Reviews

|

The Forgotten Woman of Evangelical History
The Forgotten Woman of Evangelical History
Sarah Osborn's World: The Rise of Evangelical Christianity in Early America (New Directions in Narrative History)
Our Rating
5 Stars - Masterpiece
Book Title
Sarah Osborn's World: The Rise of Evangelical Christianity in Early America (New Directions in Narrative History)
Author
Publisher
Yale University Press
Release Date
January 8, 2013
Pages
448
Price
$39.43
Buy Sarah Osborn's World: The Rise of Evangelical Christianity in Early America (New Directions in Narrative History) from Amazon

"What can the story of an eighteenth-century woman's life tell us about the rise of evangelical Christianity in America?" When University of Chicago historian Catherine Brekus raises this question at the opening of Sarah Osborn's World: The Rise of Evangelical Christianity in Early America (Yale University Press), you know that her answer will be "a lot." Nonetheless, it's astonishing just how much Brekus is able to reveal about Osborn, 18th-century America, and the origins of evangelicalism—especially in light of the disparate and challenging sources she had to work with.

Osborn (not to be confused with Salem Witch Trial victim Sarah Osborne, who lived a century earlier) was born in London in 1714. Her family moved to New England in 1722 and settled in bustling Newport, Rhode Island, in 1729. Her remarkable life there forms the through-line of the book, as Brekus dramatically narrates her fraught relationships, aching poverty, spiritual struggles, evolving attitudes, and controversial leadership of a revival in the 1760s. Celebrated as a near-saint upon her death in 1796, Osborn was subsequently disregarded as "an anachronism, a relic of an evangelical past that few wanted to remember." Her God was too stern, her view of suffering too stoic for the progress-oriented evangelicals of the 19th century and beyond.

Brekus pieced Osborn's life story together from a 1743 memoir, ten diaries, an anonymously published tract, and hundreds of letters. Some of these had been published previously, but Brekus also spent countless hours with manuscripts, parsing Osborn's nonstandard grammar and scrutinizing her crowded handwriting with a magnifying glass. This work alone justifies ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Browse All Book Reviews By:
Read These Next
Current IssueWhy Don’t the Gospel Writers Tell the Same Story?
Why Don’t the Gospel Writers Tell the Same Story? Subscriber Access Only
New Testament scholar and apologist Michael Licona’s new book argues that ancient literary devices are the answer—and that’s a good thing for Christians.
RecommendedThe Real History of the Crusades
The Real History of the CrusadesSubscriber Access Only
A series of holy wars against Islam led by power-mad popes and fought by religious fanatics? Think again.
TrendingForgiveness: Muslims Moved as Coptic Christians Do the Unimaginable
Forgiveness: Muslims Moved as Coptic Christians Do the Unimaginable
Amid ISIS attacks, faithful response inspires Egyptian society.
Editor's PickChristians, Think Twice About Eradicating Mosquitoes to Defeat Malaria
Christians, Think Twice About Eradicating Mosquitoes to Defeat Malaria
When disease vectors are also victims.
Christianity Today
The Forgotten Woman of Evangelical History
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

March 2013

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.