In Silenced: The Forgotten Story of Progressive Era Free Methodist Women, Christy Mesaros-Winckles delves into the gender debates within the Free Methodist Church of North America during the Progressive Era (1890-1920). This interdisciplinary work draws on narrative research and gender studies to reconstruct the lives of forgotten women who served as Free Methodist evangelists and deacons, examining their writings and speeches to illustrate how they promoted and defended their ministries. Mesaros-Winckles argues that the history of Free Methodist women is a microcosm of the struggle for recognition and acceptance faced by women across numerous evangelical traditions, especially amidst rising fundamentalism at the turn of the twentieth century. This book provides an important contribution to the fields of American history, theology, media studies, and gender studies, and will also be of interest to rhetorical history and communication theory scholars.
Christy Mesaros-Winckles is an associate professor in the Communication Arts and Sciences Department at Adrian College.
Chapter One: The Intersectionality of the Experiences of Progressive Era Women Preachers
Chapter Two: Trailblazing Free Methodist Women Evangelists
Chapter Three: “The Woman Question” in The Free Methodist 1886-1891
Chapter Four: The 1890 and 1894 General Conference Debates on Women’s Ordination
Chapter Five: Shifting Narratives on Women’s Role in The Free Methodist 1894-1915
Chapter Six: Cementing Women’s Roles: The Deaconess Order and Ordination as Deacons
Chapter Seven: A Twist & Then Finally Acknowledgment: The 1915 and 1974 General Conferences
Chapter Eight: Where We Are Now: Current Concerns About Women’s Acceptance in Ministry
Appendix One: 1894 Annual Conference Vote on Women’s Ordination
Appendix Two: Longitudinal Data on Free Methodist Women Evangelists 1880-1920
Appendix Three: Free Methodist Deaconesses and Female Deacons 1907-1920
Silenced reincorporates the neglected lives of Free Methodist women into the church's history and identity. Dr. Mesaros-Winckles inspires lament, hope, repentance, and courage as she helps today's disciples imagine faithful ministry in this next chapter of the Free Methodist story.
Silenced effectively utilizes narrative history and rhetorical analysis to uncover and evaluate the pioneering ministries of remarkable Free Methodist women preachers who remained steadfast even in the midst of denominational restrictions on them.
The stunning, terrible, powerful narrative from Mesaros-Winckles traces the struggles of women to participate equally in the Free Methodist Church, arguing convincingly that the result for women has always been and is far less than equality. The multidisciplinary pioneering work should provoke a lot of discussion, and hopefully more research on other small American churches.
In Silenced, Christy Mesaros-Winckles has recovered the stories of pathmaking women preachers while also shedding light on the shifting gender politics of their day and the obstacles they encountered in their own denomination. Silenced gives us a richer understanding of women’s religious history alongside a sense of possibility for how committed and visionary activists can inspire social change.
This ground-breaking, painstakingly-researched book on the lives, ministries, and significant contributions of Free Methodist women has been long awaited! Christy Mesaros-Winckles not only fills in massive gaps of long-forgotten women, but also she sets the standard for future scholarship on the historical and contemporary narrative of women’s roles in the Free Methodist Church.