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Foreword by the Author
Thank you for your interest in my book, Hidden Work. You are free to go directly to the online file, but it may be helpful for you to get a bit of information about me.
When I finished my dissertation and received my Ph.D. from the Rice University Department of History in 1982, my professors — Southern historian John Boles in particular — urged me to send it to several well-regarded publishers. The response was good, but the publishers most positive about the manuscript felt I needed to revise it to include greater attention to the critical feminist theory that was gaining importance at the time, particularly in academic circles. I considered myself a feminist and enthusiastically attended the 1977 National Women’s Conference in Houston, where the line-up of speakers included First Ladies Rosalynn Carter, Betty Ford, and Lady Bird Johnson, and activists Bella Abzug, Betty Friedan, Barbara Jordan, Liz Carpenter, and Coretta Scott King. Not only that, but I also proudly wore the conference T-Shirt to the dining hall of Rice’s 230-member all-male Sid Richardson residential college my husband Bill and I oversaw from 1976 until 1981. I respected the work of feminist scholars. Still, I did not follow the publishers’ recommendation, for two main reasons.
First, though I had always excelled in academic work and had written the dissertation as one of the first recipients of a Dissertation Fellowships in Women’s Studies from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation — now known as The Institute for Citizens & Scholars — five years of working closely with students at Richardson College had led me to believe that I might find greater satisfaction in academic administration. Also, with a daughter in college, we needed another income more than I needed another academic achievement. I worked from 1982–84 in Rice’s then-fledgling Continuing Studies program organizing individual courses. I greatly enjoyed that work, but I wanted to engage more directly with undergraduate students. When a position as Director of Student Activities opened in the office of Academic Advising opened in 1984, I applied for and got the job. In 1986, I was promoted to Director of Student Activities and Advising. In due course, I was appointed Dean of Students Affairs, Dean of Undergraduate Students, with a broad set of responsibilities and, eventually, extensive involvement in Study Abroad programs, including leadership positions in several national and international organizations. At the time of my retirement in 1999, my title was Associate Vice-President for Student Affairs.
These responsibilities and tasks left little time for delving deeply into critical feminist theory and applying it to the research, thought, and writing I had put into the dissertation; but there was a second reason I declined to alter what I had written. I believed then and believe now that it was not only unnecessary but also would likely weaken any impact such a book might have. At the risk of seeming immodest, I believe you will find that my research is solid and extensive and that I have provided in considerable detail an account of how deeply committed, highly competent Texas Southern Baptist women determined to use, legitimize, and gain recognition for their efforts to serve God had to struggle against patriarchal forces equally determined to prevent those efforts or at least to keep them hidden. Their story is far from unique.
A century since the end of the decades covered by this research, this struggle has continued in various forms in other denominations, particularly among evangelical Christians. As I write these words in July 2023, nowhere is the fighting fiercer and more public than in the Southern Baptist Convention, after delegates to the SBC’s annual meeting in New Orleans in June not only overwhelmingly approved an amendment to their constitution stipulating that their churches must have “only men as any kind of pastor or elder as qualified by Scripture,” but also “finalized the expulsion of two churches with female pastors … potentially opening up hundreds of new churches to investigation and expulsions” (The New York Times, June 14, 2023).
Coincidentally, this is happening at a time when being able to assert that a book reflects the views of “critical” or “woke” scholars is an effective way to keep it hidden, providing defenders of patriarchy with an easy excuse for not grappling with the actual ideology and experiences that motivated and sustained these women in their efforts to attain equality.
Despite these reservations, as increasing numbers of churches, like myriad other organizations, have called for greater opportunity for women in leadership positions, I have long felt that Hidden Work can provide historical background that could be helpful to both men and women grappling with these matters.
In 2012, Rice was beginning its nonprofit educational OpenStax program, making peer-reviewed textbooks and other materials available free in digital formats. One of the early leaders in this effort was Sidney Burrus, an esteemed Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, former Dean of Engineering at Rice, and close friend since the early 1970s. At Sidney’s persistent urging, I eventually agreed to have my dissertation made available as an e-book on OpenStax CNX (acronym for Connexions), a community authoring program. That involved a great deal of excellent work by the OpenStax staff, for which I remain grateful. I was less delighted that one had to know that the e-book existed, was not easy to find, and even then was identified only as “Patricia Martin’s Thesis” rather than by its more appealing title, Hidden Work. In 2020, the OpenStax CNX platform was retired but its contents were preserved by the nonprofit Internet Archive, chosen not only for its reliability but also because of their mission, “to provide universal access to all knowledge.”
I was greatly pleased, though not surprised when the folk at OpenStax agreed that in addition to directing readers to the Internet Archive site, I could make the book available on a personal website such as Bill’s and the website of the Baker Institute Religion and Public Policy Program, which Bill directed until his recent retirement.
Once again, thank you for your interest in my book. I hope it will be helpful in resolving the conflict troubling so many churches and other religious organizations.
Patricia Summerlin Martin, Ph.D.
This study examines the extent to which the Bible's teaching regarding feminine nature and role shaped the changes modernity imposed on American women's lives in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. It focuses on Texas Baptists between 1880 and 1920—a biblically conservative group of lower- and middle-class southwesterners—and provides alternative data to the existing studies of northeastern and southern women.
Chapter II delineates the specific biblical teaching regarding women that was emphasized by Texas Baptists and the ways they utilized those passages to justify an expanded role for women while retaining a concept of male authority in both the family and the church. Baptist women enlarged the scope of their religious activities most significantly between 1880 and 1920 in the creation of a successful missions support organization, the development of which is described in Chapter III. Although this all-female "union" enhanced women's administrative skills and gave them an avenue to power, it maintained an auxiliary position to the denomination as a whole and avoided theological and political issues. Chapter IV notes the same configuration of change in other religious activities of women: they expanded their sphere in worship, education, and benevolence but left ordination to the both the ministry and the diaconate as a male prerogative. The widest field of service and the best possibility of a religious vocation for women lay in their serving as missionaries. Chapter V moves from the explicitly religious realm to other aspects of Baptist women's lives and focuses on the way Christian goals were translated into character models, educational pursuits, marriage, motherhood, and the exercise of civic responsibility.
Between 1880 and 1920 Texas Baptist women used the Bible to justify their exercising greater freedom, but the patriarchal orientation of the church and the family was retained. Although this conservative reaction to change had some positive elements—it emphasized the interdependence of the sexes and the need for rearing children in a stable environment—it severely limited the full equality of Baptist women. That attainment necessitated further reinterpretation of their ideology and a willingness to deal openly with issues of conflict and power.
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