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The Robes of Womanhood: Dress and Authenticity among African American Methodist Women in the Nineteenth Century

  • Pamela E. Klassen

Abstract

Scholars of American religion are increasingly attentive to material culture as a rich source for the analysis of religious identity and practice that is especially revealing of the relationships among doctrine, bodily comportment, social structures, and innovation. In line with this focus, this article analyses the ways nineteenth-century African American Methodist women turned to dress as a tool to communicate religious and political messages. Though other nineteenth-century Protestants also made use of the communicative powers of dress, African American women did so with a keen awareness of the ways race trumped clothing in the semiotic system of nineteenth-century America. Especially for women entering into public fora as preachers and public speakers, dress could act as a passport to legitimacy in an often hostile setting, but it was not always enough to establish oneself as a Christian lady. Considering the related traditions of plain dress and respectability within the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church, this essay finds that AME women cultivated respectability and plainness within discourses of authenticity that tried—with some ambivalence—to use dress as a marker of the true soul beneath the fabric. Based primarily on the autobiographical and journalistic writings of women such as Jarena Lee, Amanda Berry Smith, Hallie Q. Brown, and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, as well as accounts from AME publications such as the Christian Recorder and the Church Review, and other church documents, the essay also draws on the work of historians of African American women and historians of dress and material culture. For nineteenth-century AME women, discourses of authenticity could be both a burden and a resource, but either way they were discourses that were often remarkably critical, both of selfmotivation and of cultural markers of class, race, and gender in a world that made a fetish of whiteness.

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Notes

For their helpful readings of various drafts of this paper, I would like to thank Michael Wayne, Carol Duncan, Stephen Ward Angell, Adrienne Hood, Leigh Schmidt, and John Marshall.

1. May Wright Sewall, The World's Congress of Representative Women: A Historical Résumé for Popular Circulation of the World's Congress of Representative Women, convened in Chicago on May 15, and adjourned on May 22, 1893, under the auspices of the Women's Branch of the World's Congress Auxiliary (Chicago: Rand, McNally, 1894), 728. For a photograph of a young Hallie Brown, see http://www.centralstate.edu/library/friends.html.

2. Brekus, Catherine A., Strangers and Pilgrims: Female Preaching in America, 1740–1845 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998); Fischer, Gayle V., Pantaloons and Power: A Nineteenth-Century Dress Reform in the United States (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2001); and Winston, Diane H., Red-Hot and Righteous: The Urban Religion of the Salvation Army (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999). On the ambiguous category of the “public” and its relation to gender in the nineteenth century, see Ryan, Mary P., Women in Public: Between Banners and Ballots, 1825–1880 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990).

3. Brekus, Strangers and Pilgrims, 188. For a similar sentiment within the AME, see Johnson, James H. A., “Woman's Exalted Station,” AME Church Review 8 (1891): 404 .

4. Lurie, Alison, The Language of Clothes (New York: Vintage, 1983). On white women's ability to play with clothing as social disguise, see Winston, Red-Hot and Righteous, 89. On African American approaches to dress more broadly, see White, Shane and White, Graham J., Stylin’: African American Expressive Culture from Its Beginnings to the Zoot Suit (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1998).

5. McDannell, Colleen, Material Christianity: Religion and Popular Culture in America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995).

6. On dress reform, see Fischer, Pantaloons and Power, and Luck, Kate, “Trouble in Eden, Trouble with Eve: Women, Trousers and Utopian Socialism in Nineteenth-Century America,” in Chic Thrills: A Fashion Reader, ed. Ash, Juliet and Wilson, Elizabeth (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 200212 .

7. Brown was a graduate of, and later a professor at, the AME institution, Wilberforce University in Ohio, and she attended the Women's Congress as an AME representative. Fisher, Vivian Njeri, “Hallie Quinn Brown,” in Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, ed. Hine, Darlene Clark, Brown, Elsa Barkley, and Terborg-Penn, Rosalyn (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994), 176–78; and Smith, Charles Spencer and Payne, Daniel Alexander, A History of the African Methodist Episcopal Church: Being a volume supplemental to A History of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (Philadelphia: Book Concern of the A.M.E. Church, 1922), 197 .

8. Higginbotham, Evelyn Brooks, Righteous Discontent: The Women's Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880–1920 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993); and Wolcott, Victoria W., Remaking Respectability: African American Women in Interwar Detroit (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001).

9. For other examples that argue for a broadly conceived African American Methodist women's tradition, see Humez, Jean M., “‘My Spirit Eye:’ Some Functions of Spiritual and Visionary Experience in the Lives of Five Black Women Preachers, 1810–1880,” in Women and the Structure of Society, ed. Harris, Barbara J. and McNamara, JoAnn K. (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1984), 129281 ; and Dodson, Jualynne, “Nineteenth-Century AME Preaching Women,” in Women in New Worlds: Historical Perspectives on the Wesleyan Tradition, ed. Thomas, Hilah F. and Keller, Rosemary Skinner (Nashville: Abingdon, 1981), 279 .

10. Maffly-Kipp, Laurie F., “Writing Our Way into History: Gender, Race, and the Creation of Black Denominational Life,” in Women and Twentieth-Century Protestantism, ed. Bendroth, Margaret Lamberts and Brereton, Virginia Lieson (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002), 179 . The Christian Recorder began publishing in 1852, and microfilm copies are only available from 1854. Some authors who wrote in a female voice used pen names, but many women wrote under their own names. See Sealander, Judith, “Antebellum Black Press Images of Women,” in Black Women in United States History, 16 vols., ed. Hine, Darlene Clark (Brooklyn: Carlson, 1990), 4: 1,212 , and Williams, Gilbert Anthony, The Christian Recorder, Newspaper of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1854–1902 (Jefferson: McFarland, 1996). I also used the AME Church Review, but it was not as rich a resource as its more populist cousin, the Christian Recorder.

11. Gravely, Will B., “African Methodisms and the Rise of Black Denominationalism,” in Reimagining Denominationalism: Interpretive Essays, ed. Mullin, Robert Bruce and Richey, Russell E. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 239–63; Lincoln, C. Eric and Mamiya, Lawrence H., The Black Church in the African American Experience (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1990), 5051, 57–58.

12. Schmidt, Leigh E., “‘A Church–Going People Are a Dress-Loving People’: Clothes, Communication, and Religious Culture in America,” Church History 58, no. 1 (1989): 44 . For one example of cross-cultural analyses of religion and dress, see Arthur, Linda, ed., Undressing Religion: Commitment and Conversion from a Cross-Cultural Perspective (Oxford: Berg, 2000).

13. Lears, T. J. Jackson, “Beyond Veblen,” in Consuming Visions: Accumulation and Display of Goods in America, 1880–1920, ed. Bronner, Simon J. (New York: W. W. Norton, 1989), 76, 96.

14. White, Deborah Gray, Ar’n't I a Woman?: Female Slaves in the Plantation South (New York: W. W. Norton, 1985). On slave women's dress, see Hunt, Patricia K., “The Struggle to Achieve Individual Expression through Clothing and Adornment: African Women under and after Slavery,” in Discovering the Women in Slavery, ed. Morton, Patricia (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996), 202–26.

15. Smith, Amanda Berry, An Autobiography: The Story of the Lord's Dealings with Mrs. Amanda Smith the Colored Evangelist (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 118 ; Higginbotham, Evelyn Brooks, “African-American Women's History and the Metalanguage of Race,” Signs 17, no. 2 (1992): 261 .

16. See Willson, Joseph and Winch, Julie, The Elite of Our People: Joseph Willson's Sketches of Black Upper-Class Life in Antebellum Philadelphia (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000).

17. On African American responses to scientific racism, see Bay, Mia, The White Image in the Black Mind: African-American Ideas about White People, 1830–1925 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000), 8687 .

18. Payne, Daniel Alexander, History of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (Nashville: Publishing House of the A.M.E. Sunday-School Union, 1891), 452–64; and Smith and Payne, A History, 127. See also Humez, “‘My Spirit Eye,’” 140; Gregg, Robert, Sparks from the Anvil of Oppression: Philadelphia's African Methodists and Southern Migrants, 1890–1940 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993), 7577 ; and Dodson, Jualynne E., “Women's Ministries and the African Methodist Episcopal Tradition,” in Religious Institutions and Women's Leadership: New Roles Inside the Mainstream, ed. Wessinger, Catherine (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1996), 132 . On white Methodists’ views, see Nash, Gary B., First City: Philadelphia and the Forging of Historical Memory (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002), 40 .

19. On dress and community formation at the turn of the twentieth century, see Joselit, Jenna Weissman, A Perfect Fit: Clothes, Character, and the Promise of America (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2001), 195 . For a later example of the malleability of clothes, religious identity, and racial stereotypes, see Duncan, Carol B., “Aunt(y) Jemima in Spiritual Baptist Experience in Toronto: Spiritual Mother or Servile Woman?” Small Axe 9 (March 2001): 97122 .

20. Andrews, William L., ed., Sisters of the Spirit (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986), 15 . See also Marsden, George M., Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism, 1870–1925 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980), 7375 ; and Collier-Thomas, Bettye, Daughters of Thunder: Black Women Preachers and Their Sermons, 1850–1979 (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998), 1617 .

21. Brekus, Strangers and Pilgrims, 185.

22. Nash, First City, 190; and Coleman, Willi, “Architects of a Vision: Black Women and Their Antebellum Quest for Political and Social Equality,” in African-American Women and the Vote, 1837–1965, ed. Gordon, Ann D. et al. (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1997), 37 .

23. Schmidt, “‘A Church-Going People,’” 40, 48. In the early decades of the nineteenth century, white Wesleyans in Philadelphia modeled their dress after plain Quakers, though they gave this up by mid-century. Maser, Frederick E., “Dress,” in Encyclopedia of World Methodism, 2 vols., ed. Harmon, Nolan B. (Nashville: United Methodist Publishing House, 1974), 1: 717–18.

24. African Methodist Episcopal Church, The Doctrine and Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, 19th rev. ed. (Philadelphia: A.M.E. Book Concern, 1888), 66. See also P. M. Lewis, “Object Worship,” Christian Recorder, June 23, 1881.

25. Payne, History of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, 348–52.

26. Brereton, Virginia Lieson, From Sin to Salvation: Stories of Women's Conversions, 1800 to the Present (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), 23 . See also Bushman, Richard L., The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities (New York: Knopf, 1992), 314–19; and Winston, Red-Hot and Righteous, 88. For an example of a conversion narrative written by a male AME preacher that does not discuss appearance and clothing, see Henry, Thomas W. and Libby, Jean, From Slavery to Salvation: The Autobiography of Rev. Thomas W. Henry of the A.M.E. Church (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1994), 89 .

27. For examples of other religious communities in which women's clothing marked religious difference, see Luck, “Trouble in Eden, Trouble with Eve,” 207; Epp, Marlene, “Carrying the Banner of Nonconformity: Ontario Mennonite Women and the Dress Question,” Conrad Grebel Review 8 (Fall 1990): 237–58.

28. Bentley, Fannie C. L., “The Women of Our Race Worthy of Imitation,” AME Church Review 6 (1889): 473–77.

29. Carby, Hazel V., Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American Woman Novelist (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 32 .

30. Bushman, The Refinement of America, 439. See also Nash, First City, 201, and Willson and Winch, The Elite of Our People.

31. Fischer, Pantaloons and Power, 142.

32. Slaves, however, were also keenly aware of the possibilities of clothing for public performances, even in some cases using cross-dressing to escape to the North, as in the case of Ellen Craft. See Garber, Marjorie B., Vested Interests: Cross Dressing and Cultural Anxiety (New York: HarperPerennial, 1993), 282–85.

33. For more on piety, sexuality, and race, see Carby, Hazel V., “‘On the Threshold of Woman's Era’: Lynching, Empire, and Sexuality in Black Feminist Theory,” Critical Inquiry 12 (Autumn 1985): 264 ; Taves, Ann, “Spiritual Purity and Sexual Shame: Religious Themes in the Writings of Harriet Jacobs,” Church History 56 (March 1987): 64 ; and Giddings, Paula, When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America (New York: Morrow, 1984), 61 .

34. Higginbotham, Righteous Discontent, 188, 195–96.

35. I. H. Welch in Angell, Stephen Ward and Pinn, Anthony B., Social Protest Thought in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1862–1939 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2000), 272 . See also Perkins, Linda M., “The Impact of the ‘Cult of True Womanhood’ on the Education of Black Women,” Journal of Social Issues, 39, no. 3 (1983): 1728 .

36. Humez, “‘My Spirit Eye,’” 133; Zilpha Elaw, Memoirs of the Life, Religious Experience, Ministerial Travels and Labours of Mrs. Zilpha Elaw, An American Female of Colour, in Sisters of the Spirit, ed. Andrews, 103.

37. Halttunen, Karen, Confidence Men and Painted Women (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982), 57, 60, 194.

38. Julia F. Early, “What Constitutes a Lady?” Christian Recorder, June 24, 1865.

39. Halttunen, Confidence Men and Painted Women, 197.

40. Lee, Jarena, Religious Experiences and Journal of Mrs. Jarena Lee (Philadelphia: self-published, 1849), 5 .

41. Julia A. J. Foote, A Brand Plucked from the Fire, in Sisters of the Spirit, ed. Andrews, 203.

42. Lee, Religious Experiences and Journal, 5.

43. Isaiah 59:17 (KJV); see also Isaiah 52:1; 61:3; Ezekiel 42:14.

44. Smith, An Autobiography, 44.

45. Ibid., 47.

46. Wesley, Charles, “Waiting at the Cross,” Hymnal of the Methodist Episcopal Church (New York: Hunt and Eaton, 1878), 186 . On AME hymnody and its relation to white Methodism, see Hum, Stephen, “‘When We Were No People, Then We Were a People’: Evangelical Language and the Free Blacks of Philadelphia in the Early Republic,” in A Mighty Baptism: Race, Gender, and the Creation of American Protestantism, ed. Juster, Susan and MacFarlane, Lisa (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1996), 235–58. On blackness and whiteness, see Smith, An Autobiography, 118; Humez, “‘My Spirit Eye,’” 134.

47. Smith, An Autobiography, 113, 110, 115.

48. For a parallel example of dress as “shield” in the lives of American Mormons, see McDannell, Material Christianity, 198–221.

49. Smith, An Autobiography, 78, 43, 79.

50. Painter, Nell Irvin, Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol (New York: W. W. Norton, 1996), 43 . For Truth's vision, see Richard Cordley, “Sojourner Truth,” Boston Congregationalist, March 3, 1880. I thank Prof. Nell Painter for this reference. On Baker, see Collier-Thomas, Daughters of Thunder, 71. On Jackson, see Jackson, Rebecca, Gifts of Power: The Writings of Rebecca Jackson, Black Visionary, Shaker Eldress, ed. Humez, Jean McMahon (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1981), 93 .

51. Lears, “Beyond Veblen,” 76. See also Shi, David, The Simple Life: Plain Living and High Thinking in American Culture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985).

52. Fischer, Pantaloons and Power, 23.

53. “Fashion—What She Does,” Christian Recorder, January 18, 1856. See also J. J. Clinton, “Reflections on Dress” Christian Recorder, November 17, 1854. For a white example, see Halttunen, Confidence Men and Painted Women, 67.

54. “Appearances,” Christian Recorder, May 4, 1861; Editorial, “White People Do So, Etc.,” Christian Recorder, March 4, 1871. See also W. Moore, “Letter,” Christian Recorder, April 4, 1855; D. Cooper, “Thoughts on Dress,” Christian Recorder, November 4, 1865; H. Darling, “Nonconformity to the World an Element of Power in the Church,” Christian Recorder, December 7, 1867; Mrs. Ira A. Collins, “Economy among Colored People,” Christian Recorder, February 15, 1877; Catherine Casey, “Women's Department,” Christian Recorder, July 11, 1878; and “Extravagance,” Christian Recorder, February 2, 1882.

55. Smith, An Autobiography, 200–201.

56. Ibid., 145–46, 110.

57. Elaw, Memoirs, 118, 107; Hardesty, Nancy A. and Israel, Adrienne, “Amanda Berry Smith: A ‘Downright, Outright Christian,’” in Spirituality and Social Responsibility: Vocational Vision of Women in the United Methodist Tradition, ed. Keller, Rosemary Skinner (Nashville: Abingdon, 1993), 64 .

58. Andrews, Sisters of the Spirit, 21.

59. Shane White and Graham White, “Slave Clothing and African-American Culture in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries,” Past and Present 148 (1995): 179. See also Gilkes, Cheryl Townsend, “‘Together and in Harness’: Women's Traditions in the Sanctified Church,” Signs 10, no. 4 (1985): 685 .

60. Lee, Religious Experience, 23. Frances Harper had similar accusations directed to her. See Hazel V. Carby quoted in Garber, Vested Interests, 267.

61. Elaw, Memoirs, 63; Andrews, Sisters of the Spirit, 21; D. H. Johnson, “Reviaal [sic] of Holiness,” Christian Recorder, May 2, 1889.

62. “To Avoid a Bad Husband,” Christian Recorder, March 16, 1861; “Which Manhood—A Word to Young Men,” Christian Recorder, July 6, 1872; “Lessons from Cox's Fate,” Christian Recorder, July 29, 1880; “Finis,” “The Dignity of Woman,” Christian Recorder, July 26, 1877; Miss E.M.L.W., “Emulation— Its Good and Bad Effects,” Christian Recorder, March 3, 1887; Lydia Maria Child, “The Present Fashions,” Christian Recorder, September 9, 1865; Harriet Beecher Stowe, “The True Standard of Dress,” Christian Recorder, July 7, 1866; and Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, “Woman's Dress,” Christian Recorder, May 22, 1873.

63. A. W. Talbert, “Dress,” Christian Recorder, June 30, 1881. On women's financial contributions to the church, see Dodson, Jualynne E., Engendering Church: Women, Power, and the AME Church (Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2002); Harley, Sharon, “For the Good of Family and Race: Gender, Work, and Domestic Roles in the Black Community, 1880–1930,” Signs 15, no. 2 (1990): 348 ; Beck, Carolyn Stickney, Our Own Vine and Fig Tree: The Persistence of the Mother Bethel Family (New York: AMS Press, 1989), 23 ; and Gregg, Sparks from the Anvil of Oppression, 123.

64. Painter, Nell Irvin, “Representing Truth: Sojourner Truth's Knowing and Becoming Known,” in This Far by Faith: Readings in African-American Women's Religious Biography, ed. Weisenfeld, Judith and Newman, Richard (New York: Routledge, 1996), 285 .

65. Ruth G., “Reply to Thoughts on Dress,” Christian Recorder, December 23, 1865. See also Mrs. M. E. Lambert, “Bon Tons,” Christian Recorder, August 16, 1877.

66. J. T. Jenifer, “Piety Compatible with Pleasure,” Christian Recorder, January 7, 1875; Gregg, Sparks from the Anvil of Oppression, 73.

67. R. Seymour, “Ought Women to be Admitted to Membership in the Legislative Bodies of the Church,” Christian Recorder, November 20, 1890.

68. “Finis,” “The Dignity of Woman”; “Bishop Ives and Wife—Their Apostacy and Present Prospects,” Christian Recorder, May 1, 1855; James Freeman Clarke, “Votes or Veils?” Christian Recorder, May 12, 1887.

69. “Before Breakfast,” Christian Recorder, July 30, 1874; “Christine,” “A Voice from the Cradle,” Christian Recorder, November 29, 1883. See also “Sensible Talks to Girls,” Christian Recorder, July 16, 1874, and Old Fogy John, “Next to Godliness,” Christian Recorder, July 25, 1889.

70. “Penny Wise,” Christian Recorder, October 21, 1880 (italics original); G. T. Strickland, “A Virtuous Woman,” Christian Recorder, September 30, 1880. On AME women's early-nineteenth-century efforts to “improve the appearance of the clergy,” see Dodson, Engendering Church, 43–44.

71. D. Ella Johnson, “Affectation,” Christian Recorder, January 12, 1893; T. G. Steward, “Colored Society,” Christian Recorder, January 11, 1877 (italics original).

72. “True to Nature,” Christian Recorder, January 11, 1894.

73. B. T. Tanner, “Three Crimes,” Christian Recorder, May 5, 1887. Tanner was editor of the Christian Recorder from 1868 to 1884. On racial hierarchies of beauty, see Sander Gilman, “Black Bodies, White Bodies: Toward an Iconography of Female Sexuality in Late Nineteenth-Century Art, Medicine, and Literature,” in “Race,” Culture and Difference, ed. James Donald and Ali Rattansi (London: Sage, 1992), 180; Higginbotham, “African-American Women's History,” 263.

74. Catharine Casey, “Our Woman's Column,” Christian Recorder, May 24, 1888.

75. Cott, Nancy F., The Bonds of Womanhood: “Woman's Sphere” in New England, 1780–1835 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977); Frances E. W. Harper, “Enlightened Motherhood: an address by Mrs. Frances E. W. Harper; before the Brooklyn Literary Society, November 15th, 1892,” Daniel Murray Pamphlet Collection (Library of Congress), at http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/murray:@field(FLD001_91898488_):@@@$REF$.

76. Lora L. Lawson, “Woman's Influence,” Christian Recorder, July 8, 1887; Virginia A. Hatcher, “Advice to Young Ladies,” Christian Recorder, November 21, 1878. See also Julia W. Mason, “What Shall We Do with Our Girls?” Christian Recorder, May 24, 1888.

77. For Harper on mothers, see F. E. W. Harper, “Mothers’ Meetings,” Christian Recorder, July 8, 1887; on her deportment and education, see Harper, Frances Ellen Watkins and Foster, Frances Smith, A Brighter Coming Day: A Frances Ellen Watkins Harper Reader (New York: Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 1990), 15 , and Foster, Frances Smith, Written by Herself: Literary Production by African American Women, 1746–1892 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993), 81 . On free produce, see Coleman, “Architects of a Vision,” 37.

78. Harper, Frances Ellen Watkins, “True Politeness and False Politeness,” in A Brighter Coming Day, ed. Harper and Foster, 400 .

79. Harper, “Enlightened Motherhood,” 4, 5.

80. Tomes, Nancy, The Gospel of Germs: Men, Women, and the Microbe in American Life (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 160 .

81. On Ida B. Wells as a supporter of respectability, though one with a rocky relationship to the AME church, see Wells, Ida B., Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells, ed. Duster, Alfreda M. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), 409 , and Townes, Emilie M., “Because God Gave Her Vision: The Religious Impulse of Ida B. Wells-Barnett,” in Spirituality and Social Responsibility, ed. Keller, , 152–55.

82. Painter, Sojourner Truth, 225. On Harper's style, see Harper and Foster, A Brighter Coming Day, 15, 17; on her struggles to gain authenticity, see Foster, Written by Herself, 81–82.

83. See Gilmore, Glenda Elizabeth, Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896–1920 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), 3 .

84. For Smith's description of being sent out of a church, see Smith, An Autobiography, 195; for Truth's account of being forcibly ejected from a streetcar, see Sojourner Truth, Narrative of Sojourner Truth (Boston: published for the author, 1875), 187; for discussions of Harper's and Wells's experiences of being sent or thrown from railway cars, see Bettye Collier-Thomas, “Frances Ellen Watkins Harper: Abolitionist and Feminist Reformer, 1825–1911,” in African-American Women and the Vote, ed. Gordon et al., 46, and Townes, “Because God Gave Her Vision,” 143.

85. For example, Banner, Lois, American Beauty (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), 14 .

86. Bushman, The Refinement of America, 437.

87. Gilkes, Cheryl Townsend, “The Politics of ‘Silence’: Dual-Sex Political Systems and Women's Traditions of Conflict in African-American Religion,” in African-American Christianity: Essays in History, ed. Johnson, Paul E. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 106–7.

88. For example, see Hale, Grace Elizabeth, Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890–1940 (New York: Pantheon, 1998), 125 . On the authority of voice, see Humez, Jean M., “Visionary Experience and Power: The Career of Rebecca Cox Jackson,” in Black Apostles: Afro-American Clergy Confront the Twentieth Century, ed. Burkett, Randall K. and Newman, Richard (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1978), 109–10; and Gilkes, “The Politics of ‘Silence,’” 106–7.

89. Harper, “Enlightened Motherhood,” 1, 6.

90. Hirschkind, Charles and Mahmood, Saba, “Feminism, the Taliban, and the Politics of Counter-Insurgency,” Anthropological Quarterly 75, no. 2 (2002): 353 .

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The Robes of Womanhood: Dress and Authenticity among African American Methodist Women in the Nineteenth Century

  • Pamela E. Klassen

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