The introduction lays out the main theses of the book. Namely, despite Protestant discomfort with Catholic Marian theology, Marian imagery was vividly present in nineteenth-century America’s popular and visual culture. A wide range of novelists, ministers, artists, and ordinary Catholics and Protestants were fascinated by the Virgin Mary, and together they elevated her as a symbol of womanhood. Beyond Mary’s role within congregations, denominations, devotional and theological systems, she existed as a cultural icon with distinctive characteristics and narrative content recognized by nineteenth-century Americans. And through these widespread, popular visual and literary representations, Marian theology had more influence on the development of American gender ideology than is generally understood. It also clarifies the authors use of terms such as American Catholicism and American Protestantism.
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