"Oh Thou Woman That Bringest Good Tidings: The Life and Work of Katharine C. Bushnell," by Dana Hardwick (Christians for Biblical Equality, P.O. Box 7155, St. Paul, Minn. 55107, 124 pp.; $7.50, paper). Reviewed by David Neff.
Buried in a footnote in "Oh Thou Woman That Tellest Good Tidings" is a shocking suggestion: the Christian poet who wrote the hymn texts "Watchman, What of the Night" and "In the Cross of Christ I Glory" was also a politician who supported measures that tolerated and institutionalized forced prostitution.
Indeed, if Kate Bushnell—medical doctor, missionary to China, linguist, and crusader against "social vice"—is to be believed, a great many of the Christian gentlemen who led England and America in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the first quarter of the twentieth were hypocrites at worst or blind guides at best.
At issue were unfair laws: First, laws that ostensibly regulated the spread of "social diseases," but that in practice detained women in prisonlike hospitals only to turn them back over to the keepers of the brothels, while treating men who suspected they had had contact with a diseased woman as outpatients. Second, laws that punished the keepers of brothels with nominal fines (when the laws were enforced), effectively licensing rather than discouraging prostitution and the enslavement of women.
Bushnell's first investigation into the "white slave trade" took her to the lumber camps of Wisconsin. Persistent rumors of women being kept against their will in lumber-town brothels drove her to see for herself—despite a government investigation that had declared them nonexistent. She interviewed the women themselves and investigated the political collusion that kept the rotten system festering, ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 60+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more