Behind every good woman, there is a great woman.
[And don’t miss the great story below!]
They prayed with prostitutes. They confronted gangsters. They entered tawdry saloons. In each place, with each person, they sang, preached, celebrated, and applied The Word of God. From the first page, I—a man—wanted to be like these women. But as Jamie says, they were “ordinary,” folks just like me and you. Jamie’s real interest is not simply to tell you their story, but to live their story. Jamie Janosz has given us this, her storied thesis, in her good work When Others Shuddered: Eight Women who Refused to Give Up (Moody, 2014).
I winced as read of life’s difficulties for women like Nettie McCormick. Sacrifice marked the life of Sarah Dunn Clark as she lived with the people she served. We even discover The Spirit of God used Clark’s preaching to bring the famed evangelist Billy Sunday to faith in Christ. The women often worked alone in their respective vocations, whether widowed or single. Amanda Smith stands as a beacon to African-American women everywhere in her tireless service of her Savior. Her commitment to Bible teaching touched not only Chicago but Europe, Africa, and Asia. She reached multitudes with God’s Word and touched the hearts of all who knew her. Virginia Asher figuratively “lit a torch” for others to follow. I personally have a special place in my heart for The Salvation Army and was thrilled to read Evangeline Booth’s story: Booth left a rich legacy serving the poor. Mary Bethune cheered my soul as I read of her deep desire to learn Scripture. Then what a delight to learn she to graced the White House halls (178-79)! Bethune left a Christian influence in the position created for her: Office of Minority Affairs. Her African-American words invigorate us all, “Our aim must be to create a world of fellowship and justice where no man’s skin, color or religion, is held against him” (182).
Each chapter grabs the reader by the throat. Written in short sections Shuddered appeals to the laser-focused reader. We are given one person, one period, one event, one idea to consider. We have much for which to thank Jamie. I cannot imagine how many times she sneezed pouring over dusty parchments from which she culled the marvelous stories! Cultural, historical connections dot the stories’ landscapes. Each point of knowledge enriches our view of the whole.
For years Jamie has taught Moody students how to write. What a treasure they have received! First lines compel us to continue reading. Arresting stories propel the reader. Verbal pictures capture our thoughts. Anecdotes bring us to the very spirit of the biography—the life of each lady. Pages become palettes for their persons. Portraits are painted through prose. Jamie honors history. She preserves the memory of each woman for the 21st century woman. Historical sketches from other writers can at times do a disservice through anachronism. Jamie does not cloud the past with the present. She allows history to instruct us through her writing of history.
The students who live in “Dryer Dorm” need to have Jamie’s story about the famed woman tattooed on their psyche. Emma Dryer was the woman behind the man. We discover if D. L. Moody had not been compelled to serve the fledgling Chicago Bible school by Emma Dryer, the college may well have been named “Dryer Bible Institute”! Indeed, Moody understood Dryer’s importance when he announced Emma Dryer to be “the best teacher of the Word of God in the United States” (51-55). Jamie’s commitment to Moody women, their impact on both their own day and her day, shows a deep respect. We learn again and again that Moody Bible Institute owes much of its original passion and pursestrings to women who supported the school. McCormick’s largesse, for instance, was summarized well by a reporter in her day, “She has given her life away” (71).
Fanny Crosby, well known to those of us who grew up on her hymns, is given life through Janosz’s writing. We feel what she felt. We rejoice with her in political fame that God used to bring the gospel to the nation. Jamie’s words take us to the places she describes. My imagination worked overtime as I sat with Crosby writing hymns, visiting President Cleveland, and living the historical moments of lyrics such as “Rescue the Perishing” (29-30). Quotes bind us close to history as Crosby’s honesty intersects with our experience, “The most enduring hymns are born in the silence of the soul, and nothing must be allowed to intrude while they are being framed into language” (31). One story alone might compel one to buy and read Shuddered:
A Scottish evangelist once said to Fanny Crosby, “I think it is a great pity that the good Master, when He showered so many gifts upon you, did not give you sight.”
Fanny responded, “Do you know that if at my birth I had been able to make one petition to my Creator it would have been that I should be made blind.”
The evangelist was startled. “Why?” he asked.
“Because,” said Fanny, “When I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior.”
Jamie does the reader a favor by including three important touchpoints for further reflection: women in education, missions, and politics. Jamie’s focus on “Bible knowledge [being] the key to bettering both the home and society” (58) is cheered. Women served around the globe in missions work (110-12). Women in politics show us how women often saw problems sometimes bypassed by men (163-65). Generational histories have been preserved for us, a prompt to continue their work. Every generation has its heroes. The following generation must be sure to honor those who have gone before in education, missions, and politics.
Original pictures throughout the volume show the depth of research. My only minor complaint might be, if it were possible, to see the gravestones of each woman. And the publisher could have made the book conform to the 6 x 9 inch soft cover standard. At times the book slipped out of my hands. The conclusion summarizes the spirit of all the women included. Questions for discussion allow a continued engagement by reader and teacher alike. Jamie’s book deserves a place in the Moody museum on the MBI campus. Her work shows that the name of the institution could easily be interchanged with any of the Shuddered women. I believe history is paramount in education. History taught through story, through biography is glue which holds us together. We become independent, authoritarian and arrogant without appreciation for others who have made our way easier, smoothing our path. Thanks to Jamie Janosz, the road paved by these eight women straightens our way.
Mark is a Timothy, first encouraged in The Faith by his mom (2 Timothy 1:5). Dr. Mark Eckel believes and practices the message of Galatians 3:28: ethnicity, nationality, class, and gender should not divide, but unite us. Dr. Eckel writes for and teaches at Capital Seminary & Graduate School. Republished by Englewood Review of Books, 7 March 2014.