Cover image for Encyclopedia of American women and religion
Encyclopedia of American women and religion
Benowitz, June Melby.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Santa Barbara, Calif. : ABC-CLIO, [1998]

Physical Description:
xi, 466 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BL2525 .B45 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

On Order



This abundant, comprehensive encyclopedia is the first stop for information on women's contribution to American religion.

* Over 300 A-Z entries, many with illustrations, from abortion and birth control to peace movements and witchcraft

* Biographies of key figures such as Dorothea Dix, Margaret Fuller, Shirley MacLaine, and Sojourner Truth

* Entry bibliographies and cross references

* Detailed chronology

Author Notes

June Melby Benowitz , PhD, is a historian specializing in the role of women in United States history.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Women have played important, though often hidden, roles in religions of the world throughout history. This title seeks to uncover the contributions of women to the American religious experience. The majority of the alphabetically arranged entries cover individual women, but organizations, denominations, and even men "who have influenced the history of American women" are included. Entries generally conclude with see also references and brief bibliographies. Other features include a chronology of women's participation in the American religious experience, an additional bibliography of books and articles, and an index. While the goal of this work is unique, its execution is sometimes flawed. The contribution to the American religious experience of some women, such as Tammy Faye Bakker and Bishop Barbara Harris, is treated superficially. Better assessments of their accomplishments can be found in Twentieth-Century Shapers of American Popular Religion (Greenwood, 1989) and Current Biography Yearbook (H. W. Wilson, 1989 edition), respectively. Several concepts vis-a-vis women and religion are poorly defined. One is ecofeminism, which, while not strictly a religious or theological concept, nevertheless challenges traditional Christianity and forms the basis for some theological reflection. The entry on ecofeminism sketches its broad contours but lacks a discussion of the distinctly American responses to the idea. The entry for feminist theology is better grounded in an American context, but the thinkers mentioned in the entry as well as the supplemental bibliography represent Americans of European origin. African American and Latina women with unique definitions of feminism and unique approaches to theological reflection are not mentioned. Fine treatments of ecofeminism and feminist theology are provided in Dictionary of Feminist Theologies (Westminster/John Knox, 1996). Finally, though an effort has been made to include discussion of a variety of religions (including the New Age Movement and Paganism), and to have entries for women of Jewish, Native American, and other religious backgrounds, the emphasis is on Christianity. The researcher interested in a fuller treatment of women's experience outside Christianity will need to turn to other sources, such as Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia [RBB Ja 1 & 15 98]. Encyclopedia of American Women and Religion is useful insofar as it pulls together information about women and the American religious experience which one would otherwise have to consult numerous sources to find. Since better treatment of many of the entries exists in other sources, convenience is not reason enough to warrant a recommendation for purchase for larger or more specialized collections, except as a supplemental title. High-school and public libraries not owning other resources on the topic should find it a worthwhile addition.

Library Journal Review

Historian Benowitz has defined religion broadly, including not just well-established denominations but also "groups that some might consider quasi-religious, such as witches and ecofeminists." Each entry ends with See also references and a list of secondary sources. There are no internal cross references, but the index does a good job in this regard. The encyclopedia is particularly strong in its biographical coverage, often providing one to two pages of information about little-known women such as the anti-Semite and anti-Communist Elizabeth Kirkpatrick Dilling. In addition to the numerous biographies, there are topical entries about religious denominations and beliefs; short essays about issues relating to women and religion, such as abortion or ministers' wives; and extensive coverage of religious organizations, from the American Missionary Association to the Young Women's Christian Association. The encyclopedia concludes with a chronology and a 21-page bibliography. Libraries supporting women's studies or religious studies will find this of interest and value.‘Cynthia A. Johnson, Barnard Coll. Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The well-written articles in this informative encyclopedia treat individuals, denominations, groups, and associations having to do with women's influence on American religion since Colonial times. The definition of religion includes mainstream as well as alternative religions such as Wicca and ecofeminism. Most entries focus on the 19th and 20th centuries, partly because of the paucity of information about women and religion in Colonial times and because during the 19th century women's activity in religious work increased. The entries are clear and succinct; each has see also references and brief bibliographies. A chronology begins with 1637 and ends with 1997. The work is thoroughly indexed and includes an extensive bibliography. Highly recommended for general and academic reference collections, especially those supporting religion or women's studies curricula. G. Wood; SUNY College at Cortland