Review Of "Theology And Women's Ministry In Seventeenth-Century English Quakerism: Handmaids Of The Lord" By C. M. Wilcox

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Wilcox argues that early Quakers' attitudes to women resulted from their confidence in the dawning new age of Christ's rule on earth. Adam's fall created a realm of sin (and male authority), but Christ's inward return allowed a restoration of humanity to original innocence when women and men were spiritual helpmates. Gender lost importance because now Christ spoke through both sexes. Friends' apocalyptic vision legitimized women's disrupting the social order, confronting authorities, and prophesying. After the 1660 restoration of Charles II, Quakers replaced millennial hopes with the Inward Light of Christ as an eternal principle. Endurance and persuasion replaced defiance, and the resulting conservatism weakened the power of Quaker women. By 1700, Friends preserved traces of their original vision by allowing "Mothers in Israel" to preach, write, and organize Women's Meetings. Wilcox focuses on Quaker theology and biblical exegesis, not social history. She relies on published Quaker tracts, most written by males, and ignores meeting minutes and other manuscript materials. Neither Bonnelyn Kunze's 1987 dissertation on Margaret Fell (CH, Jul'94) nor Phyllis Mack's Visionary Women (CH, Sep'93) is cited--a regrettable omission, since they provide alternative perspectives for the role of Quaker women. For collections specializing in women's or religious history. Graduate; faculty.


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