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Women Preachers in the Bible Christian Connexion*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 July 2014

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Extract

In 1862 Mary O'Bryan Thorne, daughter of the founder of the Bible Christian Connexion and a Bible Christian local preacher, wrote in her diary: “At our East Street anniversary I spoke at 11, and Serena [her daughter] at 2:30 and 6; one was converted in the evening.” She regarded this as a routine engagement; something she had been doing since her sixteenth year, and that her daughter had every right to continue. Female traveling preachers (itinerants) were important, perhaps crucial, in establishing the Bible Christians as a separate denomination and their use was never formally abandoned. The persistence of this tradition makes their history an important case study of women preachers’ experience in nineteenth-century Britain, showing a trend toward marginalization similar to the experience of many other nineteenth-century women who sought to enter increasingly professionalized occupations open only to men. Even in the early years of the Connexion when the organizational structure was fluid and evolving, women were never on an equal footing with male preachers. With the development of a formal organization in the 1830s their numbers started to drop and the gap between male and female responsibilities widened, with women never assigned the full duties of male ministry.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © North American Conference on British Studies 2004

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Footnotes

*

I would like to thank Joan Mills for sharing her work on female Bible Christian itinerants; the Rev. Keith Parsons for copies of his transcription of Lois Thorne's diary and his biography of her; George Potter for arranging to have Serena Thorne's diary, owned by the Uniting Churches of South Australia, photocopied; librarians at the John Rylands Library, University of Manchester, particularly Gareth Lloyd, the Royal Institution, Cornwall, and Shebbear School; Connie Gates, Tom Lloyd, and Jane Ellis for research assistance. Some of the research for this article was funded by SUNY College at Brockport and United University Professions.

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