The Life and Ministry of Nancy A. Hardesty

A Brief Overview

Dr. Nancy A. Hardesty 1941-2011
Dr. Nancy A. Hardesty 1941-2011, photo taken in February, 2011

This past spring, EEWC-Christian Feminism Today was deeply saddened by the passing of one of our organization’s founders, Dr. Nancy A. Hardesty, who died on April 8, 2011. She had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer two years earlier and was 69 years old at the time of her death. We want to share with you some of the highlights of her life and career.

A resident of Greenville, SC, Dr. Hardesty was a professor of religion in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Clemson University in Clemson, S.C.. She was under hospice care in Atlanta, Georgia, at the time of her death.

Dr. Hardesty began teaching at Clemson in 1988. She had previously taught at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta.

Earlier, she taught English and writing at Trinity College in Deerfield, Illinois. She had come to Trinity after having worked as an assistant editor at Eternity magazine and, before that, had served on the editorial staff of the Christian Century.

Born in Lima, Ohio, on August 22, 1941, Nancy earned her B.A. at Wheaton College (Illinois) in 1963 and a master’s degree in newspaper journalism at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 1964.

In 1976, she earned her Ph.D in the history of Christianity at the University of Chicago, where Dr. Martin E. Marty was her dissertation advisor. Her dissertation, titled,“Your Daughters Shall Prophesy”: Revivalism and Feminism in the Age of Finney, was published by Carlson Publishing in 1991 under the same title.

Nancy Hardesty’s first book, coauthored with Letha Dawson Scanzoni, was All We’re Meant to Be: A Biblical Approach to Women’s Liberation. Originally published in 1974, it has gone through numerous editions with Word Books, Abingdon, and Eerdmans. The book has been acclaimed for introducing biblical feminism to evangelicalism by providing alternative biblical interpretations to traditional church teachings that had emphasized women’s subordination.

In the 50th anniversary issue of Christianity Today magazine, All We’re Meant to Be was ranked 23rd of the top fifty books that had influenced the evangelical Christian movement over half a century.Christianity Today staff members described the listed books as “landmark titles that changed the way we think, talk, witness, worship, and live” (Christianity Today, October 2006, Vol. 50, No. 10). The story behind the coauthoring of All We’re Meant to Be is told in serial form on the “Letha’s Calling” blog and includes photos of the coauthors from the time period in which they were writing the book.

In addition to coauthoring All We’re Meant to Be and publishing her dissertation, Your Daughters Shall Prophesy, Nancy Hardesty wrote a number of other books, including:

  • Great Women of Faith (Baker, 1980; Abingdon,1982)
  • Women Called to Witness: Evangelical Feminism in the 19th Century (Abingdon, 1984; revised edition, University of Tennessee Press. 1999)
  • Inclusive Language in the Church (Westminster John Knox,1987)
  • Faith Cure: Divine Healing in the Holiness and Pentecostal Movements (Hendrickson Publishers, 2003).

Nancy also wrote numerous articles for scholarly journals and religious periodicals, as well as contributing chapters to edited volumes, including two books edited by Rosemary Skinner Keller and Rosemary Radford Ruether, In Our Own Voices: Four Centuries of American Women’s Religious Writing (1995) and the Encyclopedia of Women and Religion (2006).

Nancy Hardesty’s other research interests included women and religion in the South, adult children of fundamentalists, and the history of African American Christianity—a topic on which she had planned to write a book and was conversing with publishers during the year before her death.

Facing Death

Nancy knew she was dying and faced death with confidence and faith. Her moving essay, “Some Thoughts on Living and Dying,” was published in the winter (January-March), 2011 issue of our quarterly journal, Christian Feminism Today, and is available for reading online through our website.

She prepared for death as though she were preparing for a journey and made sure all personal matters were in order so that no loose ends would be left behind.

She did not want a one-time, one-place funeral service in the customary sense. Instead, Nancy wanted simple remembrances wherever and whenever her friends chose to gather together for celebrations of her life, whether planned or impromptu. Some celebrations might include prayer, Scripture reading, and singing, and others might be casual get-togethers to swap anecdotes, laughter, and warm memories of times the friends had enjoyed with her. In this, as in so many areas of life, she took a creative approach, aware that those whom she loved and who loved her were scattered over great distances and that travel for a single service at the time of her death would be difficult.

Remembering that Jesus spoke of being in the midst of us even if no more than two or three are gathered together, several small groupings of our organization’s members and other friends in various locations have already had such special ceremonies to honor Nancy’s memory and to thank God for her life. Her family held a private graveside service in Lima, Ohio, where interment took place.

A special memorial service will also be held at the EEWC-CFT Biennial Gathering in 2012. More information about this gathering will be published on this website.

We owe much to Nancy Hardesty for all her contributions to Christian feminism over the years. She played a major role in setting the stage for the 1974 founding of our organization, originally called the Evangelical Women’s Caucus, which later became the Evangelical & Ecumenical Women’s Caucus and is now also known by its “doing-business-as” name, EEWC-Christian Feminism Today. Nancy was also a founding member of the Daughters of Sarah, a Christian feminist group that met for discussion and produced a newsletter in 1974, which became the Daughters of Sarah magazine that was published until 1995.

Our Spring, 2011 issue of Christian Feminism Today was dedicated to “Memories of Nancy” and was filled with stories from many of the friends who had known and worked with her from the 1970s forward.

Nancy Hardesty’s papers have been contributed to the Archives of Women in Theological Scholarship in the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

Media reports of her death and tributes to her life and accomplisments included, among others, an article in the May 11, 2011 issue of The Christian Century, an article in the April 27, 2011 issue of the Los Angeles Times, Dr. Julie Ingersoll’s essay for Religion Dispatches, and “In Memoriam: Nancy A. Hardesty” by Margaret Lamberts Bendroth, in AARs Religious Studies News.

Gifts in Nancy A. Hardesty’s memory will be used to support the Nancy A. Hardesty Memorial Scholarship and may be sent to Christian Feminism Today at P.O. Box 78171, Indianapolis, IN  46278.


Letha Dawson Scanzoni
Letha Dawson Scanzoni (1935-2024) was an independent scholar, writer, and editor, and the author or coauthor of nine books. In 1978, she and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott wrote Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?, one of the earliest books urging evangelical Christians to rethink their views on homosexuality (updated edition, 1994, HarperOne). More recently, Letha coauthored (with social psychologist David G. Myers) What God Has Joined Together: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage (HarperOne, 2005 and 2006). Another of Letha’s most well-known books is All We’re Meant to Be: Biblical Feminism for Today, coauthored with Nancy A. Hardesty (Word Books, 1974; revised edition, Abingdon, 1986; updated and expanded edition, Eerdmans, 1992). Letha served as editor of Christian Feminism Today in both its former print edition (EEWC Update) and its website for 19 years until her retirement in December 2013.



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