Jenny Wiley Legath in Conversation with Kali Handelman
Sanctified Sisters: A History of Protestant Deaconnesses
Thursday 10/17 at 6pm
In the late nineteenth century, a new movement arose within American Protestant Christianity. Unsalaried groups of women began living together, wearing plain dress, and taking up nursing, teaching, and other works of welfare. Modeled after the lifestyles of Catholic nuns, these women became Americas first deaconesses. We invite you to a conversation about an important movement within female religious activism.
Jenny Wiley Legaths book, the first history of the deaconess movement in the United States, traces the movements origins in the late nineteenth century through to today. The deaconess movement offered Protestant women a new and distinct way of being in the world: deaconesses used their office to perform traditional works of Christian mercy embedded in an alternative lifestyle that bound them to God, each other, and other women.
The deaconess movement enabled women to gain power in a male-dominated Protestant world. They created hundreds of new institutions within Protestantism and devised new roles for women within the church. While some who study womens ordination connect the deaconesses work to the struggle for womens ordination in various branches of Protestant Christianity, Legath argues that most were not interested in ordination. Yet, while they didnt mean to, they did provide a foundation for todays ordination debates, introducing the possibility of ecclesiastically authorized womens agency.
Jenny Wiley Legath is Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University. Kali Handelman is Lecturer at the New School. She is Program Coordinator at the NYU Center for Religion and Media and editor of The Revealer: A Review of Religion and Media.
Labyrinth Books. 122 Nassau Street. Princeton NJ 08540