What is Woman?: A Re-examination of Feminism & the Church

The relationship between Feminism and the church – and the current debate surrounding Feminism – cannot be understood without first closely examining the historical roots of Feminism. As with any idea, we must first figure out how we got where we are before we can determine how to proceed. We cannot understand anything about Feminism if we do not first explore the profound and radical change that was wrought upon the home, the family, and women by the Industrial Revolution.

The Industrial Revolution

Before the mid-1800s agrarian homes were miniature manufacturing centers. Men and women, children and grandparents, worked together and the rural home was largely self-sufficient, “demanding of its female workers a wide variety of skills and an endless capacity for hard work.”[i] The work of the woman was essential to the survival of the family. In addition to what we now think of as the work of the home (cooking, washing dishes, sweeping, dusting, laundering) women did everything from carrying water, chopping and hauling wood, and laying fires to candlemaking, soapmaking, spinning, weaving, shoemaking, quilting, rugmaking, making medicines, etc. She accomplished all this in addition to