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When the feminist preacher Maude Royden (1876–1956) toured Australia in 1928, she promoted modern religion for modern women. This article examines the Australian press coverage of Royden’s visit to shed light on the complex relationships between religion, modernity and the female body as they were constituted in Australia in the 1920s. In doing so, this article contributes to growing historiographic debate concerning the intersections of modernity and religion and serves to disrupt further those narratives which have presumed processes of modernisation and secularisation to be running in parallel. Australian newspapers eagerly spread the news of Royden assuming the previously masculine space of the pulpit and they promoted her new form of Christianity as scientifically credible and suited to modern Australia women’s lives. In advancing my analysis, I also compare Royden’s press reception in Australia to that of her contemporary, Aimee Semple McPherson (1890–1944). McPherson likewise also offered a religious response to modernity and a new religious femininity, but the Australian media showed comparatively little interest in her visit. I argue that although religious femininities were being recrafted for modernity in the pages of Australian newspapers, only certain expressions of religiosity and modern femininity were considered compatible.


Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry

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Journal Article

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