Elizabeth Hayes Alvarez, "The Valiant Woman: The Virgin Mary in Nineteenth-Century American Culture" (UNC Press, 2016)


When people think of the Virgin Mary in terms of American religious history, there is a tendency to focus on opposition. For instance, Catholic devotion to Mary on the one side, and Protestant critique of that devotion on the other side. However, while recognizing the real differences in Catholic and Protestant belief about Mary, in her new book, The Valiant Woman: The Virgin Mary in Nineteenth-Century American Culture (University of North Carolina Press, 2016), Dr. Elizabeth Hayes Alvarez, shows that such simple binaries are problematic. Through a careful study of newspaper accounts, travelogues, literature, and art, Alvarez shows how Catholics and Protestants, while differing in what they believed about Mary and how they interacted with her, utilized her in very similar ways within popular culture. For instance, ideas of the purity of womanhood and domestic queenship resonated strongly with both audiences. This fascinating study would therefore be of interest to scholars of American religion and would be appropriate in a graduate or upper-level undergraduate class.

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