It has been a while since I’ve done a concentrated study on any topic in American History. In fact, the last one was for my Colonial America class at AMU. The French and Indian War reading list and historiographic essay were the product and were early posts on this blog. Well, its been a few years, the masters is completed, and it turns out I miss that kind of directed study. So I’ve decided that this year (2018) I’ll begin a more detailed study of religion in the 13 colonies. I’ve got a decent reading list (see the link), but if any of you have any additions for me I’d love to hear them.
I was reading Catherine Brekus’ Strangers & Pilgrims: Female Preaching in America 1740-1845 as background for my thesis when I stumbled upon Jemima Wilkinson. In October 1776, after a bout of typhus, Wilkinson believed she had died, gone to heaven, and returned “sinless spirit” neither female nor male. Identifying herself as a Public Universal Friend, Wilkinson, often referred to herself in the third person and would only answer to Public Universal Friend not Jemima. Following suit, several of her inner circle also stopped calling her Jemima which evidently led to convoluted references to her in the written record.
I have found two biographies of Jemima, Herbert Wisbey, Jr’s 2009, Pioneer Prophetess, Jemima Wilkinson the Public Universal Friend and Paul Moyer’s more recent (2015), The Public Universal Friend: Jemima Wilkinson and Religious Enthusiasm in Revolutionary America. I find this interesting enough to follow up on after I finish my thesis.
If you are Twitter follower you might have seen my tweet on Tuesday, “Working title: Everything is to be Shaken that can be Shaken: Slavery, Seventh-day Adventists, and the Civil War….not sure, still thinking”. As I am now winding down my second Masters degree it is time to write a thesis and this is the topic I’ve been thinking about for quite some time now. The collection of books you see in the picture above is just a little bit of background material related either religion and the Civil War, or Adventist founders/Adventist movement. (And yes, you’ll note that I use the Dewey Decimal system to keep track of books that have made it into my permanent library – by the end of this project they will all probably be so marked.)
Some years ago I was interviewed for the documentary WAR IN HEAVEN, WAR ON EARTH: The Birth of the Seventh-day Adventist Church During the American Civil War which I blogged about on USHistoryfiles here. It was an excellent experience and I’ve long thought of doing a written study of the intersection of the church, slavery, and the war. This promises to be an interesting project and I am curious to see where this leads as these types of things often don’t end up where you think that they will.