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Faithful NarrativesHistorians, Religion, and the Challenge of Objectivity$
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Andrea Sterk and Nina Caputo

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780801451829

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801451829.001.0001

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Religion and Gender in Enlightenment England

Religion and Gender in Enlightenment England

The Problem of Agency

(p.151) Chapter 9 Religion and Gender in Enlightenment England
Faithful Narratives

Phyllis Mack

Cornell University Press

This chapter describes the insufficiency of psychology, particularly current theories of agency, to account for the reality of religious women's behavior, experiences, and choices. It examines the spiritual authority and ideals of two female religious leaders in late eighteenth-century England: Quaker Abiah Darby (1716–93), and Methodist Mary Bosanquet Fletcher (1739–1815). Their religious consciousness, alongside their opposition to contemporary gender roles, reflects the complex processes that scholars have too easily equated with secularization and modernization. The chapter argues that the history of secularization is a story about the interaction of religious and Enlightenment values—an interaction that played out differently among different individuals and religious groups. Darby's and Fletcher's stories also call into question the traditional narrative of modernity in which religion is viewed as an anachronistic phenomenon that is marginal to the main story.

Keywords:   female religious leaders, religious women, Abiah Darby, Quakers, Mary Bosanquet Fletcher, Methodists, secularization, modernization

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