Evangelicalism and Empowerment: Female Agency and the Age of Awakening in Colonial America, c. 1735-1810.

Will Shroyer Taylor University
Faculty Sponsor(s): Benjamin Wetzel Taylor University
The Age of Awakening would come to transform American Protestantism and reinvent Church authority. Rejecting Arminian and enlightenment influences, Puritans sought to revive Calvinistic teachings. They believed that only a revival could save the souls of their congregants and drive men back to piety. The revival they called for would be found in the Awakening. The Awakening served to build a foundation for a new experiential faith. Reviving Calvinist theology of original sin and human depravity, conversion became an individual experience and eventually came to be viewed as a radical rebirth of a sinner into a saint. By defining salvation as the experience conversion, Puritans transformed the narrative surrounding faith and the practice of the Christian life. This experiential faith empowered all individuals, not just the male clergy, to claim their voice had authority within the Church. Women’s challenge to Church authority would develop into a sophisticated apparatus built on Evangelical motifs of experiential faith and personal conversion. These motifs served to inspire discontent with traditional hierarchies as well as a movement toward increased evangelistic liberty and equality across traditional male-female boundaries. The traditional boundaries of gender roles became blurred as women advocated for greater participation within the Church. Overall, the Great Awakening provided women with a legitimate opportunity to challenge gender politics and establish a formidable witness in American Evangelicalism. The development of Puritan theology and a new narrative of conversion during the Age of Awakening were the first steps in an enduring legacy of egalitarianism in American Evangelicalism.
Oral Presentation

When & Where

01:45 PM
Jordan Hall 203