Review Of "Daughters Of Light: Quaker Women Preaching And Prophesying In The Colonies And Abroad, 1700-1775" By R. Larson

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Larson has written the first comprehensive account of the role of 18th-century Quaker women ministers. Emphasizing a collective portrait rather than any individual woman, Larson shows the importance of female ministers in expanding Quakerism, holding the movement together, and helping to initiate major reform movements of the 1750s in England and America. Although considered witches during the 1650s, within a century Quaker women ministers had become respected in the general society--even more popular than male Quaker ministers in preaching to outsiders. Those who disapproved of Quakerism nevertheless admired the natural gifts of the ministers. Sympathizers, including many "New Lights," saw the female preachers as inspired by God. Readers are left with the problem of why a struggle for women's public speaking, seemingly won in the 18th century, had to be fought again after 1830. The book's lively style, reasonable price, and many illustrations show that author and publisher aimed for a general audience. Daughters of Light will also be useful for scholars of women's history because it shows how itinerant women ministers created a visible public role, exercising authority within and outside the Quaker meeting. For the Quaker historian, the book's major value is in providing a nuanced discussion of theory and practice of women's ministry.


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