Women in New Religions offers an engaging look at women’s evolving place in the birth and development of new religious movements. It focuses on four disparate new religions—Mormonism, Seventh-day Adventism, The Family International, and Wicca—to illuminate their implications for gender socialization, religious leadership and participation, sexuality, and family ideals.
Religious worldviews and gender roles interact with one another in complicated ways. This is especially true within new religions, which frequently set roles for women in ways that help the movements to define their boundaries in relation to the wider society. As new religious movements emerge, they often position themselves in opposition to dominant society and concomitantly assert alternative roles for women. But these religions are not monolithic: rather than defining gender in rigid and repressive terms, new religions sometimes offer possibilities to women that are not otherwise available. Vance traces expectations for women as the religions emerge, and transformation of possibilities and responsibilities for women as they mature.
Weaving theory with examination of each movement’s origins, history, and beliefs and practices, this text contextualizes and situates ideals for women in new religions. The book offers an accessible analysis of the complex factors that influence gender ideology and its evolution in new religious movements, including the movements’ origins, charismatic leadership and routinization, theology and doctrine, and socio-historical contexts. It shows how religions shape definitions of women’s place in a way that is informed by response to social context, group boundaries, and identity.
- "This engaging new book shows us why and how gender plays a powerful role in the formation and growth of new religions. Integrating gender and social theory with illuminating accounts of spiritual entrepreneurs both strange and familiar, this is a thorough, well-crafted, and eminently useful addition to an important field of study."
—Margaret Bendroth, Congregational Library
"Clearly the result of intensive research, this book offers invaluable insights into the different—and shifting—attitudes towards and experiences of women in four alternative religions. I recommend it most strongly not only to scholars interested in the study of gender and of new religions, but also to the general reader curious about the extraordinary variety of ways in which half the population can be viewed and treated according to widely differing perceptions of reality.”
—Eileen Barker, author of New Religious Movements: A Practical Introduction
"This work emphasizes the necessity of examining gender in the quest to understand religions."
"The new Women in Religions series from NYU Press offers accessible primers on ways women have shaped and been influenced by various religious traditions."
“This is an important volume in the series on Women in Religion. It is both engaging and insightful and offers critical information about new religions and the role and influence women have had in their developments.”
—Catholic Book Review
“This book has much to offer in terms of both history and sociological frameworks for evaluation, and for that reason it should work well in classrooms that focus on topics including gender and religion, new religious movements, and American religion, among others.”
—Sociology of Religion
“This second volume is particularly interesting because, while much has been written on European traditional religion, these newer denominations have not had as much neutral examination.”
“Vance has offered an excellent introduction to the histories, theories, and practices of women in Mormonism, Seventh-Day Adventism, The Family International, and Wicca.”
—Religious Studies Review
“In Women and New Religions Laura Vance offers a creative strategy for furthering this work of integration.”
"Argues that religion is a site for both legitimating and challenging gender roles . . . The book would work well in undergraduate courses focusing on gender and religion, or new religious movements."
—Review of Religious Research
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