Home  >  Mother of Modern Evangelicalism
Share |
Mother of Modern Evangelicalism
The Life and Legacy of Henrietta Mears
Arlin C. Migliazzo
Foreword by Kristin Kobes Du Mez

PAPERBACK; Published: 11/17/2020
ISBN: 978-0-8028-7792-5
Price: $ 30.99
359 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6 x 9
Add To Cart

Series: Library of Religious Biography

Although she was never as prominent as Billy Graham or many of the other iconic male evangelists of the twentieth century, Henrietta Mears was arguably the single most influential woman in the shaping of modern evangelicalism. Her seminal work What the Bible Is All About sold millions of copies, and key figures in the early modern evangelical movement like Bill Bright, Harold John Ockenga, and Jim Rayburn frequently cited her teachings as a formative part of their ministry. Graham himself stated that Mears was the most important female influence in his life other than his mother or wife. 

Mother of Modern Evangelicalism is the first comprehensive biography of Henrietta Mears. Arlin Migliazzo uses previously overlooked archival sources and dozens of interviews with Mears associates to assemble a detailed portrait of her life and legacy, including the way she helped steer conservative theology between fundamentalism and liberal modernism with her relentless focus on the Christian life as an act of consecrated service. Readers will find here a religious leader worthy of emulation in today’s world—one who sought an alternative to the divisive polemics of her own day, staying fiercely committed to the faith while fighting against the anti-intellectualism and cultural parochialism that had characterized the fundamentalist movement of the early twentieth century. While she never technically delivered a Sunday morning message from the pulpit and refused to be called a preacher, Henrietta Mears’s life stands here as a sermon about graceful leadership and faithful engagement with the world.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Kristin Kobes Du Mez
Introduction: A Gracious Orthodoxy
1. Bloodlines
2. Teacher
3. Passages
4. The Remarkable Miss Mears
5. A Faith of Her Own
6. Unexpected Opportunities
7. For Such a Time as This
8. Teacher and “the Industry”
9. Long Shadow Cast
10. Paradoxes and Limitations
11. Expended
Conclusion: No Ordinary Life

Christianity Today Book Award of Merit in History & Biography (2022)
Publishers Weekly
“Migliazzo provides an insightful account of Mears’s youth, education, and early questioning of her vocation, drawing on extensive research to support descriptions of Mears’s charismatic leadership.”
Library Journal
“Migliazzo introduces Henrietta Mears (1890–1963), an influential but largely unknown figure in American Evangelicalism. Spanning the birth of fundamentalism in the 1920s to the neo-Evangelical movement in the mid-20th century, the life of Mears covers the arc that brings Evangelicalism to its current form. . . . Migliazzo’s list of those Mears influenced include Bill Bright and Billy Graham and reads like an Evangelical who’s who.”
“In this richly textured account, Migliazzo presents a compelling portrait of a complex, even at times enigmatic figure. . . . Mears’s story is essential reading for those seeking to understand the challenges confronting white evangelicals today as they continue to struggle to navigate the shoals of judgment and grace.”
— Kristin Kobes Du Mez
from the foreword
“We have long needed a first-rate biography of Henrietta Mears. She was indeed one of the most influential architects of the ‘new evangelical’ renewal that reshaped much of the American fundamentalist heritage after World War II. Arlin Migliazzo has done a truly impressive amount of research and presents a fascinatingly detailed portrait of an inspiring teacher and irrepressible leader.”
— George Marsden
author of Religion and American Culture: A Brief History
“Arlin Migliazzo has given Henrietta Mears what she has long deserved: a thorough, judicious, and winsome account of her central role in shaping modern evangelicalism. Hard-working and intense, humorous and kind, fiercely intelligent and formidable, Mears is a woman many different readers will delight to know.”
— Margaret Bendroth
executive director, Congregational Library and Archives
“This deeply researched and lucidly written volume illumines the life of one of the most important but least examined figures in the early history of American (and world) evangelicalism. The continuities between Mears’s multiple contributions and the far more heralded career of Billy Graham, for example, are simply astonishing. Migliazzo writes with empathetic yet not uncritical engagement. He provides a wonderful addition to our understanding of American religious history in general, and to the history of women in the formation of evangelicalism in particular.”
— Grant Wacker
author of One Soul at a Time: The Story of Billy Graham
“Historians have long recognized that Christianity in America has been strengthened, if not sustained, by women. Yet, when it comes to twentieth-century evangelicalism, most of the stories we tell focus on strong male characters. Arlin Migliazzo joins a growing number of scholars who are trying to correct this narrative. He has convinced me that all future accounts of modern evangelicalism must place a California Sunday School teacher at the center. This well-researched and accessible biography of Henrietta Mears is a game-changer.”
— John Fea
author of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump
“We have long needed a scholarly biography of Henrietta Mears, one of the most influential women—and educators—in modern American evangelicalism. Migliazzo has given us one that is readable, chock-full of detail, and centered on Mears’s passion for Christian education. As director of a wildly popular ministry at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, she built bridges connecting leading conservative Protestants both to each other and to the wider culture. Mears thus emerges as one of the chief architects of today’s evangelical church.”
— Andrea L. Turpin
author of A New Moral Vision: Gender, Religion, and the Changing Purposes of American Higher Education, 1837–1917
“In this riveting and deeply researched book, Arlin Migliazzo traces the compelling life of Henrietta Mears, one of the most important and under-appreciated leaders of modern American evangelicalism, and demonstrates how she transformed religion and Christian education in the United States.”
— Matthew A. Sutton
Washington State University
The Englewood Review of Books
“Mears died in 1963, but as Arlin Migliazzo’s excellent work reminds us, her influence lives on, not only in the specific spaces in which she served and led, but in every corner of evangelical subculture, from Sunday School classrooms to small group Bible studies attended by Hollywood A-listers.”
The Christian Century
“A page-turner. . . . Migliazzo makes it clear that without [Mears], it is impossible to understand either West Coast Presbyterianism or American evangelicalism generally.”
Journal of the American Academy of Religion
“Migliazzo’s biography on Mears is a good resource for undergraduate research and graduate level student colloquiums focusing on gender and religion. His extensive use of primary sources and the minute details he was able to gather about her life provide an opportunity for scholars to reconsider evangelicalism through the life and ministry of an innovative and powerful woman within the movement, Henrietta Mears.”