Forgotten prophets : the lives of unitarian women, 1760-1904
The thesis starts with the observation that although women have been active in English Unitarian congregations since their foundation, they are absent from the standard writings on Unitarian theology and history. In the first chapter I situate myself within the Unitarian movement and as a feminist theologian and then examine relevant work by others. Through three main case studies and drawing on their 'documents of life' as well as published writings, I explore how Unitarian women from the mid eighteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth century understood and acted out their faith. The first study, of Anna Laetitia Barbauld (1743-1825), shows how a woman could negotiate the various exclusions and use various opportunities to become a public Unitarian figure. The second study is based on the letters written to and by Helen Bourn/Martineau/Tagart in the 1820s and shows how a group of middle-class Unitarian women (including Harriet Martineau) related to their faith. In the third study I demonstrate how themes from these earlier times are developed in the second half of the nineteenth century, with particular reference to Frances Power Cobbe (journalist, theologian, and worker for animal and women's rights) and Gertrude von Petzold (the first women to be officially trained and fully recognised as a Unitarian minister). This provides a reworked story of Unitarianism in which gender issues are addressed and women are seen to have had an active presence.