Why did Protestant Christianity and Protestant women emerge as forces for social change?

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This is a broad question, but there's no doubt Protestantism has been associated with various kinds of social change, though people naturally argue about this topic.

In 1905, sociologist Max Weber published an influential book called The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, in which he argued that the...

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This is a broad question, but there's no doubt Protestantism has been associated with various kinds of social change, though people naturally argue about this topic.

In 1905, sociologist Max Weber published an influential book called The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, in which he argued that the Protestant—particularly the Calvinist—work ethic led to the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution brought massive social change to the world, upending traditional relationships between the once powerful landed aristocracy and the rest of society. Protestants also tended to be frugal, Weber argued, and this allowed them to amass capital to invest in business, also leading to economic growth and hence, social change. Because they had the wealth to found charitable institutions, they left their mark on society. For example, Quakers instituted reforms in how the insane were treated, focusing more on cure and less on restraint.

Early on, dissident groups such as the Quakers pressed for social change so that they could practice their version of Protestant Christianity without facing arrest. The Quakers, called The Religious Society of Friends, fought for religious freedom so they would not be jailed for not paying their tithes to the Church of England, and not have their property seized when they refused to take oaths. They also wanted the right to marry without a priest officiating. Eventually, they won these rights. The also brought and implemented ideas of religious freedom to the New World when they founded Pennsylvania. The principle of religious toleration both ended the bloody European religious wars of the seventeenth century and became part of the U.S. Constitution, and so was an important innovation.

Protestant women emerged as a force for social change for several reasons. First, many Protestant denominations granted women more power and equality than they had had in the Roman Catholic Church. Methodism and Quakerism, for example allowed women to preach.

Second, Protestantism privileged the individual's direct relationship with God. Protestantism encouraged the examination of conscience and following the dictates of the individual conscience. When Protestant women, who were used to having a voice in their churches and to value their consciences, saw social injustice in the wider world, they were more likely to feel empowered to speak out about it. For example, Quaker Elizabeth Fry spoke out against and worked successfully to institute prison reforms, despite severe personal criticisms directed at her. In the United States, Quaker women were often at the forefront of movements for the abolition of slavery women's rights because they were taught that all people equally possessed the light of God and believed they should be treated equally under the law. Harriet Beecher Stowe grew up in a Calvinist household and felt compelled by conscience to write Uncle Tom's Cabin, an extremely influential anti-slavery novel.

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Protestant Christianity and Protestant women have shaped needed social changes at various points in American history, so this is a pretty broad question.

One point of great influence occurred in the 19th century. As this new era began, there were just 16 American states. By the time the century ended, there would be 45. Borders were constantly changing as the frontier pushed westward. Millions of immigrants poured into the United States from Germany, Ireland, China, and other places across the globe, bringing with them their various cultures and beliefs. And in this century, America would find itself divided in a brutal war as an American Union and a Confederate Army fought in the background and backyards of American life.

Americans were unsettled.

In this unease, Americans sought ways to live peacefully and in hope of better days ahead. Protestantism brought with it the idea of loving mankind and of a collective goodness. The numbers of Protestant churches grew. New denominations were formed. Christian education was heralded and Protestant-based colleges were formed. In the midst of so much social change, people grounded themselves in faith.

This growth of Protestantism in America led to new opportunities for women. Although they were not allowed to assume ministerial positions, they began to form religious missionary and reform societies. Although based in Protestant ideologies, these groups of women often collectively sought social and political change, which influenced the women's rights movements starting after the Civil War. These groups allowed women to emerge as valuable voices in a country which had not given them a noticeable platform thus far in American history.

Because the country was changing so quickly, Protestant Christianity and Protestant women in particular found a collective voice to reflect the concerns of the country.

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 The Protestant church went through many changes after the Reformation in 1517.  After leaving Europe and hitting the shores of modern day America the Church was fairly strict not only on doctrine but on the Church's influence in society.  The first Puritans were not as socially liberal as they are today.  Warfare and technology advancements, which often received pushback from the Protestant Church, are in large part responsible for the shift in social reform.

      After the American Civil War, women's role in society changed.  The War left many homes without a man and required women to take on traditionally male roles.  This change encouraged society to view women as more socially acceptable in politics.  Additionally, the migration from east to west also required women to take on traditionally male roles.  This shift in responsibility encouraged women to be more outspoken and their ideas were accepted.

     Along with more roles in society, women were also able to have more free time due to technology advancements.  Some women choose to work outside the home, but those still homemakers the technology gave more freedom.  The industrial revolution brought about many changes to laws which protected workers.  Women were also pushing for changes in society because they felt, and in large part were, more accepted in political society.

     Protestant women were more part of society and therefore grew to quickly use the political machine to push social change.  They were allowed because technology and social migration encouraged them to be part of society.  Lastly, this took place within the Protestant church because it was not subject to the strict demands of the Pope or male hierarchy.

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