Katharine Bushnell, a former suffragist and early 20th century editor of a religious magazine, was one of the most important Christian feminists in history.
In her book A New Gospel for Women, Bushnell argued that Christianity had been corrupted by men, who were both unable to understand the female experience and too eager to use religion as an excuse for their own selfishness.
She believed that women could bring something new to religion—not just because they were different from men, but because they were better than them. She argued that women’s purity and goodness would help reshape Christianity into something more compassionate and loving.
Bushnell was not a radical feminist—she did not believe that women should have equal rights with men or even be allowed to vote. But she did argue that women needed their own space within the church where they could share their experiences as women without being judged or condemned by male clergy members who couldn’t relate to them at all.
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Katharine Bushnell, author of A New Gospel for Women: A Plea for the Higher Education of Women, and her book are often cited as the first in a long line of Christian feminists. In her book, Bushnell argues that women should be educated at the same level as men, and should also have access to other opportunities that were typically only available to men.
Bushnell believed that Christianity was not inherently anti-feminist—that it could be interpreted as a religion that supported equality between the sexes. She argued that this interpretation was not necessarily what Christians had been taught, but rather what they had been taught by people who held power in society and church leadership positions.
Bushnell’s work has been criticized by some scholars as being too radical or even heretical for its time period; however others argue that it is perfectly compatible with Christian theology if read correctly.