“She Preached the Word”

She Preached the Word: Women’s Ordination in Modern America

by Benjamin Knoll and Cammie Jo Bolin

Oxford University Press, 2018

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She Preached the Word is a landmark study of women’s ordination in contemporary American congregations. In this groundbreaking work, Benjamin Knoll and Cammie Jo Bolin draw upon a novel collection of survey data and personal narrative interviews to answer several important questions, including: Who supports women’s ordination in their congregations? What are the most common reasons for and against women’s ordination? What effect do female clergy have on young women and girls, particularly in terms of their psychological, economic, and religious empowerment later in life? How do women clergy affect levels of congregational attendance and engagement among members? What explains the persistent gender gap in America’s clergy? Knoll and Bolin find that female clergy indeed matter, but not always in the ways that might be expected. They show, for example, that while female clergy have important effects on women in the pews, they have stronger effects on theological and political liberals. Throughout this book, Knoll and Bolin discuss how the persistent gender gap in the wider economic, social, and political spheres will likely continue so long as women are underrepresented in America’s pulpits. Accessible to scholars and general readers alike, She Preached the Word is a timely and important contribution to our understanding of the intersection of gender, religion, and politics in contemporary American society.”

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1. Introduction: The Need for a New Perspective
Chapter 2. Women’s Ordination in America: A Contemporary Overview
Chapter 3. Support and Skepticism Regarding Women’s Ordination
Chapter 4. Who Supports Women’s Ordination in America?
Chapter 5. A Second Look at Views on Women’s Ordination
Chapter 6. Clergywomen and Young Girls: The Importance of Role Models
Chapter 7. The Effect of Clergywomen: Religious Representation
Chapter 8. The Effect of Clergywomen: Religious Empowerment and Mobilization
Chapter 9. Conclusion: Clergywomen Matter


“This book is a much-needed addition. In their thoughtfully argued and meticulously researched work, the authors offer a look at the social realities and political ramifications of the continuing influx of women into the ministry. At a time when women’s opportunities for political leadership are expanding in general, this book is a welcome contribution.” — Laura R. Olson, Professor of Political Science, Clemson University

“She Preached the Word is a wide-ranging, creative book that contributes in multiple ways to knowledge about female religious leadership. Its findings about how female clergy affect people in congregations-especially the women and girls-are especially original and compelling. This important book is a must-read for anyone who cares about gender equity in American religion, and who wants to know more about why it matters.” — Mark Chaves, Professor of Sociology, Religious Studies, and Divinity, Duke University

“A needed re-examination of the issue of women’s ordination after the elapse of several decades. Drawing upon literature not previously brought to the topic and placing their analysis and discussion within the context of initial research findings, this clearly written study utilizes a combination of different methodological approaches to examine both the factors shaping church-goers’ support for women’s ordination as well as the effects female clergy have on the religious attitudes and behavior of those in the pews.” — Corwin E. Smidt, Calvin College


Benjamin Knoll is the John Marshall Harlan Associate Professor of Politics at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. He earned a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Iowa and specializes in public opinion and voting behavior, with a specialization in religion, race, ethnicity, and politics.

Cammie Jo Bolin is a recent graduate of Centre College and currently a Ph.D. student in political science at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Her research interests include gender and politics, representation, and religion and politics.