Women as Wesleyan Holiness Pentecostal Founders

Women as Wesleyan Holiness Pentecostal Founders

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Book Reviews / Pneuma 33 (2011) 109-169

Abraham Ruelas, Women and the Landscape of American Higher Education: Wesleyan Holi- ness and Pentecostal Founders (Eugene, Ore.: Pickwick, 2010). xx + 166 pp. $21.00 paper.

Ruelas, Chair of Behavioral Sciences and Professor of Communication at Patten University, summarizes the contributions of twenty-seven women that founded significant Wesleyan Holiness and Pentecostal ministries, institutions, and universities. He divides this book into the faith-traditions and writes brief biographical sketches on each of the selected women. Ruelas proposes that women who have founded ministries are often overlooked in the writ- ing of history, thus he champions a continued effort to emphasize the work, contribution, and involvement of women, in order to give honor where it due and to encourage women (and men) to pursue their God-given dreams and calling. He employs a genre of short biographical descriptions and collections, supplying a few tidbits of new information, and he has added several new names not found in other similar books. Te primary value of this book rests on Ruelas’ emphasis on the founding mothers of the institutions of higher education.

Te great challenge that Ruelas has encountered is that of finding credible primary sources. Historiographers have too often failed to give accurate credit to female founders, thus primarily tell, and secondary sources retell, the story of good men, while neglecting to reveal that these good men have followed a path blazed by great women. In this regard, the secondary sources utilized by Ruelas do not always have the most accurate information and unfortunately there are a few inaccurate details repeated from his selected resources. Tis should not detract from the contribution that his book makes to the crucial subject at hand, for this critique is not meant to diminish his effort; rather, it points to the continued need for meticulous research. Te book would be improved by adding a short list for further reading at the conclusion of each biography, although the footnotes are helpful in this regard.

One of the overarching themes of Women and the Landscape of American Higher Educa- tion is written between the lines. It is the theme of subtle networking relationships between many (if not all) of the characters profiled. Countless encounters and interactions occurred between these twenty-seven women, consequently both documented and undocumented interactions can provide the researcher with connecting lines of thought, doctrine, and entrepreneurial tenacity. Tereby, another overarching theme becomes more prevalent to the reader of this book, one that notices the nineteenth and twentieth century changes in the spiritual, social, and ecclesial dynamics of institutional founding and building. Te women in Ruelas’ book were founding ministries while America was in the throes of Suf- frage. While American socio-cultural expectation and political legislation was denying rudimentary rights of women, the Spirit of God was urging women to follow the calling of God, in spite of the disapproval of men.

Tese two themes should cause readers to sit up and take notice, not just in a reflective look at the past, but also in discerning look at the present. Ruelas points to the contrast between a tacit grassroots intuition, which is demonstrated in the story of the women ini- tiators, over and against a potentially self-absorbed disconnected patriarchy, who uninten- tionally or intentionally wrote them out of the historical record. Tis should cause readers to question if the patriarchy of these organizations attempted to modify its history to fit its

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2011 DOI: 10.1163/157007411X554929


Book Reviews / Pneuma 33 (2011) 109-169


theological paradigm, rather than to see its authentic origin, and/or if they were simply following societal expectations. In either regard, the brief stories that Ruelas has collected point to the pragmatic approach that these women took; this is Wesleyan Holiness and Pentecostal feminism at its best. Ruelas does not imply that any of these women were negatively radical or sinfully rebellious, for they were all determined to follow the call of God and the urging of God’s Spirit within the heart. Tey were unencumbered by social norms and ecclesial boundaries; they were pressed forward to follow the calling of the Holy Ghost.

Women and the Landscape of American Higher Education should whet the appetite for more information. Tus, the reader will be encouraged to dig deeper into his or her own faith tradition. Each short biographical essay introduces a godly woman who pressed through many challenges to successfully plant a school, ministry, or university.

Reviewed by Rev. John R. Miller, Ph.D. Adjunct Professor

Elim Bible Institute, Lima, New York johnmi3@regent.edu


1 Comment

  • Reply February 5, 2022

    Julia A. J. Foote

    the short autobiography of Julia A. J. Foote “A brand plucked from the fire” was a wonderful testimony of entire sanctification. God’s grace being sufficient. The record of her struggles, overcoming prayer and ministry is very refreshing.

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