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The Religious History of American WomenReimagining the Past$
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Catherine A. Brekus

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780807831021

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: July 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807867990_brekus

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Sarah Osborn's Enlightenment Reimagining Eighteenth-Century Intellectual History

Sarah Osborn's Enlightenment Reimagining Eighteenth-Century Intellectual History

(p.108) 4 Sarah Osborn's Enlightenment Reimagining Eighteenth-Century Intellectual History
The Religious History of American Women

Catherine A. Brekus

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter examines the place occupied by women in narrative histories of the Enlightenment in America. Drawing on recent scholarship connecting the rise of evangelicalism in the eighteenth century to enlightened thought, it argues that women's history changes many assumptions about the Enlightenment in America. The chapter shows that evangelical women were deeply attracted to the Enlightenment's emphasis on experience by citing the case of Sarah Osborn, an eighteenth-century teacher from Newport, Rhode Island. Rather than an elite, male movement, the Enlightenment was a broader transformation that affected the way ordinary converts, including women, made sense of their lives. The chapter also views evangelicalism as an Enlightenment form of Protestantism, and discusses how Sarah Osborn and other evangelical women used the new emphasis on experience and certainty to achieve greater religious authority.

Keywords:   women, Enlightenment, America, evangelicalism, Sarah Osborn, Protestantism, evangelical women, experience, religious authority, converts

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