Encyclopedia of American Women and Religion, 2nd Edition

by June Melby Benowitz


Since colonial times, women have usually constituted the majority of most American religious denominations, and many played essential roles in the shaping of religious thought and practice.

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Cover image for Encyclopedia of American Women and Religion

August 2017


Pages 799
Volumes 2
Size 7x10
Topics Religion/Gender
  American History/Gender

This two-volume set examines women's contributions to religious and moral development in America, covering individual women, their faith-related organizations, and women's roles and experiences in the broader social and cultural contexts of their times.

This second edition of Encyclopedia of American Women and Religion provides updated and expanded information from historians and other scholars of religion, covering new issues in religion to better describe and document women's roles within religious groups. For instance, the term "evangelical feminism" is one newly defined aspect of women's involvement in religious activism. Changes are constantly occurring within the many religious faiths and denominations in America, particularly as women strive to gain positions within religious hierarchies that previously were exclusive to men and rise within their denominations to become theologians, church leaders, and bishops.

The entries examine the roles that American women have played in mainstream religious denominations, small religious sects, and non-traditional practices such as witchcraft, as well as in groups that question religious beliefs, including agnostics and atheists. A section containing primary documents gives readers a firsthand look at matters of concern to religious women and their organizations. Many of these documents are the writings of women who merit entries within the encyclopedia. Readers will gain an awareness of women's contributions to religious culture in America, from the colonial era to the present day, and better understand the many challenges that women have faced to achieve success in their religion-related endeavors.


  • Introduces readers to hundreds of women who became leaders within various religious faiths and denominations, including many who founded religious sects and organizations
  • Provides an understanding of women's developing roles in American religious culture, which continue to the present day
  • Enables readers to gain an understanding of the broad range of religions, approaches to religion, and attitudes toward religion in the United States
  • Documents how life's experiences can shape one's spiritual life and future development
  • Includes a timeline of the issues facing women that marks changing societal attitudes and individual women's accomplishments across history
Author Info

June Melby Benowitz, PhD, is associate professor of history at University of South Florida, Sarasota-Manatee. She is author of Days of Discontent: American Women and Right-Wing Politics, 1933–1945 and Challenge and Change: Right-Wing Women, Grassroots Activism, and the Baby Boom Generation, which was awarded a bronze medal in the category of General Non-Fiction from the Florida Humanities Council-sponsored Florida Book Awards.



"This two-volume work is useful, as there are so few references that cover American women and religion for nonspecialist readers."—Booklist Online

"For academic researchers, especially graduates and undergraduates in women's or religious studies, these clearly written and impressively wide-ranging volumes are of particular interest."—Library Journal

"[T]he easy-to-read prose and wealth of sources documented makes this a worthy expenditure for colleges, universities, and seminaries with courses on American history, women, and religious studies."—ARBA

"Public, academic, and seminary libraries supporting study of American religion are advised to update their holdings with this second edition. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels of students through researchers/faculty; general readers."—Choice

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