Dim Views of the Pastoral Relationship
The perception of a “peculiar” alliance between nineteenth-century Protestant clergy and their female parishioners emerges from contemporary sources such as Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter (1850) and the widely publicized adultery trial of Henry Ward Beecher (1875), and the influential monograph The Feminization of American Culture (1977) by Ann Douglas. By examining a wider variety of primary sources from mostly ordinary northern, white, Protestants, Gedge analyzes the similarities and differences between perceived, imagined, idealized, and experienced pastoral relationships, and identifies the cultural, spiritual, and psychological tensions they reveal. She outlines the argument that women were without benefit of clergy in the pastoral relationship. Though viewed as natural allies in their mission as moral guardians of the new republic, women and clergy were estranged by the same ideology that prescribed their alliance.
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