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Title:Religious women in modern American social reform: Evangeline Booth, Aimee Semple Mcpherson, Dorothy Day, and the rhetorical invention of humanitarian authority
Author(s):Marsh, Sabrina
Director of Research:O'Gorman, Ned
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):O'Gorman, Ned
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Finnegan, Cara A.; Murphy, John; Hoganson, Kristin L.
Department / Program:Communication
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):religious rhetorics
social reform rhetorics
Evangeline Booth
Aimee Semple McPherson
Dorothy Day
Abstract:This dissertation analyzes the contributions of three prominent women religious leaders to 1920s and 30s public debates over how to best address extreme human needs. To enter the debates, these women had not only to offer compelling visions of religiously inspired social service, but to distance themselves from the older Victorian cultural ideals of “charity” that were being dramatically challenged by the development of “scientific” standards and state-based authority in humanitarian endeavors. This study compares and contrasts the rhetorical efforts of Evangeline Booth (the American Commander of the Salvation Army), Aimee Semple McPherson (founder of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel), and Dorothy Day (co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement). I argue that each leader variously invoked her femininity and her religion in ways which spoke to the humanitarian crises of her age and simultaneously appropriated and challenged the “modern” social welfare agenda before her. This study begins by examining how late-nineteenth-century religious women leaders were empowered by a model of female moral authority based in Victorian ideals of female purity and piety, before showing how that ideological basis was challenged by the early-twentieth-century rise of scientific and state-based philosophies meant to address humanitarian crises more effectively. It then traces the ways Booth, McPherson, and Day presented alternate inspired visions of humanitarian care, while reframing the role of both women and religion in the new “modern” humanitarian sphere. The rise of scientific, state-based approaches to meeting extreme human needs was not simply a challenge to older Victorian notions of religiously based female moral authority; rather it was an agent of the transformation of both “religion” and the moral ethos of women in the humanitarian sphere.
Issue Date:2013-02-03
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Sabrina Marsh
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-02-03
Date Deposited:2012-12

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