Books by Margaret Bendroth

Margaret Lamberts Bendroth, former Executive Director of the Congregational Library & Archives, is also a respected historian, author, and lecturer.



[]The Last Puritans: Mainline Protestants and the Power of the Past (2015)

Congregationalists, the oldest group of American Protestants, are the heirs of New England's first founders. While they were key characters in the story of early American history, from Plymouth Rock and the founding of Harvard and Yale to the Revolutionary War, their luster and numbers have faded. But Margaret Bendroth's critical history of Congregationalism over the past two centuries reveals how the denomination is essential for understanding mainline Protestantism in the making.

Bendroth chronicles how the New England Puritans, known for their moral and doctrinal rigor, came to be the antecedents of the United Church of Christ, one of the most liberal of all Protestant denominations today. The demands of competition in the American religious marketplace spurred Congregationalists, Bendroth argues, to face their distinctive history. By engaging deeply with their denomination's storied past, they recast their modern identity. The soul-searching took diverse forms — from letter writing and eloquent sermonizing to Pilgrim-celebrating Thanksgiving pageants — as Congregationalists renegotiated old obligations to their seventeenth-century spiritual ancestors. The result was a modern piety that stood a respectful but ironic distance from the past and made a crucial contribution to the American ethos of religious tolerance.


[]The Spiritual Practice of Remembering (2013)

We often dismiss history as dull or irrelevant, but our modern disengagement from the past puts us fundamentally out of step with the long witness of the Christian tradition. Yet, says Margaret Bendroth, the past tense is essential to our language of faith, and without it our conversation is limited and thin.

This accessible, beautifully written book presents a new argument for honoring the past. The Christian tradition gives us the powerful image of a vast communion of saints, all of God's people, both living and dead, in vital conversation with each other. This kind of connection with our ancestors in the faith, Bendroth maintains, will not happen by wishing or by accident. She argues that remembering must become a regular spiritual practice, part of the rhythm of our daily lives as we recognize our world to be, in many ways, a gift from others who have gone before.


[]A School of the Church : Andover Newton Across Two Centuries (2008)

Andover Newton Theological School is the oldest graduate theological institution in the United States. Margaret Lamberts Bendroth here offers a compelling account of this historic institution and its two original sources. Andover Seminary, a Congregational school established in 1807, opened in 1808 and served as a model for American theological education. Newton Theological Institution, a Baptist school, was founded in 1825. The book offers entirely new material on the development of Andover Newton after those two original schools united in 1931.

As part of Andover Newton's storied 200-year history, Bendroth explores the unquestionable intellectual contributions of the faculty, including Moses Stuart, Alvah Hovey, Gabriel Fackre, Max Stackhouse, Phyllis Trible, and many others. She also examines the many paths intersecting with the school's story, from American education in general to the development of Protestant thought, to the complex histories of race and gender in American society.


[]Fundamentalists in the City : Conflict and Division in Boston's Churches, 1885-1950 (2005)

Fundamentalists in the City is a story of religious controversy and division, set within turn of the century and early twentieth-century Boston. It offers a new perspective on the rise of fundamentalism, emphasizing the role of local events, both sacred and secular, in deepening the divide between liberal and conservative Protestants. The first part of the narrative, beginning with the arrest of three clergymen for preaching on the Boston Common in 1885, shows the importance of anti-Catholicism as a catalyst for change. The second part of the book deals with separation, told through the events of three city-wide revivals, each demonstrating a stage of conservative Protestant detachment from their urban origins.


[]Growing Up Protestant : Parents, Children, and Mainline Churches (2002)

Home and family are key, yet relatively unexplored, dimensions of religion in the contemporary United States. American cultural lore is replete with images of saintly nineteenth-century American mothers and their children. During the twentieth century, however, the form and function of the American family have changed radically, and religious beliefs have evolved under the challenges of modernity. As these transformations took place, how did religion manage to "fit" into modern family life?

In this book, Margaret Lamberts Bendroth examines the lives and beliefs of white, middle-class mainline Protestants (principally northern Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, and Congregationalists) who are theologically moderate or liberal. Mainliners have pursued family issues for most of the twentieth century, churning out hundreds of works on Christian childrearing. Bendroth's book explores the role of family within a religious tradition that sees itself as America's cultural center. In this balanced analysis, the author traces the evolution of mainliners' roles in middle-class American culture and sharpens our awareness of the ways in which the mainline Protestant experience has actually shaped and reflected the American sense of self.


[]Fundamentalism and Gender, 1875 to the Present (1993)

This fascinating book depicts the long-running battle within the fundamentalist movement over the roles of men and women both within the church and outside it. Drawing on interviews as well as on written sources, Margaret Lamberts Bendroth surveys the complicated interplay between fundamentalist theology, which is dominated by the search for order and hierarchical gender roles that have women subservient to men, and fundamentalist practice, which often depends on women in important ways to further the movement's institutional growth.

Bendroth begins by describing the earliest days of the fundamentalist movement, when there was a general acceptance of women in ministry roles as teachers, missionaries, and even occasional preachers. She then traces fundamentalism's growing identification with masculine concerns after World War I and its battle with the forces of modernity (such as the rebellious flappers of the twenties). Bendroth explains that in the years before World War II women were able once again to make substantial contributions to the movement, but that during the cultural turn toward domesticity in the 1950s, fundamentalist leaders urged women to retreat to their "ordained" roles as submissive helpmates and encouraged men to fill the teaching and organizational positions the women vacated. Bendroth brings this conflict up to the present, examining the fundamentalist and evangelical rejection of contemporary feminism and investigating how our cultural norms of equality affect these movements' teaching on gender roles.



[]American Evangelicalism : George Marsden and the State of American Religious History (2014) Edited By Darren Dochuk, Thomas S. Kidd, and Kurt W. Peterson ; Contributor: Margaret Bendroth

No living scholar has shaped the study of American religious history more profoundly than George M. Marsden. His work spans U.S. intellectual, cultural, and religious history from the seventeenth through the twenty-first centuries.

This collection of essays uses the career of George M. Marsden and the remarkable breadth of his scholarship to measure current trends in the historical study of American evangelical Protestantism and to encourage fresh scholarly investigation of this faith tradition as it has developed between the eighteenth century and the present. Moving through five sections, each centered around one of Marsden's major books and the time period it represents, the volume explores different methodologies and approaches to the history of evangelicalism and American religion.

Besides assessing Marsden's illustrious works on their own terms, this collection's contributors isolate several key themes as deserving of fresh, rigorous, and extensive examination. Through their close investigation of these particular themes, they expand the range of characters and communities, issues and ideas, and contingencies that can and should be accounted for in our historical texts. Marsden's timeless scholarship thus serves as a launchpad for new directions in our rendering of the American religious past.

Contributors: Margaret Bendroth, Jay R. Case, Darren Dochuk, Timothy E.G. Gloege, Michael S. Hamilton, Barry Hankins, Thomas S. Kidd, Kristin Kobes Du Mez, Kathryn T. Long, Mark Noll, Steven M. Nolt, Rick Ostrander, Kurt W. Peterson, Garth M. Rosell, John Schmalzbauer, William L. Svelmoe, David R. Swartz, Douglas A. Sweeney, John G. Turner, Peter J. Wallace, John Wigger.


[]Twentieth-Century Global Christianity – A People's History of Christianity, volume 7 (2008) by Mary Farrell Bednarowski, editor ; Contributor: Margaret Bendroth

A specific focus and intent of this final volume of A People's History of Christianity is to delve behind the global phenomenon of Christianity to glimpse some of the very rich and dynamic lifeways within it. Ranging over the whole century and across several continents, the scholars in this volume probe Christians' creative encounters with popular culture, liturgy and spirituality, social change and Marxism, intrareligious and interreligious dialogue, and changes in gender expectations and roles. Includes 50 illustrations, maps, bibliographies, and an 8-page color gallery.

Contributors include Mary Farrell Bednarowski; Mercy Oduyoye, Ghana; Patrick Henry, St. John's University; Bruce Forbes, Morningside College; Valerie Demarinis, Upsaala University; Rosetta E. Ross, Spelman College; Ada María Isasi-Díaz, Drew University; Mark Noll, Wheaton College; Ann Pederson, Augustana College; Eleazar Fernández, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities; Victoria Barnett United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; Margaret Bendroth, American Congregational Association; Oscar Cole-Arnal, Waterloo Lutheran Seminary; Paul Mojzes, Rosemont College; Luis Rivera-Pagán, Princeton Theological Seminary; Ethan Sanders, University of Cambridge; Christina Traina, Northwestern University; Jean-Paul Wiest, University of San Francisco.


[]Figures in the Carpet : Finding the Human Person in the American Past (2007) by Wilfred McClay, editor ; Contributor: Margaret Bendroth

What does it mean to be a human person? This volume is a historical inquiry into that foundational, deceptively simple question. Viewing the human person from various perspectives – law, education, business, media, religion, medicine, community life, gender, art – sixteen historians of American life explore how our understanding of personhood has changed over time and how that changing understanding has significantly affected our ideas about morality and human rights, our conversations about public policy, and our American culture as a whole.


[]Into All the World : The Story of the Williamstown Haystack (2006) Credits: Editing, camera, Sarah MacWright ; sound, transportation, Peter Schmidt ; archival work, Keebler Carey ; script, Margaret Bendroth ; research, Carrie Bail ; narration, Rick Spalding [video]

To commemorate the bicentennial of the Haystack Prayer Meeting, which incited a missionary movement that spanned the globe, a group of scholars created this short documentary.  A group of five students at Williams College soon inspired the founding of numerous home missions in the United States and led to the creation of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. The ABCFM sent hundreds of missionaries around the world with the goal of converting the people they encountered to Christianity and improving their living conditions according to Western standards.


Works Edited

[]Faith Traditions and the Family (1996) edited by Phyllis D. Airhart and Margaret Lamberts Bendroth

Family life since World War II has undergone dramatic changes. Cultural shifts emphasizing personal needs and fulfillment have transformed traditional understandings of marriage and divorce, gender equality, and sexual behavior, resulting in a marked increase in single-parent homes, dual-income couples, divorce, and blended families. In this book, contributors who represent diverse traditions in North America show how their respective traditions have responded to changes in the family in the last half-century. Exploring the broad range of responses in their traditions – from conservative to progressive – they reflect on the role that theology, Scripture, and the social sciences have played in this transformation. Further, they take a realistic look at the influence of mainstream religion and its role in future discussions of family life.


[]Women and Twentieth-Century Protestantism (2002) edited by Margaret Lamberts Bendroth and Virginia Lieson Brereton

CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title, 2003

Since the early twentieth century, women's aspirations have taken a variety of forms in Protestant churches, shaped by such forces as feminism, secularization, social activism, and the professionalization of religious work. Giving voice to a broad range of Protestant women, this landmark volume launches a stimulating investigation into the story of women and religion in the twentieth century.

These smart, vigorous essays run the gamut of historical contexts to probe the meaning and impact of social change on women in the church. Contributors consider the emergence of Latina Pentecostal clergy in the United States and the success of the Women's Missionary Union of the Southern Baptist Convention in remaining independent of male-dominated denominational structures. They discuss James Dobson's Focus on the Family, a program closely associated with conservative, fundamentalist values, and ponder its enormous appeal to women and girls. Among other topics, the authors discuss Chinese immigrant women who embraced the relative freedom offered by Protestant religion, turn-of-the-century African American women who assumed religious authority through their historical writing, and the struggles of women faith healers in defining their role amid medical and evangelical professionalism. They also pursue links between a "feminine" preference for nonconfrontational, egalitarian settings and the nature of women's successes and setbacks in their churches.

Women and Twentieth-Century Protestantism demonstrates the variety of women's experience and the breadth of their influence as missionaries, thinkers, activists, theologians, and reformers. This important volume also illustrates the persistence of the "stained-glass ceiling" in constraining women's ordination as well as the increasing disenchantment of many within the church.


[]Outreach and Diversity — The Living Theological Heritage of the United Church of Christ, volume 5 (2000) Barbara Brown Zikmund, series editor; edited by Margaret Lamberts Bendroth, Lawrence N. Jones, and Robert A. Schneider

The fifth volume in the Living Theological Heritage series brings together a mix of documents, statements, and commentaries that chronicle the history, faith, and practices of the UCC. These materials originated from the mission outreach of the Congregational, Christian, German Reformed, and German Evangelical traditions within the United Church of Christ, as well as the experiences of minority and immigrant communities. The call to evangelize, educate, and serve stretched the theological mind of these groups, and encounters with diverse populations and social issues encouraged a pattern of theological engagement with the world.