Reading a Forgotten Leader: Sarah Osborn’s World

Sarah Osborn was a prolific writer, drafting a memoir as well as an additional two thousand pages documenting her life. And while few people will ever write that much about their lives, even fewer will have a story to tell as fascinating and enlightening as Sarah’s. Ms. Osborn, a wife, mother, and schoolteacher, served as a spiritual revival leader during the evangelic movement of the eighteenth century. She hosted weekly meetings, bringing hundreds of people, including slaves, to her house. Her writings and correspondences provide a fascinating insight into the lives of America evangelicals in the 1700s.

Sarah Osborn's World: The Rise of Evangelical Christianity in Early AmericaAuthor and historian Catherine A. Brekus has taken on the task of charting these works in her new book, Sarah Osborn’s World: The Rise of Evangelical Christianity in Early America. She draws on an incredible body of research to allow Osborn her well-deserved place in this important history.

While Sarah’s work illuminates the views and practices of a burgeoning religion, it also provides a new view of the role of eighteenth-century women. Osborn’s role as leader is made even more incredible when considering the rights and responsibilities usually delegated to women at the time. It seems to be the case that because Sarah was working for God, her fulfilling of this role was deemed acceptable. Women like Sarah were able to claim agency and importance when acting for the new church, stepping forward as leaders and founders.

In tracking the individual details of Sarah Osborn’s life, Catherine A. Brekus charts the beginning of a movement and the creation of a faith, paying due credit to a long-forgotten woman and the remarkable role she played.

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