance in Nineteenth-Century America (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1981).
  8. “Social purity” encompassed abolishing prostitution, raising the age of consent, promoting sex education, censoring “obscene” materials, and opposing contraception and abortion. For reformers like Southard, at the heart of social purity was an opposition to the sexual double standard that held women to far higher standards of purity than men. Southard published two books on purity, The White Slave Traffic versus the American Home (1914) and The Christian Message on Sex (1931). On social purity, see David J. Pivar, Purity Crusade: Sexual Morality and Social Control, 1868–1900 (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1973).
  9. Journal, July 20, 1919, and July 30, 1919.
  10. Journal, July 20, 1919; see also July 12, 1912.
  11. Journal, July 4, 1910.
  12. Journal, July 4, 1910.
  13. Journal, July 4, 1910.
  14. Journal, July 4, 1910; see also Aug. 18, 1914; May 15, 1899; July 20, 1919; and Jan. 1, 1924.
  15. Journal, June 19, 1919.
  16. Journal, June 11, 1919.
  17. Journal, Oct. 2, 1922.
  18. Southard, Attitude, 15.
  19. Southard, Attitude, 79.
  20. Southard, Attitude, 100.
  21. Southard, Attitude, 51.
  22. Southard, Attitude, 51.
  23. Southard, Attitude, 52. Southard cited Matt 10:34–37 and Luke 12:51–53, and also drew attention to Matt 12:50.
  24. Southard, Attitude, 66.
  25. Southard, Attitude, 53.
  26. Southard, Attitude, 78. Here, she cited J. B. Lightfoot and added that “Jesus, far from denying family ties, yearned for this family fellowship in His own life. He felt that His mother could understand Him if she would subordinate her human love for Him enough to grasp and accept God’s will for Him. He greatly longed for her to do this” (Attitude, 66).
  27. Southard acknowledged that “as the female of the species woman has certain relationships associated with the biological function of reproduction” (Attitude, 15) and noted that “human beings have the same biological processes as other animals” (Attitude, 14). What distinguished humans from animals was personality, which was largely being denied women.
  28. Southard, Attitude, 53. Southard cited Thomas E. Miller’s Portraits of Women of the New Testament (London: Allenson, 1916), 21; Walter F. Adeney, too, had reached a similar conclusion, discovering that “every time Mary appears in the history of her Son it is to receive some thrust of pain” (Adeney, Women of the New Testament [New York, NY: E. R. Herrick, 1899], 14).
  29. Southard, Attitude, 54.
  30. Southard, Attitude, 55; see Luke 2:46–51.
  31. Jesus said to Mary, “Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come” (John 2:4).
  32. Southard, Attitude, 59. Southard quoted David Smith’s The Days of His Flesh (London: Hodder and Stoughten, 1910), 54, and Adeney, Women of the New Testament, 18.
  33. Southard, Attitude, 59–62; here Southard drew on Matt 12:46–50; Mark 3:21, 31–35; and Luke 8:19–20.
  34. Southard, Attitude, 63.
  35. Southard, Attitude, 59.
  36. Southard, Attitude, 65. Agreeing with Alfred E. Garvie’s Studies in the Inner Life of Jesus (New York, NY: Armstrong, 1907), 160–61, she found that his mother’s failure to understand “must have been a very severe trial,” instilling a desolate loneliness reflected in his pronouncement, “foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head” (Southard, Attitude, 65–66). She cited Garvie’s chapter “The Surrender of Home” as one of “remarkable insight.”
  37. “Even so fine a spirit as George Matheson,” Southard noted, “utterly misconceives” the matter of Mary’s relationship to Jesus, considering her mission to have been “not the guidance of His spiritual nature, but the guidance of His physical nature.” But Jesus longed for his mother’s sympathy, Southard pointed out, and rebuked her for anything less. Perhaps he lived to see the spiritual ties connect him with his mother, she surmised, for accounts of his crucifixion placed her at the cross and also at Pentecost, when she would be united with her son in a spiritual family (Southard, Attitude, 67–68).
  38. Southard, Attitude, 69.
  39. Southard, Attitude, 69.
  40. Southard, Attitude, 104.
  41. Southard, Attitude, 70–71.
  42. Southard, Attitude, 71.
  43. Southard, Attitude, 65. Here, she cited James Strahan in Hastings’ Encyclopedia, Vol. V, 727.
  44. Southard, Attitude, 71–72.
  45. Southard, Attitude, 51, 66.
  46. Woman’s Pulpit 1, no. 5 (July 1923): 3.
  47. Woman’s Pulpit 1, no. 2 (Sept. 1922): 3.
  48. “Woman Preachers’ Head urges Five-Hour Day for Housework,” Erie (PA) Times, Aug. 30, 1928. See also Journal, July 11, 1921.
  49. Woman’s Pulpit 1, no. 2 (Sept. 1922): 2. Southard added that few men could likely “stand the steady drain of child care twenty-four hours a day the year round.”
  50. “The Controversy in Tennessee,” Woman’s Pulpit 2, no. 3 (July 1925): 1. For example, the IAWM did not admit Unitarian liberals to membership, though it did welcome such women into their fellowship; the organization also excluded Pentecostal women preachers.
  51. Southard, “A Personal Letter Concerning a Personal Experience,” Woman’s Pulpit 2, no. 3 (July 1925): 3. See also “The Fight is Still On,” Woman’s Pulpit 2, no. 4 (Oct. 1925): 3. Southard’s reluctance to side with either fundamentalists or modernists was typical of many holiness Methodists, as Susie C. Stanley notes in “Wesleyan/Holiness Churches: Innocent Bystanders in the Fundamentalist/Modernist Controversy,” in Re-Forming the Center: American Protestantism, 1900 to the Present, ed. Douglas Jacobsen and William Vance Trollinger, Jr. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998), 172–93. Jean Miller Schmidt, too, makes this point in Souls or the Social Order: The Two-Party System in American Protestantism (Brooklyn, NY: Carlson, 1991), 173.
  52. Letter from Southard addressed to “Comrades of the Cross,” Apr. 11, 1935, Southard Papers.
  53. See, for example, George M. Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism 1870–1925 (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1980), 91–92; David O. Moberg, The Great Reversal: Evangelism versus Social Concern (Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott, 1972); and Donald Dayton, Discovering an Evangelical Heritage (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1976).
  54. In her study of the WCTU, historian Nancy G. Garner describes how members “avoided the dichotomy between the conservative theological insistence on individual salvation and the more liberal emphasis on societal welfare” (“The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union: A Woman’s Branch of American Protestantism,” in Re-Forming the Center: American Protestantism, 1900 to the Present, ed. Douglas Jacobsen and William Vance Trollinger, Jr., 271–83 [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998], 277).
  55. Southard, “Woman and the Ministry,” 1919 (pamphlet in Southard Papers). She pointed out that women who would have combined social reform with passionate Christianity had frequently been prevented from doing so within Protestant churches. “An amazing amount of social reform has been brought about since women have had some part in municipal and educational affairs,” she conceded, but “the loss on this line that the church has sustained through its resolute closing of the ministry to women is beyond estimate.” Women like Frances Willard, Southard reminded her readers, had initially wanted to enter the ministry. But, as the Methodist church did not open the pulpit to women at that time, Willard instead turned to reform work. Reflecting on Willard’s career with the WCTU, one minister concluded that “Miss Willard did a far greater work than if she had been in the pulpit.” But Southard challenged this assertion. Southard noted that the church had just begun to awaken “to its loss in allowing certain great social impulses born of the Christian spirit to crystallize in secular movements which are indifferent, sometimes hostile, to formulated Christianity.”
  56. See, for example, Alice Knotts, Fellowship of Love: Methodist Women Changing American Racial Attitudes, 1920–1968 (Nashville, TN: Kingswood, 1996); Ellen Blue, St. Mark’s and the Social Gospel: Methodist Women and Civil Rights in New Orleans, 1895–1965 (Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 2011); Nancy Robertson, Christian Sisterhood, Race Relations, and the YWCA, 1906–56 (Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2010); Ann Braude, “A Religious Feminist—Who Can Find Her? Historiographical Challenges from the National Organization for Women,” Journal of Religion 84, no. 4 (Oct. 2004): 555–72.

2014. “Selfishness One Degree Removed: Madeline Southard’s Desacralization of Motherhood and a Tradition of Progressive Methodism,” Priscilla Papers 28, no. 2 (Spring 2014): 17-22.

Priscilla Papers Logo

Leave a Reply