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But the idealization of women took a form other than the fantasy of a perfect parent and the need for a suffering surrogate; it also took on a sexual component with women providing a characteristic opposite or complementary to one commonly associated with men. The dichotomy of weak and strong was a metaphor often used by both men and women in delineating their differences and separate spheres. One minister described women as weak and powerless, therefore particularly grateful to God for lifting them above a chattel state and to men for giving them protection, provision, and companionship.

BS , May 4, 1897, p. 1.

Women agreed that
in some respects they were exceedingly weak,
were
bought with a price,
and were limited to
small works,
but they liked to remind themselves that these efforts could be enobled and expanded until "eternity alone could estimate the good" derived from them.

BS , February 14, 1895, p. 7.

They even celebrated the passivity that left them pliable:

We are but organs mute, till a master touches the keys-‑

Verily vessels of earth into which God poureth the wine.

Harps are we, silent harps that have hung in thewillow trees,

Dumb till our heart-strings swell and break with a pulse divine.

BS , April 4, 1895, p. 7.

No doubt "mute" was an excess attributable to poetic license, but women often reminded one another that to be womanly was to be

quiet and modest,” not “forward, officious, brash or loud.

BS , February 14, 1895, p. 7

Neither was the ideal woman to let intellectual ambition distract her from attention to the simpler duties of life nor

deep questions of the hour. . .trouble the serene loveliness of her thoughts.

BS , July 22, 1897, p. 10; BS , November 14, 1895, p. 14.

These pursuits were more natural and becoming to a man; in a woman,
sweetness was better than cleverness.

BS , August 20, 1903, p. 10.

As though the two qualities could not possibly coexist within a person—a devastating indictment of Christian men—it was explained that women did not
reason";
they
loved.
BS, July 30, 1903, p. 10. These qualities, linked with their intuitiveness and sensitivity, provided women with that which made them superior: their
heart power." "Nobody,
a minister summed up,
nobody but God can love like a woman.

BS , March 11, 1897, p. 1.

The plethora of sermons, stories and character sketches that upheld woman's virtue and self-abnegation and set her apart from men diminished in Baptist newspapers soon after the turn of the century. The focus on women turned primarily to their religious activities—their competence in organizing for missions and aiding men in the task of world evangelism. The sexes were still discussed as distinct entities, but with many of the same goals and skills, especially within the church. Maternity was deemed as important as ever, but it was dealt with in more objective, less romantic terms. With this change in emphasis, women's record for goodness was viewed as equipping them to help shape society rather than to remain aloof from it, a situation in which both intellect and physical vigor were encouraged as assets.

Questions & Answers

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Source:  OpenStax, Patricia martin thesis. OpenStax CNX. Sep 23, 2013 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11572/1.2
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