Book Review“ A New Gospel For Women: Katharine Bushnell And The Challenge Of Christian Feminism” By Kristin Kobes Du Mez (Oxford University Press, 2015) -- By: Mimi Haddad
Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 30:4 (Autumn 2016)
Article: Book Review“ A New Gospel For Women: Katharine Bushnell And The Challenge Of Christian Feminism” By Kristin Kobes Du Mez (Oxford University Press, 2015)
Author: Mimi Haddad
PP 30:4 (Autumn 2016) p. 27
A New Gospel For Women: Katharine Bushnell And The Challenge Of Christian Feminism”
By Kristin Kobes Du Mez (Oxford University Press, 2015)
President of CBE and Publisher of Priscilla Papers
At last we have a historical analysis worthy of its subject— Katharine Bushnell, who began her career as a missionary doctor in China and went on to become a theologian, missionary and perhaps the most significant gender reformer of her day. Through eight page-turning chapters, Kobes Du Mez introduces Bushnell within the context of American Protestantism where she rises to a “household word” (1). What distinguished Bushnell was her commitment to women’s emancipation as integral to Christian faith. From her work as a medical missionary, to her activism with prostitutes, to her biblical scholarship, Kobes Du Mez shows how Bushnell’s vocation was motivated by the cruelty of Christian men toward females.
Chapter 1 immerses readers in the Methodist context of Evanston, Illinois—a burgeoning paradise for women’s emancipation with its emphasis on the Holy Spirit equipping all believers regardless of skin color or gender (15). A rejection of social hierarchies embodied the mission of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Headquartered in Evanston, the WCTU created new frontiers for women globally. In this milieu, the young Bushnell had two key mentors: her neighbor Frances Willard, president of the WCTU, and Dr. James Stewart Jewell, a professor of medicine who prepped Katharine for admittance to the Chicago Women’s Medical College in 1876.
Chapter 2 expertly demonstrates how popular Christian movements (temperance, women’s missions, and abolition) pressed for a more Christian world that was also more feminist. Gender activism united a global sisterhood, blurring divisions of race and nation. Bushnell emerged on center stage, sensitized to patriarchy’s power to devalue and enslave women, and to distort the Bible for these purposes—challenges she witnessed as a missionary in China. Returning to the US, Bushnell joined forces with the WCTU to expose female sex slavery in Wisconsin and Michigan and to prosecute perpetrators. Her popularity soared and helped turn the country against prostitution.
Chapter 3 explores the partnership of leading women working around the globe “in the name of temperance and purity” (63). Alongside activists like Josephine Butler, Bushnell traveled internationally, documenting Christian complicity in the abuse of women and exposing high-level leaders. Miracles accompanied their work as their prayers challenged powers and principalities. Ultimately, they came to see how perpetrators slandered those they abused and how distorted translations of scrip...
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