This paper examines views of women among the most prominent “progressive” American religious groups (as defined by those that liberalized early on the issue of birth control, circa 1929). We focus on the years between the first and second waves of the feminist movement (1929–1965) in order to examine these views during a time of relative quiescence. We find that some groups indeed have a history of outspoken support for women’s equality. Using their modern-day names, these groups—the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and to a lesser extent, the Society of Friends, or Quakers—professed strong support for women’s issues, early and often. However, we also find that prominent progressive groups—the Protestant Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church, and the United Presbyterian Church—were virtually silent on the issue of women’s rights. Thus, we conclude that birth control activism within the American religious field was not clearly correlated with an overall feminist orientation.
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