Beliefnet
Can a Christian be a feminist? That's the question confronting Susan Nichols, the heroine of Tim Stafford's historical novel set in the decades leading up to passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Susan toils in the suffragette cause until one day a traveling salesman sweeps her off her feet. Struggling to balance her political commitments with her duties as wife and mother, Susan, under the influence of her devoutly Methodist but preternaturally pro-woman husband, turns toward the church.

This is the second volume in a four-part series that explores the role of Christians in American social movements; other novels deal with abolitionism, temperance, and the civil rights movement. As Stafford's characters hash out their reformist politics in stilted dialogue, they meet a parade of figures from Susan B. Anthony to Woodrow Wilson and grow used to an assortment of mechanical marvels, from the Model T to the Kodak camera. The effect is to suggest an easygoing compatibility between Christianity and modernity.

Unfortunately, it's all a little too pat. Feminism, with its undercurrents of free-thinking and sex radicalism, and Christianity, with its undercurrents of gendered hierarchy, remain in tension today. Many of Susan's present-day counterparts may feel that her dilemma still goes unresolved.

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