Entering the Fray: Gender, Politics, and Culture in the New South (Southern Women)

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But the IWY conferences presented conservatives with a golden opportunity to mobilize, and anti-ERA, pro-life, and anti-gay groups banded together as never before.

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Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History. The union label movement also implied boycotting as a means of maintaining standards for workers. Just prior to the International Ladies Garment Workers Union campaign, the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America had begun an advertising campaign to boycott a southern nonunion company. In the process, advertising campaigns not only targeted female consumers to purchase union label products, but to do so as a political statement, an economic vote against rightto-work laws that prevented southern workers from unionizing.

In this interesting study, Williams examines the uses made of Susan Smith by the media and public leaders at the beginning of her ordeal, when the public believed her two young sons had been kidnapped by a black man, through to the end when she finally confessed to drowning them in a lake. Williams argues that Smith herself ultimately did not matter to the public, but her story and the images played up by the media fit into the national dialogue about traditional family values.

The image of Smith as a racist southerner was also played up in the media when she fashioned a black male as the culprit as if that would make sense to everyone involved, making her story a regional as well as national image. Wheeler, Votes for Women! Gordon et al.

Two years after writing these words, tired of negotiations and appeals, she made an even more radical move for her era and her culture. She openly defied her employer, the Foreign Mission Board2 of the Southern Baptist Convention SBC , by relocating miles from any male authority in order to prosecute her work as she saw fit. In the rural Pingtu district she conducted her work alone, without board approval, and publicized her efforts to her supporters across the South.

Moon called for women to make the cause of foreign missions their own. Today Lottie Moon lives on in the popular imagination of Southern Baptists across the United States and around the world. Yet the story that is repeated annually and reinforced in a multitude of denominational publications and Web sites differs from the historical details of her life. Moon is portrayed as protesting board policies by starving herself to death rather than 11 12 R e g i n a D. In the nineteenth century hagiographic public discourse celebrated the lives of pioneer missionaries, but in our postcolonial era they are no longer prominent fixtures in American popular culture.

Without the continual efforts of the WMU, Moon would have certainly passed into obscurity along with her colleagues. This proved an effective promotional device and donations increased that year over percent. Despite a recent flourishing of scholarship on southern women and female missionaries, Moon has received only brief treatments or none at all.

Lottie Moon did not fit the mold. She understood the social limitations that she faced, took action against them, and inspired women to follow her lead.


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That this fight for female power took place within a religious denomination only confirms what scholars have long posited—that women took their first moves toward fighting gender inequality in churches, just as Moon and the women of the Southern Baptist Convention did. Poor whites—the majority of southerners—simply disappeared, and African Americans were portrayed as willing servants rather than chattel. Lottie Moon grew to adulthood in a southern household where progressive ideas on female education were valued and where daughters were encouraged to seek independent courses rather than marriage.

Born in , Moon spent her childhood on a plantation, Viewmont, in rural Albemarle County about ten miles from Monticello. S u l l i va n large land grants in the region. She developed a critique not just of female roles but also of the economic system that brought her wealth and privilege.

To be willing to marry Isaac, knowing I am his sister! Her academic strength was in languages, and she gained a reputation for studying hard. Moon helped form a literary club on campus and edited its paper, but the young Moon also gained a reputation as a high-spirited troublemaker. Taylor, recalled that she once climbed the bell tower and wrapped towels around the bell so it could not ring, delaying morning classes. Moon did not set up practice. Instead, she accompanied her missionary uncle, James Barclay, and his family when they left for the Middle East in the spring of Although she had grown up with a devoutly Baptist mother and grandmother, Moon had remained resistant and defiant.

Her newfound devotion to Christianity did not dampen her curiosity or diminish her commitment to her studies. Moon was nearly forced to leave school early, but Hart insisted that she stay on. On June 18, , barely a month before the first shots were fired in northern Virginia, she completed her formal education. While she was not conferred an official graduate degree, the professors, students, and trustees alike recognized her accomplishment by noting this at her commencement.

Wealthy and supported by their mother, Orianna and 16 R e g i n a D. S u l l i va n Lottie Moon were freed from the usual patriarchal restraints to pursue their own courses. The Civil War brought social and economic dislocation in the South. After her graduation in , she had hoped to go abroad as a missionary, but her denomination discouraged single women from applying for such positions.


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  • Female missionaries were not to move into the male domain of preaching or open evangelism of both sexes. Soon after Moon arrived in Tengchow, China, in , she began making trips outside the city walls with her two female colleagues. Made curious by their strange appearance, crowds quickly formed. The missionaries did not separate the villagers by sex before beginning to talk with them. Instead, they simply started speaking or preaching, as they termed it themselves—something no Southern Baptist woman would have done in the United States.

    Missionaries were few, and male missionaries were fewer still. In her earliest reports to the Foreign Mission Board secretary, Moon appealed for more workers, especially men who were authorized to speak to both sexes. While on evangelistic tours, she now spoke to men whenever the situation presented itself. Women were not to live or work outside direct male authority, and they were to work only with women and children.

    This was the essential justification for sending single women as missionaries—to reach those whom men could not. She was now behaving like a pioneering evangelist that, according to societal conventions and board rules, only male missionaries could be.

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    A world away, Moon operated by her own rules of appropriate behavior. In late Moon relocated to the Pingtu district, hoping that rural folk might find her teachings more appealing than the city dwellers of Tengchow, where the main mission station was located. Her reports were so promising that the missionaries voted to establish a permanent station there, and they asked the Foreign Mission Board to appoint two new men for that purpose. Moon was already settled and would not 18 R e g i n a D.

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    During the next five years, she would make her home there, returning to Tengchow only for vacations. At age forty-five, Moon had accomplished a complete reconstruction of her life, carving out a degree of independence unusual for a woman in the nineteenth century, especially a Southern Baptist.

    Clearly, though, the feminine models of piety and independence that she had received during her childhood influenced her actions and decisions.


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    • Moon drew upon both these models to explain her choices and recreate her life. Despite her disagreements with the Foreign Mission Board, Moon never left the field. Instead, at a moment when she was struggling to find fulfilling work, she stumbled upon Pingtu. When she received no response, Moon turned away from the men and appealed instead to the women of the missionary societies.

      She urged the women to move beyond the constraints of social expectations and denominational policy and organize to provide her with support. White Southern Baptist women had been trying for years to form an overarching organization for their local societies and had so far failed due to opposition from the male leadership.