Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Thomas A. Robinson & Lanette Ruff, "Out of the Mouths of Babes"

Thomas A. Robinson  is Professor of Religious Studies at The University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, and Lanette D. Ruff teaches Criminology at Eastern College in New Brunswick, Canada.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Out of the Mouths of Babes: Girl Evangelists in the Flapper Era, and reported the following:
Our book deals with girl preachers in the 1920s. This decade was the golden age of the girl evangelist. It was the golden age of the flappers too. One represented the old; the other represented the new. A revolution in manners and morals was underway. The young sexually provocative flapper, with a glass of gin in one hand and a cigarette in the other, shocked the sensibilities of many. What better and reassuring challenge to this new image of the feminine than young girls upholding traditional values, calling sinners to Jesus and condemning the dress and the deportment of the modern flappers? Such little girl preachers in the thousands were welcomed on revivalist platforms as featured speakers. Some were as young as three; many were successful before they were ten, and the more successful drew crowds into the thousands night after night and year after year. A spotlight soon found these girls, for this was the age of the child star, and newspapers were ready to feature the clash of values that the two types of girls reflected.

Page 99 addresses one of the most fascinating aspects of this phenomenon. That is the number of these girls who identified with Pentecostalism, the newest religious option on the scene. Part of the reason for this was that the hottest Pentecostal revivalist was a thirty-year-old woman, daring and dramatic, who had come to Los Angeles to make a name for Jesus, for Pentecostalism, and for herself. Her name was Aimee Semple McPherson, and soon she was a household name across North America. Thousands flocked to her new 5300-seat auditorium, and millions heard her over her radio station, the first station ever to be owned by a woman. She was a star, indeed as much a star as anything that Hollywood, a mere five miles away, had produced. Many fell under her spell, and many of these, both men and women, were inspired to become preachers. Little girls fell under her spell too. In the environment of the conservative church world, McPherson became a mentor and a role model for many of these young girl evangelists. She was a star; they hoped to become one.
Learn more about the golden age of girl evangelists at Thomas A. Robinson’s website.

My Book, The Movie: Out of the Mouths of Babes.

--Marshal Zeringue