The Buried Histories of Chimborazo Park / The Female Itinerant Preachers’ Body in the Nineteenth Century

17 Mai 2023

Research seminar with Laura Brannan and Caroline Greer.



This research seminar will be split into two parts.

Laura Brennan will present her project Forgetting the Freed: The Buried Histories of Chimborazo Park in Richmond, Virginia, United States. Laura’s project is a place-based history of a public park in Richmond, Virginia, a major city in the Southern region of the United States. The site once hosted a Confederate hospital during the American Civil War and a postwar neighborhood for newly freed African Americans before it became a modern city park that today includes a Confederate history museum. The presentation will focus on the site’s historical transition from the postwar Black neighborhood to the all-White park, and examine how the radical Black history of the site was obscured and “forgotten” over time in different ways.

Caroline Greer will speak about her project Sites of Spectacles and Sights of Sacrifice: The Female Itinerant Preachers’ Body in the Nineteenth Century. In the early American republic, white female preachers’ bodies acted as sites of spectacle and sites of sacrifice, creating a distinctly gendered experience of the pulpit in smaller Protestant denominations. Female preachers’ bodies acted as sites of spectacles by drawing large crowds. When lay people heard that a female preacher would be in town, the idea of a woman presenting her body before a crowd drew people’s interest. Female preachers such as Nancy Towle of New Hampshire, or Abigail Roberts of New Jersey, understood and capitalized on this appeal. By reading memoirs about their travels, their popularity stands out clearly, despite some institutional opposition. Women preaching was so radical and attractive because of the public and authoritative nature of a woman standing in front of a crowd and articulating spiritual points. With larger crowds, the denominations such as Primitive Methodists or the Freewill Baptists that supported them hoped they would draw more converts. Female preachers’ bodies also acted as sites of sacrifice because of the hard labor of traveling, poverty, illness, and even death incurred in their work. Both male and female itinerants dealt with long and constant travel. Women, however, felt the hardship of the bodily sacrifices more deeply; female preachers relied on charity and goodwill to find preaching engagements, places to stay and to feed and clothe themselves, while most male itinerants were paid. Women who preached used their own bodies as tools for conversion at the expense of bodily comfort and health; in both regards, these female preachers utilized their agency and autonomy regarding their bodies to do so.


Wednesday, 17 May 2023

14.00 - 15.00


Open Space

Maison des Sciencs humaines, 4th floor