Global Christianity Women's or "Feminist" Movement
Global Christianity

The quest for freedom and equality for women in all aspects of society, including religion.

Sister Pernille Pedersen (1858-1898), deaconess and missionary to Madagascar. Long before women's ordination, women created paths of leadership and service

The women's movement has early roots in nineteenth-century evangelicalism. Social constraints against women speaking in public were obstacles to women's participation in abolitionism or revivals. These and other limitations pointed up the need for "female emancipation," addressed by the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848. Women's suffrage, or the right to vote, became a focal point for the women's movement for several decades. In 1920 the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. Women entered the labor force in great numbers during World War II. In 1963 Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, challenging the ideal of the domestic woman and inaugurating the feminist movement; this soon diverged into several schools of thought, including liberation theology. Women preachers and missionaries have been active in some evangelical circles since the 1800s, but not until the mid to late twentieth century did most mainline denominations ordain women. By the close of the twentieth century about 10 percent of Protestant clergy in the U.S. were women, up from 1 percent in 1900. Many more women exercise leadership as voting members of congregations, Christian educators, musicians, and congregational presidents.

Luther Seminary | Copyright |
Photo courtesy of ELCA Region 3 Archives, Luther Seminary.