Women clergy now account for approximately 10 percent of religious leaders in the United States. As their numbers grow, so too does their political influence. This book examines the effects of gender, professional experience, and religious belief on the political attitudes and activism of clergywomen. Based on qualitative analysis of Interviews with 54 women ministers and rabbis in four different American cities (Washington, D.C., Milwaukee, Omaha, and Indianapolis) and quantitative analysis of a national survey of other clergy, this study breaks new ground in specifically addressing the political priorities, agendas, strategies, and actions of clergywomen. The authors' research probes beyond the traditional stereotypes of women clergy as either a silent, oppressed minority or the cutting edge of an elite feminist vanguard. Though women ministers and rabbis face professional and political restraints that stem from long-standing religious norms about gender roles, in many circumstances their gender can be an asset. Though the same constraints make it risky for some clergywomen to assume visible roles on divisive cultural and political issues, many do, even on controversial issues, such as gay rights and abortion. Women with a Mission also sheds light on the broader phenomenon of the political mobilization of professionals in general: how the idiosyncrasies of one's profession affect political attitudes and actions. In this way, it contributes to a national, rather than a regional or denominational, discussion of gender and politics.
Laura R. Olson is Associate Professor of Political Science at Clemson University and author of Filled with Spirit and Power: Protestant Clergy in Politics. Sue E. S. Crawford is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Creighton University and coeditor, with Laura Olson, of Christian Clergy in American Politics: Choices and Consequences. Melissa M. Deckman is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Washington College and author of School Board Battles: The Christian Right in Local Politics.