Monica D. FitzgeraldMar 11, 2021
Puritans Behaving Badly
Gender, Punishment, and Religion in Early America
Cambridge University Press 2020
The Puritans of Early America did not start out with gendered society and piety. Instead, Monica D. Fitzerald suggests, growing tensions between lay men and clergy over what was perceived as a feminized piety led toward a gradual separation of masculinity and femininity into distinct spheres. In Puritans Behaving Badly: Gender, Religion, and Punishment in Early America (Cambridge UP, 2020), Fitzgerald presents original research in the church disciplinary records of censure cases among Puritan congregations in the first three generations of American Puritanism. The records tell a fascinating story about how, even though the Puritan ministers advocated a holistic spirituality that was at once inwardly pietistic and externally dutiful, the lists of sins and confessions recorded in the chronicles of church discipline cases indicate that only men were being held accountable for sins of duty and honor, and only women for sins of personal spirituality and heart religion. Filled with vivid tales of squabbles, rifts, and deadly rivalries, Fitzgerald's book is sure to fascinate and delight readers interested in the development of religion and culture in early America. Follow Monica on Twitter (@mofitz66), or visit her book page on Cambridge Core.
Ryan David Shelton (@ryoldfashioned) is a social historian of British and American Protestantism and a PhD researcher at Queen’s University Belfast.