In 1895, Elizabeth Cady Stanton published a controversial critique of the Bible that attributed woman’s powerlessness not only to the laws of the state but also to the teachings of the predominant religions. A century later, her views remain relevant in the current debate about the role of women in the church.
Having heard the names of Biblical characters such as Eve and Jezebel invoked to her pleas for woman suffrage, Stanton determined that the Bible was the primary cause of the subjugation of women. Arguing that, far from being the word of God, “these degrading ideas of woman emanated from the brain of man,” Stanton and a committee of prominent feminists scrutinized Biblical passages relating to women.
The result was a book filled with both common sense and Biblical scholarship that rings with both humor and anger. Biblical events were placed in historical context, interpreted as both allegory and fact, and compared to the myths of other cultures. Essays on the discriminatory passages characterize Adam as a whining tattle-tale and reveal the Ten Commandments to have been written “chiefly for men” (although Stanton concedes to the wisdom of the fifth commandment and does not object to the Golden Rule).
Stanton’s supporters had come primarily from the abolitionist and temperance movements, which were guided largely by Christian beliefs, and The Woman’s Bible outraged conservative suffragists. Publication of Volume I in 1895 (the second volume was not completed until 1898) contributed to a dramatic shift in power within the National American Woman Suffrage Association, which officially disavowed The Woman’s Bible at its 1896 convention and subsequently rallied around more conservative views of women and the family.
This new edition contains both volumes of The Woman’s Bible. A new introduction places the document in its historical context and comments on its place within religious studies.