Egalitarian Pioneers: Betty Friedan or Catherine Booth? -- By: Mimi Haddad

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 20:4 (Autumn 2006)
Article: Egalitarian Pioneers: Betty Friedan or Catherine Booth?
Author: Mimi Haddad

Egalitarian Pioneers:
Betty Friedan or Catherine Booth?

Mimi Haddad

MIMI HADDAD (Ph.D., University of Durham) is president of Christians for Biblical Equality. She is a founding member of the Evangelicals and Gender Study Group at the Evangelical Theological Society, and she served as the Convener of the Gender Issue Group for the 2004 Lausanne III Conference for World Evangelization.

One source of tension between egalitarians and complementarians is the frequent complementarian claim that egalitarians are the theological descendents of radical feminists such as Betty Friedan, Mary Daly, and Daphne Hampson. This is inaccurate. Egalitarians in fact see mentors in people like Catherine Booth, Jessie Penn-Lewis, Frances Willard, A. J. Gordon, Katharine Bushnell, William Baxter Godbey, Amanda Smith, Fredrik Franson, Sojourner Truth, B. T. Roberts, and Pandita Ramabai. Our theological moorings, as egalitarians, are directly linked to the first wave of feminists—people whose passion for Scripture, evangelism, and justice shaped the golden era of missions in the 1800s.1 These people not only advanced the biblical basis for the gospel service of women and people of color, but many of them also labored for the abolition of slavery and for voting rights for women.

Because there seems to be a lack of familiarity with the broad sweep of the history of Christian women, this paper will consider two matters. First, I will explore 1800 years of Christian teaching that reflected a patriarchal cultural evaluation of women as inferior, subordinate, more prone to sin, and less rational than men, in spite of examples of women who served as gifted leaders. Second, I will outline how change first took place in the 1800s, rather than with the radical feminists of the latter 1900s, as is often argued. The Christian feminists of the 1800s broke rank with generations of Christian leaders and theologians who had failed to observe the consistent teaching of Scripture not only on gender, but also on other social issues such as slavery. The first wave of feminists therefore represents a radical break with patriarchal cultural values.2 For the first time in human history Christians began articulating a biblical basis for gift-based rather than gender-based ministry. By doing so, they raised a voice of protest to a patriarchal evaluation of women and people of color as inferior to white men and as unfit for public ministry and leadership.

Thoroughly dedicated to evangelical ideals, particularly evangelism, the early feminists questioned restricting the gospel service of Christian women whose callings and abilities were firmly established on mission fields around the ...

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