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Modern Voices
Margaret Washington on Jarena Lee's conversion
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Q: What impact does Jarena Lee's spiritual conversion have on her life?
Margaret Washington

A: Had she not had this spiritual conversion with such intensity and energy, then we would never know that there was a Jarena Lee. As result of her conversion she develops this fearlessness that makes her willing to confront the church hierarchy, makes her willing to approach Richard Allen and ask for permission to preach. This may seem like a small thing, but it really isn't, because women, following the St. Paulian doctrine, are not supposed to speak in public. They can pray in the private homes and exhort in the private homes, but they're not supposed to speak in public.

So for Jarena to challenge this is incredibly bold for that period of time. Her conversion gives her an assertion to the point where she feels perfectly confident standing up in church, in the middle of a sermon, and interrupting the minister! So her spirituality liberates her, makes her a liberated woman.
Margaret Washington
Associate Professor of History
Cornell Universiy

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