Date of Defense



Comparative Religion

First Advisor

Dr. Nancy Falk

Second Advisor

Dr. Leander Jones

Third Advisor

Dr. Irene Vasquez


The nineteenth century was a time of several movements for social reform in the United States. People were joining in large numbers to fight the injustices of their world. Surprisingly, many of those who chose to fight were women. Until this time, they had very little voice in deciding what was happening around them; they were virtually powerless in deciding their own fate and the fates of their family and friends. With their low social standing and such a hostile environment, how did these women come into positions of prominence? How did they transcend their traditional roles to become the influential and powerful group that they were steadily becoming? My thesis is that their religious heritage not only enabled them to do so, it compelled them to do so. The social principles and morals they obtained from their religious experiences made it necessary that they enter the world and attempt to alter it, bringing it more into line with that which their Creator intended. "The urgent duty of God's children was to reform their nation in accordance with the God-inspired ideals of liberty and justice" (De Swarte Gifford 1981, p. 295). Women of this time recognized no other alternative; to be pious, to show the depths of their belief and faith, they must behave in agreement with the will of God. In an attempt to prove this was indeed the case, I will look at the life of one particular social activist of the day-that of the former slave Isabella, or as more commonly known, Sojourner Truth. Despite the hardships of slavery that she endured, despite the fact that she was a black woman in a white man's world, she rose to become one of the most prominent, charismatic spokespersons for the poor and oppressed. Her life, although indeed extraordinary, illustrates the importance of religion to all activist women of her time; she is but one example.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Campus Only