Robert Kellemen and Susan Ellis have recently published a book, Sacred Friendships: Celebrating the Legacy of Women Heroes of the Faith (BMH Custom Books, 2009). If you are not familiar with your church history OR if you are but never studied the strong women of Christian history then you may find this book right up your alley. As you probably know, most history classes and/or texts tell the “great men” story–the story of the major players who changed the course of history. There’s Augustine, Martin Luther, Charles Wesley, Charles Spurgeon, and many more. But what of their wives. And what of other great female leaders in the church–and even those never known by any more than a handful?
Kellemen and Ellis tell the stories of a host of women of faith–often times using their own words. They start with Vibia Perpetua (know from an early manuscript) arrested in 202 AD and include other women from the early church. One of the first things you notice reading the book is that these women are real. They have real emotions, real concerns, questions, and longings. Having read many early church works, I can vouch that these female voices provide some realism while many of the male voices contained in early texts focus on theological concerns.
After covering several church mothers, these authors go on to cover “desert mothers” (e.g., prayer warrior Amma Theodora; spiritual leader, Marcella), writer/mentor mothers like Dhuoda (803-843), and a host of other medieval Christian women–both well-known and relatively unknown.
There are also chapters on reformation and puritan women. But my personal favorite is chapter 12 which is about African American women of faith. In particular the authors tell the story of Elizabeth Keckley, dressmaker, confidant, and counselor to Mary Todd Lincoln. There are numerous quotations from Lincoln and Keckley showing their tremendous love and support for each other. Based on their material here, it is not an understatement to say that Keckley provided the comfort for Mary after Abraham’s assassination that enabled her to not fall into suicidal despair.
I commend this book to you if you long for a taste of the story of female Christian leaders and supporters of leaders. They footnote the book well so you can find your own way to their original sources to drink more deeply should you so choose.
Check this link out for their Amazon.com page and 4 positive reviews.