Rebecca MOORE. Women in Christian Traditions. New York: New York University Press, 2015. $17.00 pb. pp.200. ISBN 978-1-4798-2175-4. Reviewed by Shannon SCHREIN, Lourdes University. Sylvania, OH 43560
Rebecca Moore’s Women in Christian Tradition is an important contribution to the Women in Religion series edited by Catherine Wessinger. In describing the series Wessinger notes that “This carefully curated series offers volumes on women in selected religious traditions ranging from Christianity, Native American religion (Apache), Yoruba, and Islam to Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Chinese religions, Japanese religions, and New Religious Movements. Each book provides a short, single-authored, very accessible introduction to women and their roles, representations, and challenges within each religious tradition discussed.” (NYUPress.org)
Moore’s volume is a thoroughly enjoyable book that effectively outlines the continuous and significant role that women have played in the historical development of the Christian tradition. She provides an accessible sweep of Christian history with special attention to the way that women have affected its development by incorporating engaging narratives focused on the lives of influential women. Moore’s revisioning of Christian history through the lens of feminist scholarship enlivens the history and offers keen insights into material that has often been neglected or even suppressed in the tradition. She considers both well-known and lesser known women, helping the reader to recognize the importance of their contribution in shaping Christianity. Moore examines the consequences of a too patriarchal reading of the evolution of Christianity and points to the balance that is achieved when taking seriously the role of women throughout history. Beginning with the scriptures and pursing the impact of women’s lives up to and including the contemporary age, Moore brings attention to the subtle and not so subtle patterns that emerge, which have demonstrated the attempts overtime to subjugate women or to placate them in their desire to challenge systems and come against oppression. She highlights poignant historical moments when women have transformed Christianity. Women have confronted Popes and initiated revivals. They have directed attention to the importance of education for women and girls and have stood against slavery and neglect of the poor. Women have built schools and educational and health care systems and have responded to the needs of orphans and widows. They have served as church leaders and activists for justice.
Moore’s research includes as she notes “saints, seers and scholars” who have operated out of a deep-seated faith and a desire to keep that faith vital and operative among believers. She explores the lives of women saints, theologians, missionaries, teachers, pastors and martyrs who have given their lives, stood up for their beliefs, and who have spoken out boldly in response to injustices in the world. Moore demonstrates that women continue to refuse to be defined by their gender alone or limited by the narrow minded assessments of those who devalue women’s overwhelming contributions to Christianity and to the world.
This text would serve as an excellent introduction for undergraduate students to the history of Christianity with particular attention given to the impact of women on the formation of the tradition. Moore’s work has whetted the appetite for more and extends the invitation to readers to explore more deeply the power of women to change the world and bring people to faith. This is an excellent first book in the Women in Religion series which it seems will prove to be an immensely important contribution to the study of Christian history.