“Sweet spirit hovering around me” : Texas Methodist women face the Civil War.


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Since the publication of David Bebbington’s seminal work, Evangelicals in Modern Britain, historians have defined “evangelicals” as those Christians who prioritize activism, biblicism, conversionism, and crucicentrism. This thesis examines the efficacy of that model to describe the women of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MECS) in Texas during the American Civil War (1861-1865). I argue that the “Bebbington quadrilateral” aptly defines the institutional MECS during these years. However, white Methodist women diverged from that model as they grappled with the trauma of war, evincing a tenuous commitment to these “hallmarks” of evangelicalism even as they enthusiastically supported the Confederacy and embraced unconventional views of death and the afterlife. Black evangelical women, dealing with the trauma of slavery, also diverged from that model, holding similar tenuous commitments while participating in supernatural practices known as “spiritism.” Both black evangelical and white Methodist women maintained their new religious syntheses into the Reconstruction years.



Civil War. Texas. Methodist. Women's religious history. Evangelicals. Hymnody. Sermons. Methodist women. Slave religion. Reconstruction. Women and Reconstruction. Antebellum Texas. Antebellum Methodism. American Civil War. Bebbington quadrilateral. Slave narratives. Women in the Confederacy.