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

Although women have contributed to American religious life since the earliest days, Benowitz (University of South Florida, Sarasota-Manatee) focuses on the nineteenth century and later. Most of the more than 300 entries are biographical, but there are also those that cover specific religious denominations, religious-based organizations, and political events, from the Salem witch trials to birth control. Major beliefs covered include Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Native American beliefs, witchcraft, atheism and agnosticism, and others; the majority of the entries cover Christianity. Though the work tries to capture emerging trends of New Age religious movements, criteria for including some arguably nonreligious trends (such as ecofeminism) are ill-defined. Each entry is followed by see also terms and a list of references for additional research, while some entries are supplemented with primary documents that serve to adorn rather than enhance the main entry. A massive bibliography (more than 70 pages) would be more useful if it were thematically organized. Despite its shortcomings, this two-volume work is useful, as there are so few references that cover American women and religion for nonspecialist readers.--Hassanali, Muhammed Copyright 2018 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Almost ten years after the well-received first edition, Benowitz (history, Univ. of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee; Challenge and Change; Days of Discontent) adds 36 articles, some primary source material, and an expanded, informative chronology (extending to 2014). Unlike in Rosemary Skinner Keller and Rosemary Radford Ruether's Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America, here biographical entries predominate. -Benowitz focuses broadly on Christian denominations but also covers Islam, Wicca, atheism, and many other groups. Jewish and Catholic women abound. There are overviews of women's roles in most traditions (e.g., Amish, Orthodox, cults, Presbyterianism) but some omissions (Christian Science, Hinduism). A brief article on feminist theology concludes with a single specific (and debatable) statement on Hindu and Buddhist theology yet ignores Islam, Sikhism, and the Baha'i faith. The abortion article cites the universality of state antiabortion laws in 1965 but not their liberalization or repeal in one-third of states by 1973 (nor pre-1990 GOP support for choice). There is extensive coverage of African American and Native women's religious activism. A topics list might have been helpful in locating information not listed in the index. Some men (e.g., ministers Theodore Parker and Jerry Falwell) are included, as are some political movements. The bibliography is robust, and "see also" and further reading lists follow each article. VERDICT 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.-Patricia D. Lothrop, formerly of St. George's Sch., Newport, RI © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Assembled here is a diverse set of biographical entries for the many women who have influenced American religion during their lifetimes and whose legacies are still appreciated. The work also covers American religious denominations and their positions on women's roles, women's religious-based organizations, and several entries on men whose activities have influenced the history of women in American religion. Historian Benowitz (Univ. of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee) has revised her 1998 encyclopedia (CH, May'99, 36-4808), now in a two-volume set, and although much of the content is likely available in other reference sources, the author has pulled a great deal of information together for readers' convenience. The preface states there are about three-dozen new essays, including those on abolitionists, atheists and agnostics, Congregationalists, and Roman Catholic women priests, or those on the charismatic organization Aglow International or the interdenominational social-justice group Equal in Faith, among others. One finds new biographical entries on diverse figures, including singer Shirley Caesar, Lutheran Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, convicted murderer Aafia Siddiqui, and Joseph Smith's wife Emma Hale Smith. The content is still very Christiancentric, reflecting US religious heritage. References for further reading in articles have been updated, citing new primary and secondary sources that now exist online that were not as accessible when Benowitz undertook the research for her first edition. Information added includes citations and sometimes the full-text reproductions of shorter primary-source documents, scattered throughout the work on gray-shaded pages. Volume 1 includes a list of the entries, and the author has changed out some of the earlier work's black-and-white illustrations and added portraits of individuals. She also expanded the chronology to cover 1997-2014, and updated the general bibliography with websites and sources published after 1997. 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. --Agnes Haigh Widder, Michigan State University