Recasting the image of God: faith and identity in the Deep South, 1877-1915

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University of Alabama Libraries

Individuals construct their own identity in large part through their conceptions of gender. Few historians, however, have explored how religion shaped gender construction in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia during the New South period. Scholars have primarily concentrated on the roles various denominations allowed men and women to hold in church leadership rather than how different theological understandings changed the ways individuals understood manhood and womanhood. My dissertation explores how church officials used Protestant theology in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia to argue for new constructions of gender. By using archival sources as diverse as diaries, sermons, speeches, unpublished memoirs, and published works, my research examines three theological groups in the American Deep South between 1877 and 1915. These three groups are the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC); the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MECS); and the emerging Holiness movement. I argue that these groups had specific theological emphases that changed how they conceived of manhood, womanhood, and family life. While class, race, and regional identities were important for the denominational officials studied, theology was also an influential factor in formulating their personal understandings of self.

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History, American history, Gender studies