Department Chair

Andrew D. Nicholls, Ph.D., Professor of History

Date of Award


Access Control

Open Access

Degree Name

History, M.A.


History and Social Studies Education Department


Kenneth Mernitz, Ph.D., Professor of History

Department Home page

First Reader

Kenneth Mernitz, Ph.D., Professor of History

Second Reader

York Norman, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History



Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.[1]

Traditional religion and biblical interpretation helped to cement the passive role of women in the United States for hundreds of years. The emergence of spiritualism and communal societies, however, challenged the traditional role of women, and the very fabric of American society, throughout the 1800s to the ratification of the 19th amendment in 1920. Women also used temperance and abolitionism--venues that had oppressed women--to champion women’s equality and social justice reform. In particular, leaders in the women’s rights movement came from Quaker backgrounds’, that religion challenged traditional clergy in respect to what defined a woman’s role in society. Throughout the 1800s, women were oppressed by tradition in religion, but they paradoxically turned to the more liberal spiritualist movement to speak publicly on the right to equality, and to hone skills needed to be effective leaders in the United States through increasingly tumultuous times.

[1]King James Bible, Corinthians 14:34-35