Under the big top: Maria B. Woodworth, experiential religion and big tent revivalism in late nineteenth century Saint Louis
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] Maria Woodworth was instrumental in the shaping and renewing of enthusiastic religion, which emphasized dreams, visions and other supernatural phenomena, in the late nineteenth century. This story is significant because of the tremendous growth that enthusiastic religion has experienced in the twentieth century, becoming one of the most dominate forms of Christianity in the present day. Although these themes were consistent throughout Woodworth's career, the Saint Louis Revivals of 1890 exemplify this thesis. The paper relies heavily on medical journals, Woodworth's memoirs and St. Louis newspapers in order to analyze the revivals of 1890. This research shows that the female evangelist viewed her work as renewing the enthusiasm of earlier evangelical denominations; however, she reshaped this enthusiasm by emphasizing physical phenomena, especially trances, visions and healing. Such experiences were not secondary to preaching but served as centerpieces of Woodworth revivals. In her efforts to shift both the theology and praxis of Protestant revivalism, Maria Woodworth faced criticism from the medical establishment, ministers of mainline denominations, and even Holiness allies who believed Maria Woodworth was misconstruing Holiness theology. Despite severe condemnation from her critics, Woodworth's revivals experienced tremendous success and popularity by appealing to popular fears over sickness and disease, nostalgia over "old-time" evangelical religion, fascination with the supernatural, and the lure of mass spectacle.
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