Mother of American Evangelicalism: The Life and Legacy of Henrietta Mears

Eerdmans. Nov. 2020. 320p. ISBN 9780802877925. $29.99. REL
Migliazzo (history, Whitworth Univ.; Teaching as an Act of Faith) introduces Henrietta Mears (1890–1963), an influential but largely unknown figure in American Evangelicalism. Spanning the birth of fundamentalism in the 1920s to the neo-Evangelical movement in the mid-20th century, the life of Mears covers the arc that brings Evangelicalism to its current form. The outline of Mears’s family history and early years are engaging. Her mother was a pious, studious Baptist with a social conscious, while her father was a boundless entrepreneur. These characteristics exemplify Mears’s personality, starting with her early years as an active churchgoer and a progressive, innovative high school chemistry teacher. Her move to California as the director of religious education at First Presbyterian of Hollywood was where her influence became clear, including the establishment of a Sunday School curriculum, the use of Christian Education as a means of evangelism, the founding of Gospel Light Press, and the Forest Home Conference Center. Migliazzo’s list of those Mears influenced include Bill Bright and Billy Graham and reads like an Evangelical who’s who.
VERDICT Mears herself almost disappears from view under all her accomplishments in this work that is clearly aimed at those immersed in the Evangelical ethos and may be difficult for nonreligious readers to grasp fully her influence on the character and culture of Evangelicalism.
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