Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Helen Barrett Montgomery (1861-1934): Feminist, Biblical Scholar, Missions Advocate

Biblical scholar, denominational and missions leader, and early feminist and suffragist. Born in Ohio, Helen Barrett was raised in Rochester, NY. She began her career as a schoolteacher, but also became quickly involved in city politics and progressive reform efforts. She moved into religious work with several agencies of the Northern Baptist Convention (now American Baptist Churches, USA). Her marriage to successful businessman William A. Montgomery gave her enough economic security that she was able to exercise considerable leadership in voluntary causes. A friend of Susan B. Anthony, Montgomery was the first female member of the Rochester city school board, the first woman president of a religious denomination (the Northern Baptist Convention elected her as president in 1921), and the first woman to publish her own translation of the entire New Testament from Greek to English (1924—called the Centenary Translation because it was published by the American Baptist Publication Society to celebrate 100 years of ABPS work). Until a few years ago, Judson Press kept this New Testament Translation in print—and I made it a regular ordination gift to Baptist women preachers—but it is now out of print. Montgomery was also well-known as a writer and speaker on missions and on the NT basis for supporting equality of the sexes.

For more on Montgomery, who should be far better known, see Kendel B. Mobley, “The Ecumenical Women’s Missionary Movement: Helen Barrett Montgomery and The Baptist, 1920-1930,” in Gender and the Social Gospel, ed. Wendy J. Deichman Edwards and Carolyn De Swarte Gifford (University of Illinois, 2003); idem., “Susan B. Anthony and Helen Barrett Montgomery: An Intergenerational Feminist Partnership, ” Baptist History and Heritage 40:3 (June 2005): 80-91; Sharyn Dowd, “Helen Barrett Montgomery’s Centenary Translation of the New Testament: Characteristics and Influences,” Perspectives in Religious Studies 19:2 (Summer 1992): 133-150; Louise Armstrong Cattan, Lamps are for Lighting: The Story of Helen Barrett Montgomery and Lucy Waterbury Peabody (Eerdmans, 1972).

September 9, 2006 - Posted by | Baptists, heroes

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