Strangers and Pilgrims

Female Preaching in America, 1740-1845

By Catherine A. Brekus

480 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 23 illus, appends., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4745-9
    Published: December 1998
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-6654-2
    Published: November 2000
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-7059-9
    Published: November 2000

Gender and American Culture

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Margaret Meuse Clay, who barely escaped a public whipping in the 1760s for preaching without a license; "Old Elizabeth," an ex-slave who courageously traveled to the South to preach against slavery in the early nineteenth century; Harriet Livermore, who spoke in front of Congress four times between 1827 and 1844--these are just a few of the extraordinary women profiled in this, the first comprehensive history of female preaching in early America.

Drawing on a wide range of sources, Catherine Brekus examines the lives of more than a hundred female preachers--both white and African American--who crisscrossed the country between 1740 and 1845. Outspoken, visionary, and sometimes contentious, these women stepped into the pulpit long before twentieth-century battles over female ordination began. They were charismatic, popular preachers, who spoke to hundreds and even thousands of people at camp and revival meetings, and yet with but a few notable exceptions--such as Sojourner Truth--these women have essentially vanished from our history. Recovering their stories, Brekus shows, forces us to rethink many of our common assumptions about eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American culture.

About the Author

Catherine A. Brekus teaches American religious history at the University of Chicago.
For more information about Catherine A. Brekus, visit the Author Page.


"A masterful overview that highlights recent advances in the study of religious women and indicts both women's historians and religious historians for failing to notice."--Christianity Today

"An important addition to our understanding of women and Christian traditions in the United States. . . . The volume adds such profundity and detail to the particulars of early preaching women's lives that it is a major contribution."--Journal of Religion

"Excellent. . . . [This book] is the first to explore a forgotten world of female evangelists, both white and black, who tried to forge a tradition of female religious leadership in early America. . . . A study which should quickly become the standard work on its subject, radically altering our understanding of America's religious past and adding new dimensions to our view of women's lives."--Journal of American Studies

"A long-awaited study that does not disappoint . . . Brekus offers a stunning example of ‘recovering voices’. . . . Strangers and Pilgrims is necessary reading for students of American religion and any women preachers today who are interested in the rich tradition of which they, perhaps unknowingly, are a part."--Journal of Ecclesiastical History

"A valuable accomplishment. Catherine Brekus has put women preachers on the religious map of early America. A reader imagines them climbing the steps to indoor pulpits or open-air platforms, to the joy of some spectators and the disgust of others. It is a compelling picture that deserves to hold the attention of scholars and general readers alike."--Journal of the Early Republic

"Brekus shows that female preachers not only participated in the evangelical fervor, but also that as women left an unforgettable mark on American religion. . . . Brekus succeeds in answering a major omission in the previous scholarship. . . . These women deserve to have their stories told again. Brekus makes their struggles compelling, and so her book is a valuable contribution to the field of American religious history."--William and Mary Quarterly