Writing Unitarian and Universalist Women Back Into History: Jone Johnson

Writing UU Women Back Into History: 
An Annotated Bibliography

© 1992, 1994, 1998 Jone E. Johnson. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to make a single copy for personal use. All other uses: please contact me at jj@aeu.org for permission before using the document. 

Please note that this is not meant to be an exhaustive bibliography, but to point to some of the major works that are helpful in beginning your research efforts. Some are compendiums of biographical sketches, others help provide context: general UU history, women's religious history, general women's history, the history of movements in which many UU women were active, feminist methodology. Those that are "must-reads" (in my opinion!) are marked with a (*).

Unitarian Universalist Women

Hitchings, Catherine F., "Universalist and Unitarian Women Ministers," The Journal of the Universalist Historical Society, X, 1975.
 

These are short sketches of Unitarian and Universalist women ministers. There is an updated list as of 1985 of women ordained and/or in preliminary fellowship. The biographical sketches include UU ministry career details often missing in other sources; the bibliographic references are to liberal religious resources (e.g. the newspaper Unity) that are not referenced in most other sketches.

Earles, Beverley. "Outstanding Humanist Women -- Dora Russell in Particular." Religious Humanism, Vol. XXV No. 4 Autumn 1991.
 

Earles tells the stories of both Dora Russell and Harriet Taylor in order to outline key methodological issues in studying liberal women's history.

Tucker, Cynthia Grant. Prophetic Sisterhood: Liberal Women Ministers of the Frontier, 1880-1930. Boston: Beacon Press, 1990.
 

(*) This excellent volume provides a context of the ministry of many of our early women ministers, and detail about some of their lives. It attempts to analyze why, after the initial rapid increase in the number of women ministers, their presence in the UU ministry then diminished.

Unitarian Universalism - General

There are many fine books on Unitarian Universalist history. I have not included most of them here, but only those which serve as good starting points. You will want to research UU history at the time of your subject, in order to put her into context.

Godbey, John C. A Bibliography of Unitarian Universalist History. Chicago: Meadville/Lombard Theological School, n.d.
 

Page 98 is specifically devoted to women's UU history; other references throughout the bibliography may provide UU historical context or may include material about UU women. A helpful resource available from many libraries.

Persons, Stow. Free Religion: An American Faith. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1947. Reprinted Boston: Beacon Press, 1963.
 

The Free Religious Association drew a number of UU women activists. This is out of print, but useful to find for the context of the more radical side of UUism in the late nineteenth century.

Robinson, David. The Unitarians and the Universalists. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1985.
 

(*) The front half is helpful as a general UU history; the back half of the volume is a series of biographical sketches, including some women. Each of these sketches includes bibliographic references for the individual.

Biographical Essays, Sketches, Collections - Women

Famous American Women: A Biographical Dictionary from Colonial Times to the Present. (1035 biographies.) Robert McHenry, editor. New York: Dover, 1985. Original: New York: G. & C. Merriam Company, 1980.
 

These are short Who's Who style biographies. Unfortunately, there are no bibliographic references, although you will find the subject's own published works listed for most subjects. The women are women of accomplishment in a variety of arenas.

Notable American Women 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary: I-III. Edward T. James and Janet Wilson James, editors. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971. ISBN 0-674-62734-2
 

(*) This three-volume work, now available in soft cover for $47 from the Women's History Project, includes 1359 women, many of them liberal religious women. The bibliographic references are very helpful for defining specific resources on your subject. The biographies are a bit longer and more analytical than in Who's Who.

Notable American Women: The Modern Period. Barbara Sicherman and Carol Hurd Green, editors. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard.
 

This is a companion volume of the 3-volume work listed above, including 442 women who died between 1951 and 1975. Paper version available for $21 from the Women's History Project.

Spender, Dale. Women of Ideas and What Men Have Done to Them. London: Pandora, 1982.
 

(*) Read this only when you can afford to be angry for a while! This volume is very partisan, with two major theses: One, that the stereotype that women are only interested in the softer, emotional sides of life is mistaken, and that there have been many "women of ideas" (intellectual women) lost to "his"tory. Two, that these women have been forgotten because the men around them, sometimes deliberately but often with supportive intentions, have managed to destroy the woman's reputation. Because many of the women included are Unitarian or Universalist, the biographical source material is helpful. Also, the essays are at least as much directed towards methodological issues, and are helpful in thinking through the dilemmas of researching women's history.

Unitarian Universalist Women's Heritage Society. Compendium of Resources. Watertown, Massachusetts: UUWHS, June 1991 (3rd edition).
 

(*) Brief sketches of Unitarian and Universalist women, with some bibliographic references.

Who Was Who in America vol. I (1897-1942). Chicago: A. N. Marquis Company, 1943.
 

This and other editions are available at most libraries.

Women's Religious History: General & Methodology

Fiorenza, Elisabeth Schüssler, Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, Mary E. Hunt, Anne Llewellyn Barstow. "Roundtable Discussion: On Feminist Methodology." Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 1 (1985): 73-88.
 

It is useful to consider the methodology of doing UU women's history from a feminist perspective. Although this forum does not address the UU particulars of this question, it does bring out some of the important issues and considerations.

Journal of Women’s History: Guide to Periodical Literature. Compiled by Gayle V. Fischer. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992.
 

This is a review of literature in the field of women’s history from 1980 to 1990. It includes material from more obscure resources than are found in Reader’s Guide, for example. The introduction includes a discussion on methodology in women’s history and a description of the stagest of development of women’s history as a discipline. Scan the pages under "biographies," for instance, for a particular name. Or look up under the many subject areas included, from Africa to Work.

Ruether, Rosemary Radford and Rosemary Skinner Keller. Women and religion in America: Vol. 1: the nineteenth century: a documentary history. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1981.

. Ruether, Rosemary Radford and Rosemary Skinner Keller. Women and religion in America: Vol 2: the colonial and revolutionary periods: a documentary history. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983.

Ruether, Rosemary Radford and Rosemary Skinner Keller. Women and religon in America: Vol. 3: 1900-1968: a documentary history. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986.
 

(*) These three volumes include short methodological and historical essays and many short selections from primary sources: letters, journals, sermons, other writings. The emphasis is on diversity, including lay and clergy; indigenous peoples, African American women as well as European American (and not just Northern European); religious diversity (liberal/conservative, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, some on indigenous peoples, civil religion. Although almost all material is oriented to the US, there are chapters in Vol. 2 that deal with French America and Spanish America.

Women's History

Evans, Sara M. Born for Liberty. New York: The Free Press, 1989.
 

A helpful overview; since many UU women are referenced, this helps to put them into context.

A History of Women in the West. 5 volumes. 4. Emerging feminism from revolution to world war. Geneviève Fraisse and Michelle Perrot, editors. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press, 1993.
 

A variety of essays on women’s experience in the US as well as in Europe during the described periods, but is also a documentary on changing perspectives on women.  (There is also bibliographic material in other volumes, especially 3 and 5, relevant to this list.)

Women's History: Specific Issues

Against the tide: pro-feminist men in the United States 1776-1990: a documentary history. Michael S. Kimmel and Thomas E. Mosmiller, ed. Boston: Beacon Press, 1992.
 

A helpful book in documenting the relationship of men -- and many with UU and FRA connections are included -- with women’s rights issues.

Arnaud, A. J. and E. Kingdom. Women’s Rights and the Rights of Man. Enlightenment, Rights, and Revolution Series. Glasgow: Aberdeen University Press, 1990.
 

An exploration of a variety of women’s issues connected with the political and philosophical ideas about rights and revolution that grew out of the Enlightenment.

Bordin, Ruth. Woman and Temperance: the Quest for Power and Liberty 1873-1900. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1990. (originally Temple University Press, 1981.)
 

The temperance movement was important to women's religious history, and some UU women were active in it (especially in Massachusetts: Mary Livermore and others). To consider the relationship of what UU women were doing to what other religious women were doing, studies such as this one may be important to your research.

Braude, Ann. Radical Spirits: Spiritualism and Women's Rights in Nineteenth Century America. Boston: Beacon Press, 1989.
 

An example of the connections between a religious movement and a social movement through the women involved in both. Many Universalists were Spiritualists; some Unitarians also.

Flexner, Eleanor. Century of Struggle: the Woman's Rights Movement in the United States. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1959, revised 1975.
 

Originally published 4 years before Friedan's The Feminist Mystique, this book demonstrates that women's history was not completely ignored until the revived feminist movement! As with most histories of the women's movement, many UU women are highlighted.

Foster, Catherine. Women for All Seasons: the Story of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Athens, Georgia: The University of Georgia Press, 1989.
 

A history of a social movement that included many liberal religious women.

Fuller, Margaret. Woman in the Nineteenth Century and Other Writings. Oxford University Press, 1994.
 

Arguably the most accepted woman in the development of the Transcendentalist ideas, and thought by many of her time to be one of the most influential women yet to have lived, Margaret Fuller’s analysis of the state of women is a must-read.

If you can find a copy of the proceedings of the Woman's Congress from the Columbian Exposition, 1893, you will find many liberal religious women included. Some of them also spoke at other Columbian Exposition events: The World's Parliament of Religions, the Unitarian Congress, the Free Religious Congress, etc. These proceedings are in some libraries. Here are some of the references:
 

The World's Congress of Religions. Minot J. Savage, ed. and intro. Boston: Arena Publishing Co., 1893.

 

World's Parliament of Religions. Chicago, 1893. Ed. by J. W. Hanson. Chicago: Charles Webb and Company, 1894.

 

The World's Parliament of Religions, Chicago, 1893. Ed. by Rev. John Henry Barrows. Chicago: Parliament Publishing Company, 1894.

Special Library Collections

Most university libraries have special collections of letters and papers; the challenge is to find which one or ones include material relevant to your subject. Harvard and Columbia have some material relevant to UU women's history. Many women involved in the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom donated their papers, especially those relevant to their peace activities, to Swarthmore's Peace Collection.

Don't overlook local congregation archives, archives of local and state historical societies, and, when you can, follow through with survivors of your subject.

You can also place an ad in the New York Times Books section requesting information.

Catalogs for Mail-Order

UUA Bookstore: 25 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108-2800.

Beacon Press: 25 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108-2800.

National [US] Women's History Project: 7738 Bell Road, Windsor, CA 95492. 707-838-6000.
 

(*) This catalog lists a variety of books, videos, posters, teaching resources, children's books, etc. The 1992 catalog is 48 pages, some pages are 4-color.

Writing UU Women Back Into History:
An Annotated Bibliography

© 1992, 1994, 1998 Jone E. Johnson. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to make a single copy for personal use. All other uses: please contact me at jj@aeu.org for permission before using the document. 

 

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