The body/the Body of Christ

Women preachers, both lay and ordained, were constantly required to negotiate and accommodate authority within the Body of Christ. The church, with its long tradition of Mothers in Israel and many examples of preaching mothers, understood that selfless motherhood brought spiritual authority and that moral maternalism justified women’s expanding roles in a society in which the vulnerable needed protection. Yet in the 1930s, as women called for equality in employment, the Australian Methodist Church opted for the self-preserving status quo over the ordination of mothers and married women, thus containing maternal authority and calling on principles of celibacy antithetical to their own tradition. Throughout this period of change, press reporting, with its descriptions of women’s hair, eyes, smiles and motherliness, continued to assume that the body manifested the soul. Within the Body of Christ, however, flesh and spirit were torn asunder: women’s spiritual and mental authority was denied in view of their bodies.


“Reverend Lady-Australian Woman Minister”, Examiner (Tas.), 29 June 1927, 7; “A Lady Pastorine”, Bunyip (SA), 21 May 1926, 11.

Diane Winston, Red-Hot and Righteous: The Urban Religion of The Salvation Army (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), 17; Shurlee Swain, “In These Days of Female Evangelists and Hallelujah Lasses: Women Preachers and the Redefinition of Gender Roles in the Churches in Late Nineteenth-Century Australia”, Journal of Religious History 26, no. 1 (2002): 65-77; Laura Rademaker, "Religion for the Modern Girl: Maude Royden in Australia, 1928”, Australian Feminist Studies 31, no. 89 (2016): 336-354.

Anne Summers, Damned Whores and God’s Police: The Colonisation of Women in Australia (Melbourne: Allen Lane/Penguin, 1975), 361; Marilyn Lake, Getting Equal: A History of Australian Feminism (Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1999); Marilyn Lake, Progressive New World: How Settler Colonialism and Transpacific Exchange Shaped American Reform (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2019); Fiona Paisley, Loving Protection: Australian Feminism and Aboriginal Women’s Rights (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2000); Margaret Jacobs, White Mother to a Dark Race: Settler Colonialism, Maternalism, and the Removal of Indigenous Children in the American West and Australia, 1880-1940 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009).

Anne O’Brien, “Militant Mothers: Faith, Power and Identity in the Mothers’ Union in Sydney, 1896-1950”, Women’s History Review 9, no.l (2000): 38; Ellen Warne, Agitate, Educate, Organise, Legislate: Protestant Women’s Social Action in Post-Suffrage Australia (Melbourne: Melbourne University Publishing, 2017); Patricia Grimshaw and Peter Sherlock,“Women and Cultural Exchanges”, in Missions and Empire, ed. Norman Etherington (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 185.

Julia Pitman, “Prophets and Priests: Congregational Women in Australia, 1919-1977” (PhD thesis, University of Adelaide, 2005), 139-185.

Henry Moore, The Life of Mrs Mary Fletcher (New York: Methodist Episcopal Church, 1818), 441.

Phyllis Mack, “Methodism and Motherhood”, in Culture and the Nonconformist Tradition, eds. Jane Shaw and Alan Kreider (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1999), 32, 35-36.

Ruth Perry, “Colonizing the Breast: Sexuality and Maternity in Eighteenth-Century England”, Journal of the History’ of Sexuality 2, no. 2 (1991): 209.

Catherine Booth, Female Ministry, or Woman's Right to Preach the Gospel (London: Morgan and Chase, 1859), 4.

Nicole Starling, “Between Two Paradigms: Harriet Pullen and the Earliest Australian Female Preachers”, Journal of Religious History 39, no. 3 (2015): 413.

“Mrs Hampson”, Christian Colonist, 27 July 1883; Spectator, 29 June 1883, quoted in Swain, “In These Days”: 72.

John Walker, “Baeyertz, Emilia Louise”, Australian Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, ed. Brian Dickey (Sydney: Evangelical History Association, 1994), 18-19.

Gary Krause, “White, Ellen Gould (1827-1915)”, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, published first in hardcopy 1990, 15989.

Sarah Jane Lancaster, “Good News Hall”, Good News (Melbourne) 17, no. 10 (October 1926): 11, quoted in Shane Clifton, Pentecostal Churches in Transition: Analysing the Developing Ecclesiology of the Assemblies of God in Australia (Leiden: Brill, 2009), 63.

"Prayer Hospital”, Australasian (Melbourne), 26 August 1911, 44.

“Back to Pentecost”, Sun (Sydney), 1 March 1912, 6. Alfred Deakin and John Christian Watson each served as the Australian prime minister, and William Henry Fitchett was a prominent Australian Methodist minister.

“Back to Pentecost”, Sun, 1 March 1912, 6.

“Back to Pentecost”, Sun, 1 March 1912, 6.

Clifton, Pentecostal Churches, 58.

Several examples of Lancaster being referred to as “Mother” in Good News are outlined in Barry Chant, “Spirit of Pentecost” (PhD thesis, Macquarie University, 2000): 214-215, and Heart of Fire: The Story of Australian Pentecostalism (Unley Park, S.A.: House of Tabor, 1984), 37. For an example of Lancaster referred to as ‘Sister’, see “Astounding Faith-Casting out Lots of Devils”, Zeehan and Dundas Herald (Tas.), 11 August 1911, 1.

“Back to Pentecost”, Sun, 1 March 1912, 6.

Shurlee Swain, “Lancaster, Sarah Jane”, The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth Century Australia, Australian Women’s Archive Project (2014), accessed 11 October 2019. biogs/WLE0330b.htm.

Edith L. Blumhofer, Aimee Semple McPherson: Everybody’s Sister (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 198. Blumhofer notes that McPherson may have exaggerated Lancaster’s unorthodoxy. For discussion of Lancaster’s Trinitarian heterodoxy see Chant, Heart of Fire, 51-55.

Beverley Skeggs, Formations of Class and Gender: Becoming Respectable (London: Sage, 1997), 42.

Swain, “In These Days”: 76-77.

Winifred Kiek, Child Nature and Child Nurture (London: Religious Tract Society, 1927).

"WCTU”, Register (SA), 1 September 1925, 2; “WCTU”, Glenelg Guardian (SA), 18 November 1926, 4.

“Women in the Pulpit”, Register, 11 June 1927, 10.

“Women in the Pulpit”, Register, 11 June 1927, 10.

“First Woman Minister”, Register, 14 June 1927,11.

“First Woman Minister: ‘My babies are my greatest joy’”, News (Adelaide), 10 June 1927, 16.

“First Woman Minister”, Register, 14 June 1927,11.

“Church Home and Children-Mrs Winifred Kiek’s Ideals”, Observer (Adelaide), 25 June 1927, 54.

“Church, Home, and Children-Mrs Winifred Kiek’s Ideals”, Observer, 25 June 1927, 54.

Warne, Agitate, Educate, Organise, Legislate.

Lake, Getting Equal, 84.

“Miss Emilie Polini, Custody of Child Refused,” Advertiser (Adelaide), 12 April 1924, 14.

Winifred Kiek, “Women in the Pulpit”, Register-News Pictorial (Adelaide), 29 May 1929, 7.

Winifred Kiek, “The Church-Our Mother”, 13, sermon in Kiek papers, PRG 225/10/1, State Library of South Australia, cited in Julia Pitman, “Our Principle of Sex Equality”: The Ordination of Women in the Congregational Church in Australia, 1927-1977 (Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2016), 109. “First Woman Minister: ‘My Babies Are My Greatest Joy’”, News, 10 June 1927,16.

“Church, Home, and Children”, Observer, 25 June 1927, 54.

"To Give Up Pastorate: Rev. Winifred Kiek Acts”, News (Adelaide), 4 December 1933,1.

Lake, Getting Equal, 173.

  • 44 Robert Mawdesley, “A Woman in the Pulpit: A Man’s Impression of Doreen Allen”, Table Talk (Melbourne), 15 October 1931, 22.
  • 45 Mawdesley, “Woman in the Pulpit”, 22.
  • 46 See Robert Mawdesley’s old-fashioned concern with decorum in “Do Modern Women Deserve Courtesy?” The Argus, 10 June 1939,11.
  • 47 Mawdesley, “Woman in the Pulpit”, 22.
  • 48 Mawdesley, “Woman in the Pulpit”, 22. The accompanying portrait of Allen shows a fresh-faced young woman with a look of anticipation.
  • 49 Hilary M. Carey, Believing in Australia (St Leonards, NSW: Allen and Unwin, 1996), 201.
  • 50 “Women Candidates for the Ministry”, Minutes of the Ninth General Conference of the Methodist Church in Australasia (Melbourne: Spectator Publishing, 1929).
  • 51 “Woman Ministers”, Daily Mercury (Queensland), 6 October 1931,2.
  • 52 “Woman Ministers”, Daily Mercury, 2.
  • 53 In October 1969, 37 years after the in-principle decision to ordain women, Margaret Sanders and Coralie Ling were the first women ordained as Methodist ministers in Australia: “Women in the Ministry”, The Canberra Times, 25 October 1969, 20.
  • 54 “Women and the Ministry”, Minutes of the Tenth General Conference of the Methodist Church in Australasia (Sydney: Epworth Press, 1932), 137.
  • 55 “Women Ministers”, Port Lincoln Times (SA), 3 June 1932, 9.
  • 56 “Woman Preacher to Run Girls’ Club”, Herald (Melbourne), 7 July 1932, 8.
  • 57 “Melbourne Chatter”, The Bulletin (Sydney), 19 April 1933, 31.
  • 58 Allen Beaton (pseud, of Pearce Beaton Barber), A Miser Is Murdered (Sydney: Cascade, 1945).
  • 59 Beaton, Miser Is Murdered, 54.
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