Tell me the Old, Old Story: An Analysis of Autobiographies by Holiness Women

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Autobiographies “draw us as surely as we are drawn to the pages of People

magazine in the dentist’s waiting room.”1 The person making this statement, however, apparently had not read some holiness autobiographies! Fortunately, another scholar observes: “There is less concern now with prescriptive definitions of a ‘true’ or ‘good’ autobiography.”2 Many holiness autobiographies would be disregarded if literary merit were the sole criterion for determining their value.


Autobiographical theory explores issues such as a psychological analysis of the

self, the subversiveness of women’s autobiographies, silences in the fictional dimensions of autobiography, and differences between autobiographies written by men and those written by women. This article focuses on the subversive nature of women’s autobiographies by examining the writings of six women holiness preachers: Mary Still Adams, Mary Lee Cagle, Mary Cole, Sarah Cooke, Mary A. Glaser, and Alma White.


Another concern for readers of autobiographies is the argument over the death of the author, an argument being waged among literary theorists. Michel Foucault asks: “What matter who’s speaking?”3 Mary Still Adams seemed to be speaking of the death of the author long before this phrase entered the vocabulary of literary criticism. She wrote: “I have also prayed that he sketches and incidents be so clothed with the power of the Holy Ghost that the writer may be lost sight of in the things written.”4 While Foucault and others argue for anonymity, in this study the author must be identified because I am investigating women who challenged woman’s sphere. Men were not and

are not expected to conform to societal expectations which would confine them to the role of husband or father. The sex of the author is critical.


As the canon has expanded to include autobiographies of women, the tendency

has been to establish an exclusive list of literary classics. Margo Culley advises scholars to “resist the temptation to establish an exclusive list of literary classics. Margo Culley advises scholars to “resist the temptation to establish a canon of ‘great books’ by women and to stop there.”5 Estelle Jelinek lists three prominent types of women autobiographers in the late nineteenth century: writers, pioneers who traveled West, and feminists and reformers.6 Spiritual autobiography should be included as a fourth category. A preliminary bibliography of Wesleyan/Holiness women clergy lists over seventy-five autobiographies. The canon is incomplete without their inclusion. While many would not qualify based on literary merit, the books provide important information about women who rejected the confines of woman’s sphere by preaching.


Phebe Davidson in her 1991 dissertation examines spiritual autobiographies

written by women, including African American evangelists, but she is unaware of the writings of white women evangelists. She speculates: “Very probably the spiritual narratives of white women are buried somewhere–in odd attics and library archives that no one has gotten around to exploring.”7 This presentation represents an effort to bring some of these primary sources out of the attics or archives and add autobiographies of holiness women to the canon. Since stories by several nineteenth-century African American holiness women have been reprinted and incorporated into the canon, I have

omitted them from this analysis.8


My purpose is two-fold: to introduce more holiness women’s autobiographies into the canon of women’s autobiography and to challenge Virginia Brereton’s assertion that the doctrine of holiness mitigates against women’s quest for equality and autonomy. Brereton claims in her book on women’s conversions: “Nor is it difficult to comprehend the disgust which holiness teachings would elicit in those who have worked for and called for greater autonomy and self-reliance for women.”9


Carolyn Heilbrun bemoans the fact that, contrary to the experience of men,

women have no “alternative stories” to function as scripts for them to follow.10 She argues that men have had access to stories told by other men that offer many possibilities for imitation. Holiness women are exceptions to Heilbrun’s generalization in that they had alternative stories written by women such as Madam Guyon, Lady Maxwell, Hester Ann Rogers, and Mary Fletcher. The fact that Madam Guyon’s and Hester Ann Rogers’ autobiographies remain in print witnesses to their ongoing influence.11 They continue to serve as alternative stories for holiness women.


Guyon (1648-1717) was a French mystic associated with Quietism. She

emphasized a religion of the heart and engaged in an itinerant ministry, sharing with others her understanding of the holy life. John Wesley reprinted her autobiography.


Wesley instructed his followers to write journals, so it is not surprising that many of them lift extensive journals, some of which were published after they died. Spiritual autobiography played an important role in Methodist class meetings and worship since exhorters centered on their religious quest, offering the opportunity for formulate an oral account of their lives.


Maxwell, Fletcher, and Rogers were contemporaries of John Wesley and worked with him in various capacities.12 Lady Maxwell (c.1742-1810) founded a school, operated two Sunday schools, and counseled clergy. She also arranged public worship services, a duty generally conducted by men. Hester Ann Rogers (1756-1794), who was known for her piety, did not preach, but she did lead Methodist classes and bands and called on the sick. Mary Bosanquet Fletcher (1739-1815) was a school mistress who later performed a joint ministry with her husband at Madeley. Besides leading classes and bands, she also preached. She continued her ministries for thirty years after her husband died. Twenty editions of her journal had been printed by 1850.


The autobiographies of Madame Guyon and those women who worked with John Wesley provided alternative stories for holiness women, stories of women who engaged in public ministries. They also played an important role in their spiritual growth. Mary Cole mentioned reading the autobiographies of Mary Fletcher and Hester Ann Rogers, while Sarah Cooke was “wonderfully helped” by reading the lives of these two women.13 Cooke also listed the life of Lady Maxwell among the books she had read and sprinkled her writing with quotations from Guyon.14 She expressed dismay when her autobiographies of Fletcher and Guyon were among her possessions lost in the Chicago fire of 1871.15


Cooke highlighted the spiritual value of autobiographies: “In traveling, I often

meet with Christians of deep experience who received their first religious light, especially on holiness, through the lives and writings of . . . Mrs. Fletcher, Mrs. H. A. Rogers and others. . . . I know of no books, outside of the Bible, like these autobiographies.”16


Glaser credited an unnamed autobiographer for spiritual guidance: “I had no one to instruct me in the way of holiness, but I had a book given me to read the experience of a good Christian woman, and while reading it, I was convinced I was living beneath my Christian privileges.”17


Women were not defensive about writing their life stories because there were

precedents within their religious tradition. They addressed an audience who fostered this activity and recognized the importance of autobiographies. Writers such as Adams did not attempt to justify their autobiographical work: “I have no apology to present for offering this sketch of my life-work to the people.”18 Adams appeared to be unaware of the subversive implications of her undertaking. She was not defensive because she was merely doing what others had done. Feminist scholars define women’s autobiography as subversive activity which challenges the boundaries established by society to confine

women’s activities.19 Cagle illustrated the subversive nature of her writing by adding her sermon “Woman’s Right to Preach” at the end of her story.


In the following pages, I will focus briefly on the authors’ spiritual journeys and

their experience as women preachers, concentrating on their successful efforts to challenge the restrictive sphere that society sought to impose on them. The appendix includes a brief synopsis of the lives of the six women I am considering.



Each woman provided an account of her conversion, often recording the

conversation that occurred at the time. Their ages at conversion ranged from ten (Adams) to twenty-three (Cooke), with the other four being in their teens. Cole and Cooke were converted through the efforts of siblings while others experienced conversion in a church setting, either a regular service, a revival, or a camp meeting. Cole and White specified the date of their conversions, and two recorded the names of the revivalists under whose preaching they were converted. White is the only one of the six who chronicles a search of several years before experiencing conversion.


These women actively sought conversion, reflecting their Arminian heritage with its emphasis on the freedom of the individual to respond to God’s call to salvation. This represents a shift from the spiritual narratives of Puritan women who played a passive part in their conversions, believing that God predestines the elect.20



Following conversion, the women pursued the possibility of sanctification, a

second distinct work of grace. Like conversion, the quest for sanctification required the seeker to play an active role. Referring to her experience in the third person, Phoebe Palmer wrote: “she had been but a co-worker with God in this matter.”21 Basing their understanding of sanctification on Palmer’s theology of holiness, Adams and Cooke used Palmer’s “altar” terminology with reference to their own consecration preceding sanctification.22 The person who counseled Adams shared Palmer’s view of how sanctification could be achieved: “The altar sanctifies the gift, and if you have complied with God’s requirements, God will and has done his part.”23 Cooke had read Palmer’s Entire Devotion while Cole mentioned having read Faith and Its Effects, also by Palmer.24


Cole’s account of her experience also follows Palmer’s dual emphasis on

consecration and faith: “I simply consecrated all a living sacrifice, and reckoned myself dead unto sin and alive unto God through our Lord Jesus Christ. I met the conditions and believed that the work was done.”25 While Cagle “at once sought and obtained the blessing” within three days after “she got the light on holiness,”26 White spent at least ten years as a seeker before finally claiming the experience by faith. Like Palmer, White testified that no feeling initially accompanied her sanctification.27 Along with consecration and faith, Cole followed Palmer’s admonition to testify and shared her experience with others shortly after she had claimed it.28

Call to Preach


Several of the women related sanctification to their subsequent ability to preach. For White, sanctification enabled her to overcome her natural shyness and the “manfearing spirit” which constrained her when she considered preaching before her sanctification.29 Cagle’s process of consecration included the willingness to preach. She had felt called to preach earlier in life, but with sanctification the call “was stronger than ever before.30


Likewise, in her examination of three African American holiness women

preachers (Jarena Lee, Zilpha Elaw, and Julia Foote), Liz Stanley stresses the importance of sanctification in legitimizing their “entirely deviant and unwomanly behavior: public preaching and thus taking on a role preserved for a male church hierarchy.”31 Adams viewed sanctification as preparation for preaching. Equating the experience of Jesus’ followers at Pentecost with sanctification, she quoted Acts 1:4: “And I did not want to go out without being wholly equipped for the warfare. Therefore I made up my mind to do as Christ had commanded his disciples to do, ‘tarry at Jerusalem until endowed with power.’32 She received “the joy and power of the Holy Ghost” when she was sanctified.33 Other women also spoke of the power of the Holy Spirit or the power of God which enabled them to preach.34


Glaser’s preaching focused on her testimony of healing. She reported that her

healing occurred on 22 August 1883 after sixteen months of illness; and that on “that memorable night” God spoke to her: “Yes, you are healed, you are to obey my voice in all things; you are to go where I command you, and speak what I give you to speak.”35 She believed God caused her sickness as the means of “crucifying me to become conformed to His own will.”36 Glaser reported: “But if I would shrink from duty, I soon began to lose strength of body.”37 She was convinced her continued good health depended on her willingness to tell others about her healing.


Churches in the holiness movement are among those that value a divine call to

ministry. Cole experienced her call when she was about twenty-two. However, it was seven years before she began preaching.38 As a child and young adult she was sickly. She reported being healed at age twenty-five but did not explain the four-year delay before she entered evangelistic work.


White believed she was called to preach within a week of her conversion, but she assumed her ministry would take place on the mission field.39 It was not until after her sanctification that she inaugurated her public ministry, eventually founding the Pillar of Fire.


While Cagle professed that God had called her to ministry when she was a child, she initially expected, like White, that she would serve as a missionary since this was the only outlet for women’s ministry in her church. In her early twenties, she was reclaimed for Christ, and at that time “the call came clear and plain,” but it was a call to preach in the United States rather than a call to the foreign mission field. She preferred the missions option: “To go as a missionary would have been a summer vacation, compared to preaching the gospel at home, for all the people opposed it then.”40


In the meantime, she married Robert L. Harris, an evangelist, and traveled with him. When her husband was on his deathbed, she bargained with God that she would preach if God healed him. “God seemed to speak back in thunderous tones. ‘Whether I heal your husband or not, will you do what I want you to do?'” And then came the most bloody battle of all her life–it raged hot and long.41 She finally answered yes. Her husband subsequently died, and she became co-pastor of the church he had founded in Milan, Tennessee, before initiating her evangelistic ministry and founding numerous other churches.


God called Cooke to the ministry as she was walking across the Madison Street

bridge in Chicago:

The Lord in His tender compassion spoke to me in these never-forgotten words: “Lift up your voice like a trumpet, lift it up and be not afraid. Say unto the people, behold your God.” No doubt, from that hour, has ever rested on me about woman’s speaking in the churches; no doubt about my own call from His own Spirit to go forth in His name and preach the gospel.42

Like Cooke, Cagle and Glaser never doubted their call to ministry.43 Adams, however, initially tested her call. If the call was valid, she asked that one person respond to her sermon. Six people came to the altar for salvation following her message, so for Adams the matter was settled.44

Opposition to Preaching


Each woman experienced opposition to her preaching. In some cases, family

members raised objections. Cagle’s brother-in-law said that if she preached his children would never call her Aunt again.45 White’s husband often opposed her preaching, but it was generally due to the content of her sermons rather than the act of preaching itself.46


Women spoke of opposition in general terms and also provided specific

examples. The Methodist church in her hometown refused Cagle the use of its pulpit, so Missionary Baptists offered her their building. She reported that “as usual, she had to preach on ‘Women’s Right to Preach.’47 The phrase “as usual” reveals that this was a common sermon topic. Cole, too, encountered repeated disapproval of her preaching, at least in the early years of her evangelist work: “At nearly every meeting I had to explain the Scriptural teaching on this subject.”48 White also spoke frequently on women in ministry. Glaser reported finding prejudice everywhere. Her strategy was to “leave it all with the Lord as there is a day coming when these things will be made right.”49


Women often faced hostility in churches where they preached. One Sunday

morning, Adams filled Rev. Marshall’s pulpit at his request. Entering the sanctuary, she discovered the Bible and a large hymnbook were on a small stand in front of the chancel instead of at their usual location on the pulpit. The church board had moved the books to indicate their displeasure at their pastor’s choice of a woman supply preacher. Adams recorded her response to the incident:

However, I being ignorant of the animosity to our sex, gathered up the ponderous books, and took my place in the pulpit. It was not an hour until I had delivered them my message, and the Lord had so blessed us they did not mind if I was a woman. I will add, if God did cause Aaron’s rod to bud and bloom in the hand of Moses, he used me on that day to the opening of the eyes of the blind.50

Cooke spoke of one occasion where a man heckled her during her sermon at a soup kitchen in Chicago. Afterward, she passed him as she walked down from the platform and he spoke to her, judging her “a first-rate preacher.”51 He had changed his mind after hearing her preach.


Cagle and Cole encountered rumors intended to discredit their ministry. In

Cagle’s case, the male ministers in one city spread falsehoods seeking to terminate a revival she was leading. She claimed that “if one-hundredth part that was told on her had been true, she should have been in the penitentiary instead of preaching the gospel.” In situations such as this one, she relied on the promise of Isaiah 54:17: “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper: and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord.”52 Rumors which circulated in Anson, Texas, spread the lie that she had robbed the United

States mail, run a house of ill-fame and given away her four children.53 Cagle reported that it would be impossible to give away her children since was childless! Regarding Cole, the rumor circulated that she was one of the James Boys, the famous outlaws, disguised as a woman.54


Challenging Woman’s Sphere


The women were well aware of the fact that their preaching defied the prevailing attitude that woman’s proper place was in the home. Their public activities undermined the social construction of gender based on essentialist claims that women either by “nature” or by “God’s design” could not preach. Women preachers escaped the culturally-constructed sphere which had been designed to confine all women, including them, to the home. Several women attributed opposition to the devil. Cold claimed: “The devil tried to carry out his design to defeat the Lord’s plan in regard to me.”55 White observed: Meanwhile, the enemy kept busy in the churches. The pastors said it was a woman’s place to say at home and look after husband and children.56 Adams recalled the diabolical temptation she faced when she left two children with their father while she went to a preaching engagement:

The tempter came to me like a flood, saying, “what a fool you are to keep preaching against all odds;” there was not an argument in all his devilish mind which he did not use. He spoke of our poverty and of my leaving my children without a mother’s care, suggesting that in all probability they would be dead upon my return home. The more he tempted me the more I looked through faith to God, who then and there turned into a present help in time of need, and filled my soul with power.57

God gave her power to combat the temptation to conform to woman’s sphere and stay home.


When Adams received calls to preach, she did not stop to ask about leaving her seven children: “Oh! No, but I answered at once, ‘here Lord I am, send me.’58 If a trustworthy person was not available to watch them, she took her children with her. They never disturbed anyone while she preached. In the fall of 1868 Adams’ baby daughter Mattie was deathly ill. When a doctor arrived, Adams left her in his care and went to preach before a congregation of several thousand. After the sermon, she saw her husband in the audience holding the baby. Since he looked happy, she assumed, correctly, that the baby was out of danger.59


Glaser was understandably defensive about her situation. Her husband previously had abandoned her. Members of her church and others were unsympathetic when she was “called to leave her family to go to work for the Master.”60 Likewise, her children questioned her decision to leave home to carry out the work God had called her to do.61 When her oldest daughter wrote that the youngest child, Ellie, who was twelve, was so homesick for her mother that she cried, Glaser’s heart ached:

All I could do was to take it to the Lord in prayer and lay my burden at his feet. I wrote to them as comfortingly as I could, and told them to be reconciled to the will of God. I prayed that they might see and understand that it was the Lord’s will to leave them, to give all the honor and praise to Him. He did not answer my prayer.62

Along with the belief that her ministry was God’s will, Glaser justified her long absences from home on the pragmatic grounds that God blessed her labors. She also argued that she was unable to perform housework due to ill health, but her physical problems disappeared when she engaged in ministry.63


While all the women challenged the notion of woman’s sphere by preaching,

White expanded the argument by contending that women should take an active role in the political arena as well as in the religious realm. She celebrated the passage of suffrage for women in 1920 and supported the Equal Rights Amendment when it was first introduced in Congress.64 White defined “religious and political equality for the sexes” as part of her church’s creed65 and preached against the chains which kept women “in political and ecclesiastical bondage.”66 Sermon titles on this topic included “Emancipation of Woman” and “Woman’s Place in Church and State.”67 She argued:

Should not old traditions and customs be forgotten, and every effort put forth in this the dawning of a new era to place woman in her intended sphere, that she may help to start society on the upward grade? Women can never be made to feel their responsibility until they share in the ministry of God’s Word, and take their places in the legislative bodies of the nations.68

Janet Wilson James has referred to several holiness women preachers, including White, as “traditionalists in their concept of woman’s place.”69 White’s explicit rejection of any ideology which seeks to limit women’s activities disqualifies her as a traditionalist. Furthermore, their public speaking, in itself, counteracts the claim that other holiness women preachers were “traditionalists.” Their preaching flagrantly challenged the traditional notion that woman’s place was in the home.


Women vindicated their preaching by appropriating arguments based on

Scripture. Cole and Cooke offered abbreviated versions while Cagle appended her standard sermon on the topic at the end of her autobiography.70


Holiness individuals previously had established the Scriptural basis for women

preachers.71 Women relied on this tradition. Defenses for the preaching of women listed Pentecost as the precedent for women’s ministry.72 The women tackled 1 Tim. 2:12 and 1 Cor. 14:34, verses often quoted by opponents of women preachers in their attempt to keep them from preaching.73 Cole referred to one discussion where “the Lord helped me successfully drive these opposers out of their false positions and to show them they were misusing the Scriptures.”74


Many leaders in the holiness movement endorsed women’s preaching, so women did not face insurmountable barriers to preaching as did women in most mainline denominations. This supportive atmosphere played a positive role in making it possible for women to “hear” and respond to God’s call to preach because they were in an environment which affirmed that God could call women to preach. Most holiness believers challenged the ideology of gender prevalent in their society. While they may have accepted the essentialist conceptions of gender which supported the view that differences between the sexes were “God-given” or “natural,” they rejected the prevailing belief that because of those differences only men could preach.




Brereton acknowledges that God’s authority competes with male authority, but

she does not recognize the potential of God’s authority effectively undermining male authority.75 Glaser realized that potential when she asked: “Are we to obey man rather than God? I tell you nay.”76 Cole likewise contended: “But if you are certain of the leadings of the Lord, even if God does not make it plain to others, you may do as God bids you with certainty of success.”77


Brereton claims that holiness teaching “has also accentuated the kinds of

character traits that if embraced would keep women docile and yielding. The sanctified person–like the converted person, only more so–is supposed to be unassertive, selfless, serene, and slow to complain.”78 While some of the adjectives may be applicable to some sanctified women, docile and unassertive hardly describe the women I have examined. Cole’s behavior at a comp meeting in Kansas is illustrative.


Rather than announcing who would preach ahead of time, all the preachers sat on the platform. Whoever felt led to preach would stand and walk to the pulpit at the appointed time. On this particular occasion, Cole notices that another preacher whom she felt should not preach made a move toward the pulpit. She recalled that, at this point: “It came to my mind that if I wanted to obey the Lord and to keep my promise I must act quickly. I asked the Lord to exercise his control and to give me the needed opportunity to obey. He did, and I preached the sermon that day.”79 To do so, she had to race across the platform and beat the other pastor to the pulpit.


Brereton’s description of the character traits of holiness teaching does not hold

true for Cole or the other women in this study. They were not docile or unassertive. Likewise, these six women undermine her claim that holiness teachings work against women’s autonomy and self-reliance. On the contrary, these women, empowered by the Holy Spirit, broke through the invisible barriers of woman’s sphere and asserted authority in the public arena by preaching. For this reason, if for no other, they deserve to be added to the canon of women’s autobiography.

*** These Endnotes appeared as Footnotes in the original manuscript.


1.Margo Culley, “What a Piece of Work Is ‘Woman’! An Introduction,” in

American Women’s Autobiography: Fea(s)ts of Memory, ed. Margo Culley (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992), 3.


2.Estelle C. Jelinek, The Tradition of Women’s Autobiography: From Antiquity to

the Present (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1986), 4.


3. Michel Foucault, Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and

Interviews, trans. Donald F. Bouchard and Sherry Simon (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977), 138. He is quoting Samuel Beckett (Texts for Nothing, trans. Beckett [London: Calder & Boyars, 1974], 16) whom he cites on page 115. For a brief critique of the author’s “death,” see Liz Stanley, The Auto/biographical I: The Theory and Practice of Feminist Auto/Biography (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1992), 16-17.


4. Mary Still Adams, Autobiography of Mary Still Adams or, “In God We Trust”

(Los Angeles: By the author, 1893), 4.


5. Margo Culley, “Women’s Vernacular Literature: Teaching the Mother Tongue,” in Women’s Personal Narratives: Essays in Criticism and Pedagogy, ed. Leonore Hoffman and Margo Culley (New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1985), 16.


6. Jelinek, Tradition of Women’s Autobiography, 97.


7. Phebe Davidson, “Workings of the Spirit: Religious Impulse in Selected

Autobiographies of American Women.” Ph.D. diss. (Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 1991), 294.


8. Several African American women’s autobiographies have been reprinted. For instance, for the autobiographies of Jarena Lee, Zilpha Elaw and Julia Foote, see William L. Andrews, ed., Sisters of the Spirit: Three black Women’s Autobiographies of the Nineteenth Century (Bloomington: Indiana University Press), 1986; Spiritual Narrative: Maria W. Stewart, Jarena Lee, Julia Foote and Virginia W. Broughton (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988); Frances Smith Foster, “Neither Auction Block nor Pedestal: The Life and Religious Experience of Jarena Lee, A Coloured Lady, ” in The Female Autograph: Theory and Practice of Autobiography from the Tenth to the Twentieth Century, ed. Domna C. Stanton (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), 126-151; and Amanda Smith, An Autobiography: The Story of the Lord’s Dealings with Mrs. Amanda Smith, The Colored Evangelist (Chicago: Meyer & Brothers, Publishers, 1893; reprint, New York: Garland Publishing, 1987). Davidson considers Lee and Smith (Davidson, “Workings of the Spirit,” 219-246, 251-292).


9. Virginia Lieson Brereton, From Sin to Salvation: Stories of Women’s

Conversions, 1800 to the Present (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), 67.


10. Carolyn G. Heilbrun, Writing a Woman’s Life (New York: Ballantine Books,

1988), 39.


11. Allegheny Publications (2161 Woodsdale Road, Salem, Ohio 44460)

advertised Autobiography of Mrs. Hester Ann Rogers and Madame Guyon-

Autobiography in its June 1993 catalog.


12. Biographical information on Maxwell, Rogers, and Fletcher is from Earl Kent

Brown’s sketches of these women in Women of Mr. Wesley’s Methodism (New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1983), 116-154, 199-217.


13. Mary Cole, Trials and Triumphs of Faith (Anderson, Ind.: Gospel Trumpet

Company, 1914), 68; and Sarah A. Cooke, The Handmaiden of the Lord, or Wayside Sketches (Chicago: T. B. Arnold, Publisher, 1896), 37.


14. Cooke, Handmaiden of the Lord, 49, 53, 65, 158, 197 and 284.


15. Ibid., 45.


16. Ibid., 108.


17. Mary A. Glaser, Wonderful Leadings (Allenton, Pa.: By the author, 1893), 14.


18. Adams, Autobiography, 3.


19. Leah D. Hewill, Autobiographical Tightropes (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990), 3; and Culley, “What a Piece of Work,” 9.


20. Narratives of Puritan women were generally edited by clergy and published

after the women died. Ann Taves, “Self and God in the Early Published Memoirs of New England Women,” in American Women’s Autobiography: Fea(s)ts of Memory, 57.


21. Phoebe Palmer, The Way of Holiness with Notes by the Way: Being a Narrative of Religious Experience Resulting from a Determination To Be a bible Christian (New York: Lane and C. B. Tippett, 1845, 2nd ed.; reprint, Salem, Ohio: Schmul Publishing Co., 1988), 14.


22. Adams, Autobiography, 67; and Cooke, Handmaiden of the Lord, 40, 259.


23. Adams, Autobiography, 67.


24. Cooke, Handmaiden of the Lord, 259; and Cole, Trials and Triumphs, 68.


25. Cole, Trials and Triumphs, 41.


26. Mary Lee Cagle, Life and Work of Mary Lee Cagle: An autobiography (Kansas City, Mo.: Nazarene Publishing House, 1928), 21. For the most part, Cagle wrote in the third person.


27. Alma White, The Story of My Life and the Pillar of Fire, 5 vols. (Zarephath,

N.J.: Pillar of Fire, 1935-1943), 1:410, 2:206.

28. Cole, Trials and Triumphs, 42.


29. White, Story of My Life, 1:354.


30. Cagle, Life and Work, 21.


31. Liz Stanley, Auto/biographical I, 112; see also 113-114. Likewise, Andrews

highlights the relationship between sanctification and preaching for these three women. They traced their self-reliance to their sanctification experience which, to them, offered “ample sanction for acts that many, especially men, would judge as rebelliously selfassertive and destructive of good order in the church” (Andrews, Sisters of the Spirit, 14).


32. Adams, Autobiography, 66-67.


33. Ibid., 5. Brereton speaks of power in the context of pentecostalism (Brereton, From Sin to Salvation, 95). However, she claims that power “is a word seldom emphasized in the narrative sin connection with the experience of conversion or holiness” (70). For information on the relationship between sanctification and power, see Susie Stanley, “Empowered Foremothers: Wesleyan/Holiness Women Speak to Today’s Christian Feminists,” Wesleyan Theological Journal 24 (1989): 103-116; and Susie Stanley, “What Sanctification Means to Me: ‘Holiness Is Power'” in Sanctification: Discussion Papers in Preparation for the Fourth International Dialogue on Doctrinal Issues (Anderson, Ind.: Anderson University School of Theology, 1989), 17-24.


34. For instance, see Cooke, Handmaiden of the Lord, 22.


35. Glaser, Wonderful Leadings, 54-55. For many women, the call to preach was related to personal illness. Examples include Margery Kempe, Jarena Lee, and Amanda Smith (Davidson, “Workings of the Spirit,” 271).


36. Glaser, Wonderful Leadings, 48. Glaser believed that “sin always lies at the

root of sickness” (70). White believed that physical problems sometimes were a message from God trying to show her something (White, Story of My Life, 3:66).


37. Glaser, Wonderful Leadings, 117.


38. Cole, Trials and Triumphs, 50-52, 54.


39. White, Story of My Life, 1:161.


40. Cagle, Life and Work, 21.


41. Ibid., 24.


42. Cooke, Handmaiden of the Lord, 34.


43. Cagle, Life and Work, 24; and Glaser, Wonderful Leadings, 143.


44. Adams, Autobiography, 99.


45. Cagle, Life and Work, 21.


46. For two examples, see White, Story of My Life, 1:429, 2:64-65. Kent White

questioned his wife’s interpretation of Scripture.


47. Cagle, Life and Work, 61.


48. Cole, Trials and Triumphs, 85.


49. Glaser, Wonderful Leadings, 145.


50. Adams, Autobiography, 147.


51. Cooke, Handmaiden of the Lord, 129.


52. Cagle, Life and Work, 80.


53. Ibid., 72.


54. Cole, Trials and Triumphs, 106.


55. Ibid., 52.


56. White, Story of My Life, 2:30.


57. Adams, Autobiography, 133.


58. Ibid., 3.


59. Ibid., 150-151.


60. Glaser, Wonderful Leadings, 31. She recorded criticism in several other places (97-98, 105, 120-121, 139, 151).


61. Ibid., 93, 120.


62. Ibid., 135.


63. Ibid., 138, 152.


64. White, Story of My Life, 4:236-237 and 5:329.


65. Ibid., 5:229.


66. Ibid., 5:276, 301.


67. Ibid., 5:32 and 5:86.


68. Ibid., 5:132-3; see also 5:144.


69. Janet Wilson James, “Women in American Religious History: An Overview,”

in Women in American Religion, ed. Janet Wilson James (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1980), 21. Phoebe Palmer, Catherine Booth, Mary Cole and Amanda Smith were other holiness women whom Wilson James classified as “traditionalists.”


70. Cole, Trials and Triumphs, 85-87; Cooke, Handmaiden of the Lord, 174-177; and Cagle, Life and Work, 160-176. White sprinkled references throughout her autobiography (White, Story of My Life, 2:237, 4:208, 5:125-128, 5:146, 5:277, and 5:284-5). Adams is the only woman in the sample who does not provide a Biblical defense for women preachers in her autobiography.

71. Phoebe Palmer, The Promise of the Father; or, A Neglected Specialty of the

Last Days (Boston: Henry V. Degen, 1859); reprint, Salem, Ohio: Schmul Publishers, n.d.; and Catherine Booth, Female Ministry: Woman’s Right to Preach the Gospel (n.p., 1859; reprint, New York: Salvation Army Supplies Printing and Publishing Department, 1975).


72. Cooke, Handmaiden of the Lord, 174; Cole, Trials and Triumphs, 86; Cagle, Life and Work, 161, 169-171; White, Story of My Life, 3:236; and Glaser, Wonderful Leadings, 62. This was the only Scriptural defense that Glaser provided.


73. Cooke, Handmaiden of the Lord, 175-176; and Cagle, 174-175.


74. Cole, Trials and Triumphs, 85-86.


75. Brereton, From Sin to Salvation, 93.


76. Glaser, Wonderful Leadings, 104. The Biblical source for Glaser’s position is: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).


77. Cole, Trials and Triumphs, 191.


78. Brereton, From Sin to Salvation, 93.


79. Cole, Trials and Triumphs, 191.


Stanley, Susie C. (Spring-Fall 1994). Tell me the old, old story: An analysis of autobiographies by holiness women. Wesleyan Theological Journal 29, no. 1 and 2, 7- 22.


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